Pixel Juice by Jeff Noon
(Anchor, £6.99, paperback 350 pages; published 2000.)
Jeff Noon's first short story collection has been available for a couple of years now, this paperback reissue is no doubt timed to coincide with his new release, Needle in the Groove - certainly they sport a common graphic design.
In Pixel Juice, Noon purges his ideas notebook with varying degrees of success, ranging from single-page mock ads and instruction leaflets for unidentifiable gadgets, to full-blown short stories. Noon completists will recognise names and faces and strange thingies from the novels Vurt and Pollen and Nymphomation - like the vurt feathers and blurbverts and dogboys.
Noon is an acquired taste, an SF writer for people who don't like SF, someone who flirts outrageously with the genre and, let's face it, gives it a well deserved kick up the arse. I 'acquired' the taste with Vurt many years ago, and I've enjoyed the novels since. There are some stand-out stories in here, and many intriguing random snippets that are almost throwaway or pop up in later sequences. The contents listing alone should give a clue as to what's to come - 'Junior Pimp', 'Shed Weapons', 'Dubships', 'Xtrovurt'. Noon has carved a very definite niche for himself with his absurdist vision of future Manchester. There are even some snippets of poetry, or are they song lyrics? Probably the latter as the thread of club culture runs through the stories.
You could easily dismiss this collection as that most half-arsed of beasts, a 'miscellany' or a set of half-baked ideas, but I felt that Noon was genuinely trying something new. Sure, there are enough 'solid' stories here to satisfy, but it is the potential of the 'multimedia' approach of cut-and-dub sequences, apparently explored deeper in the subsequent Needle in the Groove (with accompanying spoken word CD, reviews to follow!), that are the most interesting.
If you've read and enjoyed Noon before then you've probably already bought Pixel Juice. If you haven't, give it a try. Something different for the weekend?
Review by Noel K Hannan.
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© Noel K Hannan 27 May 2000