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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Falling Out of Cars

Jeff Noon

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Falling Out of Cars

Title: Falling Out of Cars
Author: Jeff Noon
Genre: Novel
Written: 2002
Length: 381 pages
Availability: Falling Out of Cars - UK
Falling Out of Cars - Canada

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Our Assessment:

C+ : some stunning ideas but languid presentation

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 7/12/2002 J.C. Grimwood
The Guardian . 8/11/2003 I.Montgomery/D.Jays
The Independent . 21/11/2003 Emma Hagestadt
The Times C+ 30/11/2002 Steve Jelbert
The Times . 1/11/2003 Chris Power

  Review Consensus:

  Far out

  From the Reviews:
  • "Falling Out of Cars is part of Noon's continuing revolt out of genre and into creative resistance against all traditional forms of fiction, as if he believes that the ultimate incomprehensibility of life must be matched by an equal incomprehensibility of narrative. This is a road novel, stripped of plot and meaning. What you get is what you read. Anything else might risk making life comprehensible; and one gets the feeling that, for Noon, this would be to collude with his readers." - Jon Courtenay Grimwood, The Guardian

  • "Noon cuts from one fragmented chapter to the next, propelling new images with such vertiginous intensity that your heart races, or lulling you with a narcotic heartbeat. (...) This is an astonishing road novel running on empty." - Isobel Montgomery and David Jays, The Guardian

  • "Genre-bender Jeff Noon can't be faulted on grounds of invention in this futuristic road story with no Little Chefs in sight." - Emma Hagestadt, The Independent

  • "(T)his inexplicably titled novel really does recreate the woozy weightlessness of a bad (road) trip, or at least a severe hangover. (...) Yet despite the occasional inspired touch (...) it doesn't quite satisfy. Clever but not that interesting, it is the work of an expert in a subject too obscure for general consumption." - Steve Jelbert, The Times

  • "But as well as being a road novel, Falling Out of Cars also toys with being a fantasy quest, thriller, and social allegory before thumbing its nose at the lot of them and creating a vivid, unique space of its own. Noon calls it surrealist noir; I call it a terrifically abstract slap in the face with a wet fish." - Chris Power, The Times

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Falling Out of Cars is set in a dystopian future. A debilitating and ultimately fatal mind-altering disease has taken hold, leaving those affected unable to absorb and process the information they are bombarded with, i.e. they literally overdose on reality. Everyone takes a daily dose of a drug called Lucidity (or simply Lucy) to counteract the effects.
       The story is narrated by thirty-five year old journalist Marlene Moore, who lost her nine year old daughter to the disease. She now travels with Henderson and Peacock, searching for mirror-shards for a wealthy patron. On their travels through England they eventually also are joined by a hitchhiker, a girl named Tupelo who is immune to the disease.
       Most of the book describes their trips -- and that's what they are, always with an almost hallucinogenic quality (and sometimes with a lot more), the hold on reality only a tenuous one.
       Marlene records what happens: writing is a way of holding onto reality, she hopes, of staying sane in a world in which it's very easy to lose oneself. The drug helps:

     What would I be, without Lucidity ? I would not be able to write. I would have no real understanding of words, as they are spoken. The world would fill up with noise, and I would be lost, completely.
       Still, it's a constant struggle to hold onto reality. Even these notebooks in which she is recording what happened aren't the anchor she hopes them to be:
     And yet, the book was filled with some kind of alien language, page after page of indecipherable markings; all the words crawling around the paper, merging together, separating, and all the time losing themselves before my eyes, my cold staring eyes.
       Noon offers some startling ideas and images. Mirrors -- seeing one's reflections -- are a huge danger in this world, and he uses this effectively. The effort to not overwhelm minds is also well captured: store and other descriptive signs are now as simple as possible. And yet the abyss always beckons.
       There are effective scenes and descriptions (Marlene finally describing her daughter's death: "She drowned. She drowned in herself."). Among the best scenes is that set in a fragile library, where each book, each page can only be read one more time (a haunting notion, vintage Noon). Yet the book moves slowly and not always comfortably forward. Too much is in that world between clarity and dream, and like the drug-addict recounting his latest high it just ain't that compelling second-hand. Noon tries to draw the reader into Marlene's mind and world, and he occasionally is successful. But over nearly 400 pages it can get exhausting, and the occasional rewards don't fully make up for the arduous journey.
       Describing mind-altered worlds is challenging. Noon does it as well as most -- and the few best touches in Falling Out of Cars are brilliant -- but in this case that's still not quite enough. An interesting failure.

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Falling Out of Cars: Reviews: Jeff Noon: Other books by Jeff Noon under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       English author Jeff Noon has published several novels, including Vurt and Needle in the Groove

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© 2004-2010 the complete review

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