Jeff Noon's second novel, the follow-up to last year's cult favorite Vurt, is phantasmagorical and pulpish at the same time -- it reads like a hallucinogenic synthesis of J.G. Ballard, Philip K. Dick, Star Wars, Night of the Living Dead and film noir. The book continues the saga of a futuristic world altered by the Vurt feather, a technological marvel that "can make dreams and stories real," but beyond that it's fairly difficult to describe. In fact, when my companion happened to ask me what Pollen was about, I quickly got somewhat lost myself: "Uh, let's see," I said. "It's a trippy sci-fi book about a policewoman in Manchester, England, who can neither dream nor sneeze, whose mother is a corpse, and whose daughter is a cabdriver with the map of the city carved into her shaved head. (The daughter is romantically involved with another cabdriver who is half dog.) Their lives are disrupted when the dream (Vurt) world tries to take over the real world by flooding it with pollen spores from a once-mythical, now real world, making everyone sneeze to death in one big explosion of phlegm. To stop this, the policewoman enters the dream world, and I don't know, she does something or other. . ."
I stopped when my companion began begging for mercy, and returned to his copy of 100 Best Resorts of the Caribbean. I felt I hadn't done Pollen justice, even if describing its plot could make William Bennett himself sound severely drug-damaged. ("Book of Vurts"?) Readers unacquainted with Noon may find Pollen's reality pull either enjoyably mind-expanding or something akin to a sinus headache, but its command is undeniable. -- Salon