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A book by Jeff Noon

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I Might Pick Up The Sequel, Someday

  • Feb 23, 2011
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Vurt is not a perfect novel, but it succeeded at giving me a few new ideas about things I've read before. Noon has a lot of ideas, and he packages them in a classic story arc (defeating the monster and saving his one true love). However, at times the writing can be a bit trite. Noon delights in word play and the whole work leads me to believe that he thinks that he is very clever; he is, but I could stand to be reminded about it a little less.

Noon has created an interesting future, dystopian Manchester, and he definitely gives the impression that he knows more about it than he leads on. He has created five races, each with their own neighborhood in the city. He has created a new drug that seems to have taken the place of all other media. I've never before thought about the future of video games, television, movies, and all other entertainment as something that will one day be delivered to the brain by a chemical. It is similar to the shared dreaming that was featured in the summer blockbuster Inception, and I have a feeling that we will see more of this confluence of pharmacology and entertainment in the future. However, I do wish that Noon had explained his world a bit earlier on. I enjoy puzzling things out as much as the next sci-fi fan, but Noon decides to explain everything that I'd figured out already in my final act. It seemingly was not enough that he created a world and challenged the reader to guess what he was thinking, he also couldn't help but say "The answer is this" at the end. I felt a little cheated.

Aside from the big idea, Noon has a lot of little ideas that got the wheels in my head spinning. The drug is delivered by brushing a feather in the back of the throat. I thought that this was quite elegant, and it seems to me that a feather is better imagery than something like a syringe or a pipe because it carries so many more connotations that are associated with birds, including escapism. However, the novel cannot stand on these ideas alone. The question that I was left asking myself at the end was "are these brilliant little flourishes enough to revitalize a story that I have read before?" Noon seems to desire to compare his story to a classic tragedy, naming his leading lady Desdemona and suggesting in the book that the story will be preserved as a new Vurt, which is the name of the drug-induced super entertainment that the book centers on.

Finaly, its worth noting that if you're an Anglophile and a science fiction fan then you very well may love this book. It's kind of like Clockwork Orange in a cyberpunk future. Some British authors don't read too differently from American authors in my opinion, but it is clear from the first chapter on that this book is thoroughly British.

Overall, Noon's hints at great ideas left me feeling like he had barely scratched the surface. It's odd because I both wish that this book was more than it was and want to read the next in hopes that it will be what I am looking for. I want to know more about the dogs and the shadow people and the cyborgs that he has created. There is a fair chance that I'll pick up the sequel, Pollen, one day in hopes that Noon will give me what I want.

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review by . July 08, 2004
VURT is an average attempt at mimicking the style of the cyberpunk genre using a different set of reality obfuscating techniques. Instead of Cyberspace we have the world of VURT, which one enters via an hallucinogenic drug applied by sticking a feather on the back of the tongue. There really is very little new or innovative in VURT, other than the drug. After reading it, I had a "been there, done that" reaction. The prose style and dark vision of the future come right out of the cyberpunk genre …
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I'm a Pittsburgh lawyer with a new found interest in writing about sci-fi.
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About this book


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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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ISBN-10: 0312141440
ISBN-13: 978-0312141448
Author: Jeff Noon
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
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