cover image Automated Alice

Automated Alice

Jeff Noon. Crown Publishers, $21 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-517-70490-5

If Lewis Carroll had sent Alice off on an adventure into the future, what might it have been like? Noon (Pollen, 1995) answers this question in his wild and farcical third novel. Puns, riddles, numerical puzzles and cockeyed literary references abound in this tale of Alice's trip through her Great Aunt Ermintrude's clock into an unlikely alternate-universe version of Manchester, England, circa 1998. Among the many strange characters Alice meets are her termite-driven, robot ""twin twister,"" the Automated Alice of the title; Captain Ramshackle, a Badgerman and Randomologist; and a Crow-woman/scientist named Professor Gladys Chrowdingler who puts cats in boxes that may or may not render them invisible. Alice soon finds herself involved in the investigation of a series of murders. The victims are discovered with their body parts carefully rearranged and pieces from a jigsaw puzzle on their persons. Because the pieces come from her own jigsaw of the London Zoo, Alice soon finds herself under suspicion and on the run from the Civil Serpents, who themselves may be trying to cover up an even darker crime. Lewis Carroll's odd sense of humor doesn't appeal to all readers and neither will Noon's, but Noon does a fine job of imitating Carroll while adding more than a dash of his own postmodernist sensibility. Will Alice find all of her missing jigsaw pieces and return to the 19th century? Only the Radishes of Time will tell. Line drawings by Harry Trumbore. (Oct.)