On reading: Creeping Jenny by Jeff Noon

Title: Creeping Jenny

Author: Jeff Noon

From the back: The third book in Jeff Noon’s widely acclaimed ‘Nyquist Mysteries’ find our protagonist caught up in a new mystery that delves into nightmares, Saints and the answer to his father’s disappearance Nyquist finds himself in a village where everyday is a different type of nightmare and whose bizarre rules are governed by whichever Saint rules that day. In between days of no talking, no going outside and only telling lies, Nyquist must find the answer to the mystery he could never solve; the disappearance of his father. 

The gist: You know that feeling where you’re deep in dreams. Perhaps, in your mind’s eye, you’re running through a forest chased by a cat with a frog’s head. Your feet are moving, one in front of the other, but no matter how quickly you wheel your legs it feels like you’re moving through partially melted marshmallow and you can hear the frog wheezing behind you and smell the fusty stink of wet fur and—WAKE UP WAKE UP. 

And it’s ok, you wrench your eyes open and look at the clock and you must only have been asleep for a matter of an hour or so. But there’s two blinking points of light in the corner of the room, and as your eyes adjust to the darkness a shadow pools around the lights, the shape solidifies and the head of a frog with a cat’s body stares out at you. A dripping tongue lashes out and the creature starts lisping, forming crude words with its slit of a mouth, and it says—WAKE UP GODDAMN YOU, WAKE UP NOW. 

*And breathe* 

Imagine this on constant repeat. Every day you wake up and the rules have changed, but you don’t know what they are and if you don’t find out then you might just lose yourself, or lose your soul, or at least lose some small change and a cereal box toy you didn’t realise you had in your pockets. 

And this is the feeling that Noon manages to create in Creeping Jenny. He paints images so vividly it’s as if you’re walking through a picture book, the colour slipping off the pages and coating your brain. Each day feels like a tale you’d tell around a campfire, huddled over the flames, avoiding the branches and vines that seem to be leaning closer because *whispers* Creeping Jenny might be coming for you

Noon creates yet another surreal and bizarre setting for Ncquist to navigate, with characters twisting and turning and plotting, gifting clues with one hand and hiding them with the other. In Hoxley, every new Saint brings its own rules and quirks, leaving Ncquist in a changing landscape. A landscape where he needs to hold onto enough of what’s real to unpick the mystery of his father’s disappearance. Noon’s writing draws you in, and you feel yourself walking with Nyquist, struggling against the different laws of the days, fighting against the limitations, surrendering to the customs and rituals because that might just be the only way to survive. 

And this is where Noon weaves his magic, creating places so truly bizarre that you have no choice but to surrender to them, to hold on for the ride. Because when you wake up tomorrow you might not know what the rules are. But you never give up. 

So dive into Creeping Jenny with an open mind and a taste for adventure, just be careful about drinking the tea. Because as to be expected with any Noon novel, nothing is quite as it seems.

Favourite line: “emotion was a curse on her face, something to be struggled with”

Read if: You want a beautiful, surreal journey into Saint’s tales, folklore and nightmares, woven through with strands of mystery.

Read with: A strong cup of tea around a campfire. Check the tea for tendrils before drinking.

Get it: Creeping Jenny by Jeff Noon

ARC gratefully received from Angry Robot Books.

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