Review: Channel Sk1n

I think what Jeff Noon is trying to pull off in Channel Sk1n is admirable, but his execution didn’t work for me.  This is a near-futurish SF novel set in a world (a UK, really) with obsessive ubiquitous media and reality TV gone to allegorical levels.  In it, a young pre-fab pop star is infected with a media eating virus while the record exec who made her is watching his daughter destroy herself on the most popular reality show.

That’s a fine premise for an SF novel.  The execution left me unsatisfied for a couple reasons.  First the descriptions of everything read like lyrics.  I understand that the POV character is a pop diva, and would think that way.  I like the idea of describing a world that way.  In practice, however, I felt like the proceedings were rendered episodic and obscure by it.  One of the reasons poetry can say a lot with a few words is that those words trigger associations with common experience.  That’s much harder to tap in a world that’s close but not quite the same.

Secondly, the world feels like its constructed as an allegory.  That can work, of course, but when the allegory is this bald-faced – pop-star-maker’s daughter signs up to go mad on national TV to get his attention – I need something out of the ordinary to make it palatable.  The other part of the allegory that I find off is that all kinds of technology is thrown around that isn’t different in kind from what is in the world today, but it all has different names.  I think that hurts the allegory by removing the world further from ours, and the poetic descriptions by blocking associations.

Overall, I found Channel Sk1n ambitious, but unsuccessful.

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