It has been 20 years since Vurt by Jeff Noon was originally published and if you are old enough to remember, you'll know that this stunning debut came out of nowhere and with it's fresh and hallucinogenic take on future, took the world of speculative fiction by storm. The result of this was that Vurt won 1994 Arthur C Clarke award and influenced countless authors since, establishing Noon as one of the most innovative writers working today.
However, due to it's uniqueness, Vurt is a very hard novel to describe but if you are a librarian and need to shelve it somewhere, it should stocked as intelligent but of the scale cyberpunk novel, standing somewhere near the works of Philip K Dick, Anthony Burgess and William Gibson. Premise of the novel is rather simple. In the near future there exists a hallucinogenic drug manufactured in shape of feathers that allows it's users to experience something really extraordinary - a proper blurring of the edges between virtual reality and reality, with results depending on the color of feather consumed. Vurt follows the story of Scribble, a member of the gang called "the Stash Riders", in his search for Desdemona and Curious Yellow, legendary feather. The story takes place in bizarre version of Manchester where reality is warped and somehow shaped by drug use. Surreal landscape that Noon paints is probably unlike anything you have ever experienced before. As the events progress, the story gets increasingly fuzzy, ending with mad crescendo of chaos.
Last month, Tor UK published lavish and beautifully looking hardcover 20th anniversary edition of Vurt which includes three new stories and introduction by Lauren Beukes and this is the edition you should get. The extra stories are great and expand the Vurt universe even more while Lauren's introduction is a treat, with third part of the introduction being written using Noon's remixed narrative technique. Brilliant!:)
Vurt is one of those books that you'll either adore with all your heart or hate with passion but whatever camp you're in, it is impossible to ignore it's sheer inventiveness and experimental value. All in all, Vurt deservedly takes place alongside such modern literary classics as Neuromancer and The Clockwork Orange.
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