When writing novels, there is often a temptation to blend more than one genre together and the results are not always successful. Some attempts have led to the crowbaring in of references and situations to make ends meet in an unsatisfactory manner. However, Jeff Noon’s ‘Pollen’ perfectly balances crime, cyberpunk and race relations with no clunky moments or passages.
A loose sequel to Noon’s hit debut ‘Vurt’, this book is set in the same rain-soaked dystopia that features half-breeds, zombies and shadows, all living in an uneasy peace. First published in 1995, ‘Pollen’ has received a new cover to tie-in with the 25th anniversary re-release of ‘Vurt’, and shows no sign of aging.
The fragile peace is shattered when a popular dog taxi driver is murdered and a young girl is framed for it, sparking unrest among the various populations. This coupled with a rising pollen count that is killing the city sparks off violence and race attacks.
Shadow cop Sybil Jones is drafted in to find the girl but what starts as a murder investigation becomes both more personal and wider in scale at the same time, as she battles prejudice and a conspiracy within the ranks of the police force and the city’s transport network.
I enjoyed this novel a hell of a lot more than ‘Vurt’ as it had a cohesiveness and structure that I preferred. I also felt like there was going to be an end result, something I felt ‘Vurt’ lacked. Part-detective story, part-mindf**k, Jeff Noon’s ‘Pollen’ will mess with your senses while still retaining a strong narrative that can be followed.
The Vurt feathers which are used as a medium are referenced throughout, as are several characters from that book but it’s not entirely essential to have read it before reading this.
The lead character of Sybil Jones is an interesting one and all others orbit around her. It’s her show and her story which will engage and cause heartbreak from chapter to chapter.
If you enjoy Noon’s work, I’d certainly recommend ‘Pollen’ but be warned, this is not your typical detective novel and it will take you to dark, strange places.
(pub: TOR-UK/Pan Macmillan. 354 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 8.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-4472-2920-9)