|Cover artist||Tim Fieldstead and Ian Murray|
|Media type||Print (Hardback)|
|Preceded by||Automated Alice|
|Followed by||Pixel Juice|
Nymphomation is a novel by British author Jeff Noon, first published in 1997.
In terms of publishing history Nymphomation is the 4th novel in Noon's 'Vurt' series, following publication of Vurt (1993), Pollen (1995) and Automated Alice (1996) (itself simultaneously a 'trequel'[sic] to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass), though being set predominantly in 1999 it can be considered properly as a prequel to Vurt: in terms of fictional chronology of characters and settings the Vurt sequence runs Automated Alice, Nymphomation, Vurt then finally Pollen.
Nymphomation tells the story of a lottery in Manchester and a group attempting to crack the secrets of that lottery, but it also sets the background for much of the mythology found in Noon's previous novels.
The AnnoDomino Company has been granted a 12-month trial period to run a lottery in Manchester, before rolling it out across the rest of the country should it prove successful. The head of the company is the mysterious character known only as Mr Million. Adult players are able to purchase dominoes displaying two constantly changing numbers for one puny each. Once a week these numbers will solidify, at the same time as that weeks winning numbers are displayed on television by Lady Cookie Luck and presenter Tommy Tumbler. The one person whose domino exactly matches wins 10 million; those holding half-matches wins 100 punies. Anyone who wins with a double-six becomes the new Mr Million; anyone who wins with a double-blank will win the 'Joker Bone'. The air of Manchester is alive with the sound of blurbflies: organic/mechanic creations of the AnnoDomino Company that call out adverts to the populace.
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Jaz, a physics student working in his parents' Indian restaurant, earns extra money by constructing his own short-lived blurbflies and selling them. He manages to capture and dissect one of AnnoDomino's blurbflies - getting bitten in the process - but finds only organic gloop inside.
Daisy Love, a mathematics student living above Jaz's restaurant, is contacted by her father Jimmy, who first interested her in mathematics by teaching her dominoes. Jimmy reveals he was at school with Professor Max Hackle. In the university computers, Daisy finds papers written by Hackle on probability and statistics, as well as bizarre theories about breeding numbers (nymphomation) and love labyrinths: computer mazes where information packages with more love for the pathways can increase the odds of finding the centre.
Daisy learns her father was part of a group called Number Gumbo (including Paul Malthorpe, Max Hackle, Susan Prentice and Georgie Horn) who regularly gathered to play dominoes. After Hackle invented randominoes - dominoes with constantly shifting numbers that set only when the pieces are played - former loser Georgie Horn invariably won.
Jaz shows Daisy the blurbfly 'gloop', which he christens Vaz, demonstrating how it acts as a universal lubricator. When examined, Vaz is revealed as a form of artificial life, a constantly replicating nymphomation. His bite has become infected, and blurbflies are attracted to him and do his bidding.
Professor Hackle believes AnnoDomino is murdering the naturally lucky people in an attempt to breed out good luck. He gathers a group called the Dark Fractal Society with the purpose of destroying the lottery, including Jaz, Joe Crocus, DJ Dopejack, and Sweet Benny Fenton. The group uses Vaz to break into AnnoDomino's computerised list of winners, where they discover that Celia Hobart, a child living on the street, keeps winning half-match dominoes. She has a homeless man named Eddie Irwell buy them for her. Eddie ends up arrested for cheating, and is delivered to the House of Chances - the AnnoDomino headquarters - where the company determines he must have an accomplice, as he lacks the genetic trait of being lucky.
Joe Crocus and Daisy Love find Celia in a beggars' lair, alongside the dead body of Eddie Irwell, and take her to Max Hackle's house for testing. This is observed by undercover cop Inspector Crawl.
Jazir realizes that somehow the naturally lucky repeat winners must be transmitting something through their hands to the dominoes. Separately, DJ Dopejack x-rays the dominoes and discovers that the dominoes' innards remain alive even after the numbers have set.
Max Hackle tells Daisy Love more about his past with the Number Gumbo group: The computer Hackle Maze wanderers became more intelligent and started to breed as nymphomation after being given DNA structures. The group built a physical maze in the cellars of Hackle's house as an analogue of the computer Hackle Maze - Georgie Horn would wander this maze while hooked up to the computer maze; the original 'lucky bleeder' his brainwaves affected the information packet wanderers - the wanderer linked to Georgie is nicknamed Horny George. In time the others followed Georgie in hooking themselves up to the Hackle Maze. To increase the knowledge of the nymphomation Georgie initiated a math ritual where he would make love with Susan Prentice while they are connected to the maze, but Paul Malthorpe joins them, killing Georgie in an act of erotic asphyxiation, and infecting the nymphomation with a cocktail of sex and death.
The winning domino numbers come up as a double blank - the 'Joker Bone' booby prize where the winner is the loser. The winner, Nigel Zuze, tries to escape Manchester, but is apprehended by a skeletal figure accompanied by a blurbfly called Horny George, is bitten and taken over. The infected Zuze drives to DJ Dopejack's house where Dopejack is in turn infected, before he himself kills Zuze. Sweet Benny Fenton, visiting Dopejack, is also infected by Horny George.
Jazir tells Daisy that he is in contact with Miss Sayer, and that his own blurbfly infection is leading to a greater connection with the creatures, with Jazir sensing that some of them want to be liberated from the AnnoDomino company. Jazir can also see through the blurbflies' eyes, and senses something bad has happened to DJ Dopejack.
Sweet Benny Fenton returns to the Dark Fractal Society, and rather than infect Joe Crocus with the Joker nymphomation instead chooses to stab himself in the heart outside the gates of the House of Chances. He is visited in hospital by Max Hackle, and Fenton bites and infects Hackle with the Joker nymphomation before he dies.
Daisy uses vaz to hack into DJ Dopejack's computer harddrive, where she finds a last message from the infected Dopejack. Joe Crocus and Celia decipher the message, which reveals how Zuze won the Joker and passed it on to Dopejack; also the real identity of Mr Millions is an old member of Miss Sayer's maths class called Adam Jagger.
The rest of the Dark Fractal Society leave Max Hackle and take up residence at DJ Dopejack's old house. Miss Sayer comes through on Dopejack's computer screen and helps unlock information stored there, which leads the Dark Fractal Society to deduce that Georgie Horn's information packet is the Joker, and that Adam Jagger (aka Mr Millions) is the real name of Frank Scenario.
The Joker nymphomation has been mutating and carrying the knowledge of each of its victims through to the next. Infected with the knowledge of the previous victims Max Hackle goes to The House of Chances to confront Mr Millions, where he is expected.
The remains of the Dark Fractal Society return to Max Hackle's deserted house, where they try again to win the weekly domino game. Aided by the online presence of Miss Sayer, Joe Crocus activates the computer Hackle Maze, and Jimmy Love gives him a 'Theseus' equation designed to sterilize the nymphomation.
Celia Hobart tells Daisy Love about her life before she ran away, how she had a sister called Alice who used to fantasize she was the heroine of Lewis Carroll's Alice books (see Noon's Automated Alice) and how Celia left home to look for her parrot Whippoorwhill who flew out of her house when Alice left the window open. Celia asks Daisy to give Jazir one of Whippoorwhill's feathers for luck. When Daisy goes to Jazir, to give him the feather, she finds him completely engulfed in a mass swarm of blurbflies. Jazir's blurbflies are infected with the Theseus virus. Covered with the blurbs Jazir flies out of the window.
Daisy and Jimmy begin to play dominoes, Jimmy hooked up to the Hackle Maze and controlling his own wanderer, while online Miss Sayer ensures the maze duplicates the AnnoDomino maze. As Max Hackle heads towards his meeting with Mr Million and Jazir enters the House of Chances with the help of the blurblfies they both become visible as icons in the Hackle Maze. The Hackle Maze becomes unstable as it starts to constantly mutate, but Jimmy and Daisy match and lock onto it by shifting play to their set of randominoes.
The TV show starts and Tommy Tumbler appears in the maze. Hackle becomes lost in the maze and kills the Horny George blurbfly, which bites him as he dies. Time in the maze becomes fluid as Daisy and Jimmy desperately try to keep up. Hackle encounters Cookie Luck in the maze and time shifts, sending him back to the start.
The computers in the Hackle house freeze as Max Hackle meets Mr Million/Frank Scenario/Adam Jagger. Adam reveals that he was jealous of Paul Malthorpe, who along with Miss Sayer came to him requesting funding to continue the Hackle Maze experiments. Jagger drags Hackle to a pit where the blurbflies deposit and feed dreams to the 'Domino Beast', which in turn excretes dominoes to be collected by the blurbs. The Domino Beast itself is a mutant containing the twin forms of both Paul Malthope and Miss Sayer, who ask Hackle for help. Hackle wrestles with Jagger, and they both fall into the Beast's pit. Jazir also enters the pit and feeds the Theseus infected blurbflies (and Whippoorwhill's feather) to the Domino Beast. Back at the Hackle household the computers come back online and Joe Crocus activates the Theseus equation which kills the Domino Beast; at the same time Daisy wins the game of dominoes with her father with a double-six - the same number on the last domino that the Domino Beast excretes before it dies. Celia's domino also freezes on the winning double-six number: she has won the lottery and so becomes the new Mr Million.
Jazir retrieves Whippoorwhill's feather from the remains of the Domino Beast. Jagger is dropped from a height by the blurbflies and is killed. All over the city the dominoes hatch and split open, as they are revealed to be eggs: from them come a swarm of new blurbflies, spreading dreams throughout the city and beyond.
Jimmy reveals to Daisy why she is a natural player - she is not his daughter after all, but Georgie Horn's, conceived at the moment of his death as he took part in the nymphomation sex ritual with Daisy's mother.
Joe Crocus rushes to claim Celia's winning domino bone, only to find everyone has won the double-six.
Jazir gives Celia Hobart back her Whippoorwill feather.
Daisy Love is an 18 year old mathematics student. She rents a room above a curry house, where she is doted on by the head-chef's son and physics student Jazir Malik. On arriving at her job in a bookshop Daisy habitually gives spare change to homeless 8 year old Celia Hobart who has a 'begging hole' outside. Celia spends time with the adult Eddie Irwell, a fellow homeless person who buys her dominoes on her behalf.
Notes and references
- Lunn, Edward. "Nymphomation". SFReader.com. Retrieved 2007-09-19.