on April 13, 2003
"A young boy puts a feather into his mouth..."
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.
on February 25, 2003
The colors on the cover of Jeff Noon's "Vurt" are something of a clue to what lies inside: a technicolor dreamworld where the pace of life approaches that of a video game. But we're not in Kansas anymore from the opening pages: the world Noon spins is one of robo-crusties, shadowgoths, fleshcops, and, of course, the feathers.
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".
on July 12, 2002
I devoured Vurt in just under three hours. What does that mean? Hmph. Okay, it's not particularly long. What ELSE does it mean? It means that it was riveting. Entertaining. Amusing. Full of what-happens-next moments. Interesting enough that I come here a day later and add any and all Jeff Noon books I can find to my Wishlist.
So what do I have to say about it, and why do I call it brain candy? Well, in comparison to some of the best sci-fi writers (Ellison and Bradbury come to mind, but of course that's my opinion), it's long on style and short on meaning. I don't look at the world in a significantly different way after reading this book; I don't feel as if it shed light on the nature of "reality" in any sense. But what style! This is a world, full of Vurt-U-Wants, robotic mutts, and sultry mind-reading Shadowgirls, that I ultimately want to learn more about. It's told by a character that I want to succeed; even though his quest is to bring back a sister with whom he is incestuous and I abhor that kind of behavior, I still root for him. (I think that makes me impressed with Noon's skill. It might also make me worried.)
That's why I call it brain candy. The main pull of this story is the style with which Noon crafts his world and the people who populate it. It makes for a book that is entertaining, easy to read (although it may be confusing at the start and definitely warrants a second reading), and satisfying on the level of spectacle.
If you've gotten this far, you may be wondering exactly what I'm trying to say. Simply, that I recommend Vurt ever-so-highly to those who enjoy flash and excitement in their sci-fi. If you're looking for a more thought-provoking read, you might be better off looking elsewhere.
on June 10, 2002
Vurt is the first book in a series by Jeff Noon, and, perhaps sadly, the best. Why sadly? To answer that you need to look at Vurt's big strengths.
The first book sets up a dark, gritty, drug-soaked world of crime, socially-acceptable human-canine interbreeding, and virtual-reality feather-trips (the titular "Vurt" feathers) for which the user pays an unusually heavy (but always fair) price. It's a world he explores in the horrific detail of someone who has regularly walked the grimy backstreets of a large city (Noon lived in Manchester) of a friday night, with its music booming out of the windows of passing cars, kebab wrappers on the breeze, and streetlights that never quite penetrate the darkness. He also sets up a compelling mythology, as strange terminology is thrown at you in the middle of a furiously paced scene and explained chapters later when the action's calmed down, if at all. It raises questions, and provides some, but not all, of the answers.
The entire book is written in a uniquely lyrical style, where words are thrown into the mix for their texture, collided together for aesthetic reasons, but then made real by the nature of the world he weaves.
True sci-fi afficionados will point out the book borrows (as many do) from Gibson, and others: its a fact that Noon is not shy of admitting. Overall, though, Vurt is a brilliantly written book that pays its sci-fi dues where it has to, and succeeds on its own merits.
What a shame, then, that the grittiness never quite returns in the other books, that the drug-fuelled pace of Vurt is never quite matched. (Maybe it happened when Jeff Noon moved to Brighton? Maybe he felt the Gibson influence was just too strong.) In later books, the clever wordplay trips itself up, as Noon becomes obsessed with the process rather than the result. Shock tactics employed to great effect in Vurt become gratuitous somehow.
Whatever. This is supposed to be a review of Vurt, not the whole series! Pick up a copy of this book and savour the storytelling, because it's unique. Read the others, or don't... but at least you have found a writer who was, for this story at least, brilliantly on form.
on February 24, 2001
Please don't read Vurt if you are a sub-culture literature snob. And don't read it if you are a Sci-Fi elitist. And if you like to intellectualize the merit of a work against the established canon (even if that canon is considered cultish or underground or whatever) or critique it within a particular lineage, please stay clear of this book.
I can see why this book is not for all. I can even relate with the negative reviews it has been receiving on this web site. If I were to remove myself from the emotional and the more intuitive responses this novel evokes in me, I too might label it drug-obsessed and not the most original; or the writing style somewhat pretentious and over-the-top.
But, whether because I stem from a culture of electronic music, psychedelic drugs, and crusty fashion or because I tend to romanticize everything in life to death, this book has captured and moved me deeply.
So please, read this book if you too are a dreamer, like me. And read it if you've ever found yourself looking over that field of shattered glass, like an illusion gleaming, hiding the scum and the stench of Anytown-Bottletown, hoping for something better. Searching for a reality more satisfying than this, because you've always known this world is not your own. Linking the hunger with sexual love then discovering (in letting it go) that the insatiability goes far beyond.
It's about escape. This book is a momentary escape.
on December 4, 2000
Vurt is an excellent book and a must read!! When you start reading it you cannot put it down. Jeff Noon has the ability to keep your attention throughout the entire book. There is never a dull moment. I have recently begun reading science fiction and I believe that this is one of the best cyberpunk books available. Vurt are feathers that are drugs; people stick them down their throats and are immediately taken to another world. The drug takes the user into a world of excitement and terror, a world in which the user plays a "game."
The story involves a group of illegal vurt riders called the "Stash Riders." The Stash Riders spend most their time either buying vurt feathers while running from the shadow cops or drugged up in the vurt world. Scribble, one of the Stash Riders, is on mission to find his sister, Desdemona. She is lost somewhere in the English Voodoo vurt world, an illegal vurt that can be very dangerous. Scribble is willing to do anything to be with his sister again before she dies in the vurt. He is willing to go back into the English Voodoo to find her. The problem is finding the English Voodoo vurt feather.
This book is a book for everyone. You do not have to enjoy science fiction to enjoy this book. It has a unique way of grabbing the reader for the first moment you begin to read it. Noon writes in such a way it seems as if you are just watching a movie while you read: he has a style of writing that is unique and exciting. The way the book jumps in and out of reality with the vurt feathers keeps readers on their toes.
on July 18, 1998
Vurt, by Jeff Noon is one of the most creative books that I have read in the sf&f world. It seems almost like a combo of A Clockwork Orange (the way Jeff Noon invents words, deriving them from words already in existance; also the all night Vurt-You-Want is analagous to the Korova Milkbar), Neuromancer (the general style of writing, cyberpunk theme), and Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland (the sort of mysticism that surrounds the plot, how a child is chasing down something that seems trivial to others, how he encounters a strage and almost magical world, paralelling to reality), and finally of Tekwar (the theme deals with the solicitation of drugs that don't exist in the non fiction world, and the battling that goes along with them). The plotline is very simple when you strip it of detail, which is part of why it becomes such an intriguinging, such a simple plotline bears such a complex plot. I think that Jeff Noon did a commendable job on his first book, and look ! forward to reading more books by him.
on March 27, 1998
i really wasnt sure how to 'rate' this book. normally when you read a book you have a definate feeling about whatever you just read. of course i had one. but it was confusing as hell.
the plot is excellent, and very very interesting. and like most books of this type, you have to know what you are getting into. it is obviously going to have 'objectionable' material. this isn't reading for your grandmother. in past times i have described this book as 'clockwork orange' on drugs.
i decieded i would give it the highest rating anyone could possible give. and i meant it. i was disturbed for a few days after reading this book. having an incestual relationship as a main plot element is quite unusual. and making it so graphic takes it that one step further. but it pushed the limits of what i was willing to accept.
the idea of what vurt is might be the coolest thing about this book.
if you like this sort of book, which you probably do if you are reading the reviews on this page, you should pick this book up. just dont give your sister/brother the eye after reading it. that still _isnt_ socially acceptable.
on February 2, 1997
Move over Virtual Reality - this is Vurt, a state of mind, an existence between reality and dreamland, solidly unreal, a way of life for the unpure, the ultimate combination of altered states and computer games. To enter Vurt requires a feather, the flights coloured: blue is pleasure, legal and safe; black is horror and/or love, illegal and dangerous; pink is for porno in all its forms; silver is for the makers of feathers, used as a tool; and yellow, no escape, play to the end or die.
Original is too insipid an adjective to describe Jeff Noon's first novel - seminal, promethean, the prototype of a new genre of science fiction. The style of writing is reminiscent of Gibson, clear, sharp, and immediate. Explicit, concrete and ultimately real images contrast with the confusion of the protagonist Scribbles, from whose perspective we search through the world and creatures of Vurt for his sister, Desdemona. He is assisted or obstructed by a mongrel caste of single-minded characters whose roles are determined by the nature of their involvement with Vurt.
The world depicted in the novel is disturbing, psychotic and insidious, and the overall impression is as psychedelic as the cover. A fractal read, addictive and highly recommended
on December 20, 2000
This is one fantastic story. I love experiences that test my concepts and perceptions of reality, and this book sits right in the center of that.
VURT, you must know, refers to virtual reality; an alternate experience just a feather's touch away. In Jeff Noon's creation, the doorway between the worlds is a feather with which you stroke your throat. The feathers are created and edited by beings existing in more than one reality, and different colors of feathers create different types of experiences.
Aside from the concepts which really got to me, I found the characterization and the pace and style of the writing extremely well done and engaging. I liked all of the human and hybrid participants tearing wildly through this adventure. I liked the tension that built up as they reaped the deserts of their actions, and I liked the conclusion that left me panting and pondering and wanting more!
No computers, but a heavy cyberpunk outlook and feel.