Never mind The Stone Roses’ much-hyped reunion, it’s another Manchester legend’s comeback that’s creating waves in sci-fi circles. But unlike Ian Brown and co, with Channel Sk1n (released online through his own website and promoted through Twitter) Jeff Noon is not rehashing past glories but has instead produced one of his best and most emotionally affecting works to date.
After steeping early books like Vurt and Pollen in ‘90s rave culture, it’s a shock to discover that Noon has apparently spent the past few years glued to the screen during The X Factor . Bringing to mind the meshing of flesh and machinery in David Cronenberg’s Videodrome , it concerns rapidly fading pop star Nola Blue, who is gradually transformed into a human telly after being infected by a virtual virus during a changeover to Fractal Wave Technology that not only neatly echoes the current digital switch but also harks back to Vurt. After meeting numerous figures as she stumbles through London, Nola resolves to save Melissa, the daughter of her Simon Cowell-esque manager, from the clutches of sinister Big Brother -esque show, the Pleasure Dome.
Reminding us once again that Noon is one of sci-fi’s leading prose artists, who can captivate you with a simple but elegant turn of phrase – Melissa is described as “the girl with the haunted eyes, the stark red camera-flash eyes” – Channel Sk1n is a masterful return to the fore. Don’t leave it ten years again next time, Jeff!
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