“A young boy puts a feather into his mouth…”
– Jeff Noon, Vurt
I am going to preface this review by stating that Vurt by Jeff Noon is THE WEIRDEST book I have ever read. I’m not even sure I know how to review it… it was a book that I had to read for university. If it wasn’t for that, I don’t think our paths would have ever crossed. Written in 1993, Vurt is an experimental science fiction story that made little sense to me then, and even less now! As a genre, science fiction continues to baffle me at times!
Vurt is a phantasmagorical story (what an awesome word!) set in an alternate Manchester, UK. Scribble has lost his sister and lover, Desdemona, to a Curious Yellow, the rare and mythical vurt feather. Vurt is an entry ticket into a parallel world; Vurt is a drug, a dimension, a dream state and a virtual reality. Each feather is a different trip: legal Blues are for a lullaby dream; Blacks are for tenderness and pain; Pinks are pornovurts, a doorway to bliss; Silver is for those who know how to remix their colours and open new dimensions; and yellow, the colour of no return. Scribble and his fellow Stash Riders are in for a wild journey. Scribble must venture to the edges of civilisation to look for the feather no sane person would submit to. It is a story of drugs and misadventure; full of the most bizarre characters and creatures you will see in literature today. Scribble, Beetle, Bridget, Mandy, Tristan and Suze encounter The Thing from Outer Space, Game Cat, Dingo Tush, Bottletown, robodogs, droidlocks, dreamsnakes, dogmen and shadow cops. And no, I am not going to describe what those things are!
Vurt is science fiction story that belongs to a sub-genre called cyberpunk. I cannot claim to know anything about this particular corner of the book world however it is my general understanding that it is a genre based on a lawless society, dominated and oppressed by technology. The only book I have read that is remotely similar is Neuromancer by William Gibson and to this day I still don’t understand what the book is about. Vurt is a reflection of the rave culture of the 80’s, a drug fantasy and cyberspace. Drawing heavy obsession from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, Noon’s perverted and sexual story plays with the fluid laws of reality and he pushes language in some pretty insane ways. Using music as inspiration, Noon has taken the techniques used for storytelling in music and woven them through his book. His made-up slang and vivid imagery are heavy on the metaphors but fluid in their meaning. Vurt is a surreal virtual wonderland of weirdness. Enter at your own risk!