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The Body Library by Jeff Noon

November 21, 2018

Book Cover of the Body Library

Private eye John Nyquist is investigating a case in a city where words have more than simple meanings and are able to change the world of those they get a hold of. As Nyquist follows the trail of clues, he only seems to become more confused and lost.

Imagine Franz Kafka and Jorge Luis Borges are given a sizeable film budget with all the attendant crew and sit down to write the script which immediately transfers to the actors as it comes out of the typewriter. That pretty much describes The Body Library. It is a read which disorientates, hurling you headlong down questionable corridors and streets while you try to keep your eyes peeled for trouble.

This should not be surprising in a world where stories are illicitly traded in shady street corners by equally dubious characters, and the main protagonists find themselves in plots that are literally the stuff of nightmares and wild imaginings. The Body Library is a literary Russian Doll where the larger matryoshka might somehow end up inside the smaller one.

This novel is not a lazy read, requiring the sustained concentration of the person consuming it, who in many ways is made to feel like a participant, and as anxious as the characters that they might not find their way back to normality.

The Body Library is the type of story that if ever made into a graphic novel would be one in which the drawings on the page would shift if you took your eyes off it for a moment.

As a well-established fantasy/science fiction writer, Jeff Noon uses words in a genre which is generally not considered in terms of literary writing, making the publishing of his books an event. It also means that they are something which have to be savoured over a period of time rather than rushed through. I usually speed read, but this is a book which really slowed me down while I stopped and thought about the text and its relationship to the story and the story’s relationship with the text. This is an enthralling read for anyone wanting something different, but also a challenge. Do not let this put you off, because Noon was a way of playing with words which really makes his novels something to return again and again to find something new.

The Body Library was a bought copy.


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