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On a dull and rainy afternoon, in 19th-century Manchester, desperate to avoid the question of ellipses (on which her strict great-aunt Ermintrude is sure to test her this afternoon), Alice works on a jigsaw puzzle, only to find (frustratingly) that 12 pieces are missing from the picture of the London Zoo. Lamenting aloud, Alice is answered by her great-aunt's very talkative parrot, Whippoorwill. Prompted by Whippoorwill's increasingly intriguing riddles, Alice frees the him from his cage. Suddenly, in pursuit of the elusive bird, Alice falls into the workings of a grandfather clock and emerges in the Manchester of 1998-a world of automated wonders and inspired nonsense with a distinctly 19th-century flavor.
Whippoorwill leads Alice along with a series of enigmatic riddles, and Alice soon encounters a part-man, part-badger named Captain Ramshackle, Professor of Randomology, and the logical side of her own self in the person of an automated garden statue name Celia. While word of Alice's arrival spreads and she becomes the prime suspect in a series of Jigsaw murders, Alice discovers, in the unlikeliest of places, in the curiousest of future worlds, one after another of her missing Jigsaw pieces. Not until she finds all 12 will she get to the radishes of time that will allow her to elude the Civil Serpents and return to her own time.
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Jeff Noon's previous novels, Vurt and Pollen, have attracted a cult following with their psychedelic science fiction creation of the realm of "Vurt"--a region defined by illusion, dream and drug-induced fantasy. Noon has now decided to link up with an imaginative precursor by introducing Lewis Carroll's Alice as the protagonist in a new adventure that draws on Carroll's through-the-looking-glass inversions of reality, and adds a Jeff Noon menace and edginess absent from Carroll's Wonderland. Alice finds herself in 1998 Manchester when she enters an old grandfather clock, and soon becomes the prime suspect in the puzzling "Jigsaw Murders." Noon emulates Carroll's crazy wordplay throughout, and even adds his own illustrations inspired by those of John Tenniel, the famous interpreter of Alice.From the Publisher:
In the last years of his life, Lewis Carroll wrote a third Alice book. This mysterious work has only recently been discovered. Now, at last, the world can read about Automated Alice and her fabulous adventures in the future. That's not quite true. "Automated Alice" was, in reality, written by Zenith O'Clock, the writer of wrongs. In the book, he propels Alice through time, tumbling from the Victorian age to the 90s. Oh dear, that's not at all right. This trequel to "Alice and Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass" was actually written by Jeff Noon, who invented Zenith O'Clock...but never mind. What Alice encounters in the automated future is mostly accidental too...a series of misadventures even weirder than your dreams. Acknowledged as one of the most exciting new authors writing today, Jeff Noon's other works of fiction include "Vurt" (winner of the 1994 Arthur C. Clarke award), "Pollen, Nymphomation, Needle in the Groove, Cobralingus," and "Pixel Juice."
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