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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Jeff Noon

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To purchase Nymphomation

Title: Nymphomation
Author: Jeff Noon
Genre: Novel
Written: 1997
Length: 363 pages
Availability: Nymphomation - US
Nymphomation - UK

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Our Assessment:

B : entertaining but too loosely presented

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Times . 3/10/1998 Tara McNichols

  From the Reviews:
  • "Nymphomation is more bitingly satirical than Noon's other works. (...) Noon's fans will not be disappointed by his latest, and new readers (of which there should be many) will be seduced by this original take on familiar themes." - Tara McNichols, 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:

       Nymphomation is a mild dystopian vision set in an alternate modern-day Manchester, anno 1999. The city is not quite unrecognizable, though the world Noon presents has evolved somewhat differently than ours. Capitalist hegemony is a bit more terrifying as the private sector exerts more influence than is healthy. Whoompy Burgers -- a latter-day McDonald's -- own the police franchise, for example, "sponsoring" the local cops (who of course have to wear the Whoompy logo on their uniform). Private enterprise is supposedly the name of the game, but monolithic monopolies are the result.
       Advertising runs rampant, with blurbflies omnipresent, all aflutter. (Blurbs are "Bio-Logical-Ultra-Robotic-Broadcasting-Systems"; they are "the property of the AnnoDomini Co., invented to perpetuate their message of luck and hope beyond the normal channels.") The remarkable creatures even battle each other in advert wars -- "slogan against slogan above the diners, sparking the air as their messages clashed."
       The attention of the entire populace is now focussed on the newest craze: a weekly lottery, played with dominoes. Run by the AnnoDomino Company, it offers the opportunity for great winnings. There is also a considerable thrill to playing. Every Friday, new winners: at nine o'clock Lady Cookie Luck "would dance herself into a climax", for all the city to thrill in. "The dots on her body would settle, at last, into a winning pattern", and those players whose shifting bones fixed themselves into the same pattern were winners. "100 punies for a half-cast; 10 million lovelies for a complete matching." Double numbers make for bonus prizes -- excepting the double zero, the "Joker Bone", a mystery prize that does not bode well. And the double-six is "the ultimate prize": the holder becomes the new Mr. Million, the mystery man behind the whole game.
       The game is on a one year test run in Manchester. The novel begins with game 40, when all are already under the spell. Everyone plays, down to the homeless who live in assigned holes in the city, scraping together their punies for a chance at a better life.

The I Ching, the rosary beads, the tarot cards, the horoscopes; all in the trash can. The AnnoDominoes replaced them all.
       Noon packs his novel with a varied set of characters, from the Dickensian waif Little Miss Celia Hobart, protected by vagabond Eddie Irwell, to almost-orphan and starving student Daisy Love, her only friend, Jazir Malik, and Joe Crocus and his acolytes, DJ Dopejack and Sweet Benny Fenton. Central to the novel, however, is the past -- specifically a junior school class from the outskirts of Manchester in the late 1940s. Daisy's dad was one of the students, as was her professor, Max Hackle. Weird things happened in that class, as an inspired teacher, Miss Geraldine Sayer, made a lasting impression with some dominoes and demonstrations of chance.
       The old generation and the new come together in hunting down the secret of the game, and of Mr. Million -- apparently also a classmate from the infamous 2c. Several of the classmates had come together before, in the 1970s, where the concept of nymphomation first came up:
The more you loved the maze, the more it moulded to your desires. The more you hated the maze, the more it got you lost. But sometimes getting lost seemed good. Too many complications for Daisy to untangle, but loving the tangle anyway.
     All this and more was nymphomation.
       The classmates went too far way back when, and AnnoDomino threatens to go too far again. They try to uncover its secrets, working their way through this particular maze.
       Much of Noon's detail is very fine indeed. The blind alleys and wrong (and right) turns, the odd inventions and occurrences often impress. From Jazir and his blurbs to some of the mathematical twists and the enthralling game itself, Noon does a fine job. The broad outlines of the story are good too, though the characterization is by and large too simplistic. Adorable though she may be, and imbued with fine (and valuable) qualities, Little Celia isn't much more than a stick figure. Neither are most of the others -- from angry Daisy to her lost father to the predictably unpredictable academic Hackle and most of the rest.
       Noon tries a lot in Nymphomation, and occasionally he strays too far. It takes a while for the book to get on course, and even there it veers on occasion, uncertain of how the bones will fall. The droning repetition of the blurbs and the game also can wear out their welcome and effectiveness. A tighter presentation would have served the fundamentally sound (and fun) story better.
       Still, it's a worthwhile read, a semi-mathematical diversion with enough cleverness to satisfy. (And, for what it's worth, it's a real nice looking paperback, with a glossy ladybug on a simple white cover.)

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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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