Nymphomation is Jeff Noon's fourth novel, and acts as a prequel to Vurt and then Pollen.
Set in 1999 Manchester, it offers a futuristic alternative view of a familiar unglamorous city, in which a trial lottery game called Domino Bones is being held. Along with the weekly domino draws, in which only one person can win the grand prize, AnnoDomino have created flying advertisements which buzz around the city, interbreeding and multiplying. As the city's obsession with with Domino Bones grows, a group of rogue mathematicians suspect that the game is not what it seems and try to break into the system.
Noon tells the story in quick scenes, sometimes no more than snapshots, that tell us almost enough but never too much, and keep you reading as you try to discover more. The characters and setting are drawn briefly but effectively, often using random-seeming and exaggerated language that lends the novel a lurid, unreal quality. Mathematics and the science of chance are blurred with fantasy to form an intriguing universe in which anything is possible.
This novel is a very human experience of something inhuman, while also managing to be extremely thought-provoking and at times sinister and unnerving. At first I didn't realise it linked up to the other books in the series, and by the end it had set the scene for the development into Vurt and made me want to reread that with fresh eyes again.
There's only one I haven't yet read in the series, Automated Alice, and I'll definitely be asking for that for Christmas.
Next up: The Rose Rent by Ellis Peters