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Pixel Juice
Jeff Noon
Doubleday hardcover £15.99

review by Christopher Geary

Pixel is short for picture element, and this collection of short stories by Jeff Noon distils both visual particulars and literary essence from the rough amalgam of fantastic media, and blurs to the point of invisibility the already vague boundaries between science fiction, fantasy and horror. Whether animal, mineral or vegetable, Noon will eagerly splice it to its opposite to form a soup of abstracts and realities wherein reality itself is trademarked, and the spectrum of emotive colours on display is like a 'downmarket rainbow.'
   With its revelation of arcane incantations that can induce painless suicide, The Cabinet Of Night Unlocked reads like a low-key homage to Lovecraft. Junior Pimp is a touching human-interest story about the loss of innocence that's not half as seedy as The Perfumed Machine, which exposes the secret sex lives of androids. Bug Compass revisits the world of character Scrabble, from Noon's first novel Vurt, while the communications police in Cloudwalkers may be forerunners of the powerful shadowcops in Pollen. There's a glossary extract that relates to Noon's book Nymphomation, and other stories are tenuously networked by their Manchester settings, but Stigmatica, concerning theft deterrent, is a direct sequel to Pixel Face, a romantic tale of youth crime. Not content with any finished story, then, Noon serves up addendum curios like pages of haiku or song lyrics, rules for a board-game spinoff, product usage instructions, or a press release format revision full of hyperbolic journalese.
   Another striking aspect of this volume is the story titles. Qwertyphobia, Alphabox, Metaphorazine, Xtrovurt and Homo Karaoke are snappy, irresistible and trip easily off the tongue "like a version, dubbed for the very first time." Startling concepts and recurring motifs abound, so it's clear the author enjoys devising elaborate puns and poetic word games. Pixel Juice seamlessly combines Ray Bradbury's melancholia, John Sladek's trenchant satires, and the wild ideas of Neil Caiman. Here's all the TV you can eat!
Pixel Juice

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