20. Pollen 

Or, Plants vs. Zombies vs. Dreams.

Let’s see, where do I begin? Hello! Wow, novel no.20 this year and we’re six months in, let’s just reflect on that for a moment, what a wonderful year it’s been so far. It has been a little while, I have been trying to read at a gentler pace lately which was wonderful as it made Pollen last just that tiny bit longer. I really enjoyed this one so very much. I have read Vurt and it was a wonderful introduction to Noon’s writing and his world. Which is a little complicated, a little psychedelic, and a melting pot of cyberpunk rampage.

Pollen – Jeff Noon

When I say it’s a little complicated, I mean it’s actually rather simple but there is a lot going on in Pollen, there are layers of motion and layers upon layers in this novel, think the film InceptionPollen follows Vurt’s initial steps. This is set in a Manchester that has experienced dream innovation and infertility. With the fertility scare, drugs appeared to blend the species, so this is a world in which dogs, humans, zombies, pures, shadows and robots, mix and blend seamlessly. The city is a melting pot of species, frictions, and a thriving pirate broadcaster Gumbo YaYa who knows more than the police. But that’s not all.

This is a world which has become closely in touch with the Vurt, the discovery of which has drawn this dream world into a close parallel existence with reality. So much so that it has become so closely intertwined with every day life that it has replaced the majority of television, phone calls are unnecessary, has innovated transport and the A to Z is unnecessary, spectating football, prisons, and near enough every other conceivable area of society is easier and more of an experience with the aid of the Vurt.

Think dreamscape, think a dreamscape that doesn’t shut down when the dreamer stops dreaming. Think dreamscape full of creatures that exist outside of reality because of the dreamers but then have their own wants and ambitions and stories outside of the dreamers. Either way, the Vurt is almost entirely integrated with reality, and the dreamless, who cannot dream are a tiny but significant minority.

The narrative begins with Shadowcop Sibyl Jones investigating the murder of the rogue taxi driver Coyote and leads her down a path that takes her to her estranged daughter. While this investigation is going on, the pollen count rises to dangerous levels, hay fever takes hold of the city and flora unlike anything seen before begins to strangle the city. The flora and the pollen count seem to point back to Coyote’s last fare, the strange beautiful flower girl, Persephone and the Vurt itself.

I can’t tell you just how much I enjoyed this novel. The characterization in this novel is masterful, deft, and effortless. These are dynamic interesting creatures who are as vivid, bright, and as interesting as the world they belong to. Noon’s writing style is unexpected, it whets the appetite, it delights, it excites, it intrigues. The description of plant life is so vivid and wet with sex, you will expect the novel to start dripping with plant sap at any moment.

Pollen delivers a story with such effortless and organic precision and it is engrossingly likeable. It is fun, it’s tentative, it’s clever, it’s a real escape. It is bold and shouts itself with abandon and confidence. It juggles so many different elements and doesn’t drop them once! There is so much to fit in one blog post and really I am not doing it justice in the slightest. This has got to be one of my favourite reads this year. Don’t consider it. Just buy it. Read it. Devour it. Dream it.

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