POLLEN by Jeff Noon


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That welcome rarity, a science fiction sequel that surpasses its original (Vurt, 1994). In Noon's fractured, unrecognizable future Manchester, England, human genes have mingled with other species, not to mention corpses, while an alternate dream reality, Vurt, can be accessed by all except Dodos; still others can reach into the extrasensory powers of Shadow. Independent cab dog-driver Coyote picks up a fare, the young girl Persephone, on the Zombie-haunted moors and takes her into the city. Soon, Coyote lies dead, his body sprouting a mass of flowers. Coyote's girlfriend, Boda of Xcabs, swears vengeance, but immediately becomes a suspect and must run for her life, having been set up by Columbus, the hive mind controlling Xcabs. Shadow cop Sibyl Jones investigates the killing, her footsteps dogged by dog-cop Zero, an informant for her double-crossing boss, Kracker, who's sold out to Columbus. As the flowers speak everywhere and the pollen count skyrockets, causing an epidemic of sneezing, Sibyl finds that Boda is really Belinda, her estranged daughter, and that Columbus is controlled by an evil god, John Barleycorn, from a Vurt region called Juniper Suction, who plans to invade reality via the pollen. So Sibyl must team up with Boda, strung-out pirate radio operator and computer whiz Gumbo YaYa, and Vurt cop Tom Dove to confront Barleycorn. Intriguingly textured, reliably witty and inventive: Despite an end that trails off disappointingly into mythological maundering, Noon's whirling, purposeful insanity packs quite a wallop.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1996
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Crown