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
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Again Noon plunges us into the psychedelic, near-future Manchester of his first novel, Vurt. In this city peopled by mutant crossbreeds (robodogs, dogboys, zombies), the barriers between reality and the Vurt-a kind of shared dreamworld accessed by tasting Vurt feathers-have been growing increasingly porous. It's now 15 years after the events of the first novel, and the denizens of the Vurt are engaged in a plot to invade the real world, starting by infecting the Manchester air with virtual pollen. Drifts of these yellow allergens fill the streets, causing a wave of death by sneezing. Only the "Dodos,'' unable to access the Vurt because they don't dream, remain immune. One of them is the cab driver Boda, who begins by searching for the killer of her dogboy boyfriend, Coyote, and ends up confronting the leader of the invasion in his lair. Another Dodo is Boda's estranged mother, the shadowcop Sybil Jones, who narrates the novel in the present tense. Jones, who suspects that her police bosses are in league with the invaders, defies orders in an attempt to thwart the conspiracy. Noon brings to this sequel the same imaginative flair and gift for wildly mixed imagery that enlivened Vurt. In the book's latter half, however, the narrative threads start slipping through his fingers, just as they did in that novel. The properties of the Vurt and the pollen become ever more vague, while the author's use of hackneyed SF devices and plot elements becomes ever more distracting. Ultimately, Noon's B-novel plotting ends up muffling his colorful, quirky voice; while this book confirms his talent, he has a way to go before he gets it fully under control. (Feb.)
Library Journal - Library Journal
Those who compare English sf writer Noon to Anthony Burgess fail to note that he is not so much indebted to Britain's distopian heritage as he is hogtied to the tradition of satire. Who else but an ironist could imagine an England that is enslaved by its literature, poisioned by its flowers, and hated by its dogs. Pollen lacks the futuristic street jive and gang violence of its predecessor, Vurt (LJ 11/15/94), instead offering a fairly traditional murder mystery, not counting the police cover-up, trans-dimensional conspiracy, and a detective, Sybil Jones, whose inability to dream holds the secret to repelling conquerers from the Vurt-the "world of dreams." The murder of a rebel cab driver coincides with the appearance of an massive amount of pollen in the atmosphere, sickening the populous of Manchester and leading Jones, and her part-canine partner, Z. Clegg, on the trail of one of mankind's oldest and most persistant enemies. Like William Gibson and Phillip K. Dick, Noon transcends his genre. Highly recommended.-Adam Mazmanian, "Library Journal"
Zombies, dog-men, and mutant killer flowers populate a future English countryside in the surrealistic sequel to Noon's acclaimed first novel, Vurt. When a black-market cabdriver named Coyote Dog is found dead with a clutch of flowers rooted to the back of his throat, Manchester police chief Kracker gives the case to "shadow-cop" Sybil Jones, whose telepathic skills include retrieving the final thoughts of murder victims. In the midst of a lethal, pollen-induced hay fever epidemic, Jones identifies Coyote's unlikely killer as a young girl, Persephone, who may be the harbinger of an insidious new humanoid species that borrows genetic material from flowers. Noon's blend of quirky ideas, striking prose, and imaginative characterizations establishes him as one of the most original new voices in imaginative fiction, recommended for both sf fans and enthusiasts of the unusual in contemporary general literature.