Vurt Hardcover – Jan 17 1995
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If you like challenging science fiction, then Jeff Noon is the author for you. Vurt, winner of the 1994 Arthur C. Clarke award, is a cyberpunk novel with a difference, a rollicking, dark, yet humorous examination of a future in which the boundaries between reality and virtual reality are as tenuous as the brush of a feather.
But no review can do Noon's writing justice: it's a phantasmagoric combination of the more imaginative science fiction masters, such as Phillip K. Dick, genres such as cyberpunk and pulp fiction, and drug culture.
If this tickles your fancy, you should definitely consider the sequel to Vurt, Pollen, or Noon's lighter and more accessible Automated Alice, a modern recasting of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.
From Publishers Weekly
Noon's highly stylized, virtual-reality inspired first novel has won raves and the Arthur C. Clarke Award in Britain, eliciting comparisons to William Gibson, Anthony Burgess and Lewis Carroll, among others. But though it is original, vivid and powerful, it's not as revolutionary as the fanfare suggests. Noon gives us a future (or perhaps just other) Manchester, England, where nearly everyone is hooked on "Vurts"-hallucinogenic designer drugs, administered with feathers, that send users into virtual worlds. Vurt isn't any old future drug, though; these worlds have a reality of their own. Users can meet up in them and share the experience, and they can even "exchange" objects or people and bring Vurt items back to the "real" world. Scribble, a member of a small gang of "young hip malcontents," the Stash Riders, has lost his beloved sister, Desdemona (don't ask how beloved if you're shy about incest), to a black-market Vurt, getting in return a shapeless alien he dubs "The Thing-from-Outer Space." Determined to find another copy of the "English Voodoo" Vurt in order to return and trade the Thing back for his sister, Scribble and his pals score illegal Vurts, run from the cops, fight among themselves, trip out on feathers, kill a cop, go to ground, become estranged and regroup. Some die, and all suffer, before Scribble gets his chance. Noon keeps a brisk pace, with the many Vurt-trip sequences, awash in Alice in Wonderland-like images, never so long or involved as to bog the story down. His bizarre, psychedelic future feels like no other, and the startling alloy of pseudoheroic genrespeak and neo-Beat freewheeling rhythms proves a unique and perfect medium for such a hallucinatory tale. There's little of Gibson or Burgess here, though. The story has neither the shock value of A Clockwork Orange nor the cyberpunk nihilism of Neuromancer. Noon takes his material (though not his characters) less seriously than Burgess, Gibson and most other SF writers. His future world isn't meant to be believable, or even cautionary, but merely colorful and engaging (which it is)-and that takes some of the bite out of the book. Nevertheless, this is an audacious fantasia, exhibiting a narrative daring and command few new writers can boast, sweeping the reader along as though it were a Vurt feather-trip itself. 75,000 first printing; major ad/promo; author tour.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
It's interesting, certainly, but there's really not much of a point to it other than having fun, being a good ride. I plowed through 220 pages of this waiting for an on a train, that's how fast it can go.
It is a fun read, but it doesn't really tell us anything, nothing like Gibson's future near-noir or Stephenson's hysterical glancing at humanity. A book for the beach, I enjoyed it.
From the first sentence of the book, I was drawn in. I forced myself to read only one chapter at a time, to actually consider what I'd read and let it sink in, and that made this book that much richer. To me, it heralded back to Clockwork Orange. The Stash Riders (made up of Scribble, Beetle, Mandy, and Bridget) have their own vocabulary grown from the world they inhabit - where feathers can hold their fondest dreams or worst nightmares, where the worst poison comes from dreamsnakes, where pure is poor, and where shadowcops lurk above every all-night Vurt-U-Want.
Scribble is a young man, not so out of the ordinary, who wants nothing more than to have his sister back again. That want drives him to a destiny he'd not even considered, gaining and losing almost everything in the process.
I'm enamoured with this book. It stays on my nightstand so I can hear Scribble tell his story whenever I want. Let Jeff Noon take you into his tangibly ethereal world.
The basic plot is a little convoluted, but it basically involves an underground culture similar to the drug culture today (I have heard that Noon drew on the Manchester drug/rave scene to create his hollow lanscapes of urban decay and drugged-out escapism). In this culture there is a group of "stash riders", our heroes, who lounge around tripping on feathers which send you into a virtual reality when they are placed in the mouth. Scribble, the protagonist, is trying to go far enough into the "vurt" to find answers about the disappearance of his sister.
More than any other book out there, "Vurt" deserves to be made into a movie. Its insanely intense visuals would just now be able to be translated onscreen, thanks to computer technology. But at the same time it is fun to imagine your own versions of pivotal scenes, such as someone dying by melting into luminous fractals. The pacing of the story is so breakneck that it almost leaves you breathless to close the book at the end. And after Noon's hilarious descriptions of some of the people and things in the book, I have very detailed images of them in my mind. I recommend this book to anyone interested in cyberpunk, the drug culture,, or movies like "Strange Days" and "The Thirteenth Floor".
Honestly this book was a much better read then I first thought it would be. I did see how it could be classified cyberpunk, but it seemed to lack the technology aspect, or at least did not have as much. It has a very well done story line with some incredible plot twists. The feathers bugged me a little and at times reminded me of what I thought an LSD trip would be like. All and all it has been an enjoyable book. If you haven't read it before, read it. If you are like me and have read it at least once, then maybe once is enough. It all depends on your tastes.
Which is not to say that it is all bad. In fact, the stuff has got hold of me like crack cocaine. I started with William Gibson and now I can't put the stuff down. I went to the bookstore the other day fully intending to buy Anne Tyler's new novel, and I walked out with Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon instead.
OK, it's genre, still anyone who misspent their youth in the idle pursuit of sensation will instantly recognize the kernel of truth in Noon's characters. They're twenty something adolescent-adults obsessed with what is entirely appropriate to that age: sex, drugs, and idealistic rebellion.
This book isn't for the squeamish; Noon crosses boundaries in the imagination that most writers won't even draw near, at the same time luring the reader deeper and deeper into a strange mutation of the present while slowly peeling away the layers of disbelief until you find yourself completely suspended in this incredible but suddenly plausible world.
Worth the read, though you'll never feel quite the same way about your dog again.
Most recent customer reviews
I think I have read this book about 15 times. It never gets old. By far the best in the series.Published on March 7 2013 by James McWade
VURT is an average attempt at mimicking the style of the cyberpunk genre using a different set of reality obfuscating techniques. Read morePublished on July 8 2004 by C. Baker
Is it possible to embrace an incestuous protagonist? To side with a gang of cop-killers? To care about people who are rootless and careless and directionless? Read morePublished on June 18 2004 by C. Myers
This book is a dazzling journey which plunges you into a psychedelic, grimy near-future ruled by anarchy. Read morePublished on Feb. 24 2004 by Gregory Baird
Vurt takes you down, in, out, and through a drug warped reality of the future. Always entertaining and intoxicating. Vurt gives you access to another world....Go visit!Published on Jan. 3 2004 by Christopher A. Dowling
This is most definately one of the best books there are to read out there. The plot pulls you into the Vurt, it's amazing. This is Noon's best work, no doubt.Published on Nov. 17 2003
I bought this book on the strength of winning an Arthur C. Clark award and the customer reviews on Amazon.com.
It didn't work for me. Read more
For those who enjoy being challenged by what they read, enticed into a world so different that one can actually relate to it, then Jeff Noon's novel Vurt is for you. Read morePublished on Nov. 23 2002
If you haven't read Vurt, stop everything and read it now. There is nothing like finding a lush universe o'er brimming with clever characters and novel concepts, word play and... Read morePublished on Nov. 19 2002 by Land Shark