Book – Automated Alice
Author – Jeff Noon
Year – 1996
Genre – Steampunk Sci-Fi
The reason that I picked up this book is the blurb which is a wonderfully interesting concept. It introduces the idea that Lewis Carroll wrote a third book about his famed creation, Alice, called Automated Alice. It then implies that this is not true, and that the book was actually written by Zenith O’Clock. Then it finally admits, that Zenith is actually a creation of Jeff Noon himself. I was massively intrigued by the idea of a book within a book within a book with a real life tie in, and decided to give it a go.
Unfortunately, despite this being the most interesting thing about the book, not nearly enough time is spent exploring it. The occasional aside from Carroll as though he is writing it is mentioned, and once or twice the characters speak as though they are aware that they are in a book, but this occurs only five or six times in a 250 page book, and rarely if ever followed up. The idea is sound, but administered in such a lacklustre fashion, that it is barely worth it.
Aside from that, the story reads much like a contemporary Alice tale would do – the word play for which Carroll is often famous is used continually, and in my mind over relied on, and there is a fairy tale feel to the whole book. It reads almost like a children’s book, but with the occasional massively dark moment – the scene where Alice meets an elderly version of Carroll who lives up to his possibly completely fabricated image of having a slightly less than appropriate relationship with the real Alice, leaves a vibrantly disturbing streak upon the book – and an unfortunate amount of things happening for no reason other than to further the plot.
I was expecting some good things from this book, but was massively disappointed. What could have been a very clever intelligent read that would leave you thinking back on it for years, instead ends up as trashy, and quite forgettable.