The author of the Arthur C. Clarke Award winner for 1994, Vurt, and its sequel, Pollen (published earlier this year), transports Lewis Carroll's Alice into 1998 and an altogether postmodern, alternative Manchester. Just minutes before her daily writing lesson with her stern Aunt Ermintrude, Alice chases her parrot, Whippoorwill, into a grandfather clock and falls down into a colony of talking termites. The termites scurry about doing computations for a Mad Hatter--like character, Captain Ramshackle. Ramshackle treats Alice to a discourse on the completely random nature of the universe and, eventually, suggests how she might make her way home: Find 12 missing puzzle pieces and solve the ""Jigsaw Murders"" that are terrorizing Manchester. Turns out there's a nefarious plot being perpetrated by the Civil Serpents (Noon is full of puns and ridiculous poetry), who keep trying to lay down order; in fact, the Supreme Snake (a.k.a. Satan) has meddled with the DNA of the populace in an effort to banish randomness forever. As a result, everyone except Alice is afflicted with Newmonia: that is, they are part animal. All of this is explained by the amusing crow-woman, Professor Chrowdingler, at the Uniworseity of Manchester, who points Alice toward the last puzzle piece, guarded by the Supreme Snake. After a mock-epic battle, Alice dives into her jigsaw holding the last piece, and hears her aunt calling: She's been gone about two minutes. Noon never does much with mathematics, as his opening scenes suggest he will, and the Automated Alice character, an alter ego of Alice that develops from her doll, is disappointing. Still, Noon's authorial intrusions are fun: A broad swipe at the vulgar ""Chimera"" sensation, Quentin Tarantula; a discussion with the author about his previous two books, which have been treated unkindly by the ""crickets""; and an appearance from Lewis Carroll himself. Charming.