July 9, 2006
Author: Jeff Noon
Category: Cyberpunk Books
Overview: Vurt is the story of Scribble, a serious drug addict who lost his sister to drugs and his desparate attempt to get her back. Desdemona acts as a handy MacGuffin to drive Scribble’s exploration of himself and the readers exploration of a kind of weird future fantasy of Manchester (England).
Noon doesn’t seem to be too concerned about the Science component of his Science Fiction. The main element of Sci Fi that he uses here is the idea of creating a particular technology with particular rules and then extrapolating the way that society integrates those technologies into itself and, ultimately, takes them for granted. It’s that final element, societies ambivalance towards tech, that, along with a kind of virtual reality, qualifies this for consideration as cyberpunk. But the tech itself is completely implausable and the rules (as layed out by the GameCat in small, zine style, chapters), though consistantly adheared to, don’t make a great deal of sense. That’s not a criticism (at least, not to me). It all seems like a deliberate attempt to distance the book from the kind of tech fetishism (not to mention the quasi military motifs) that is common in traditional science fiction. Scribble’s world is a messed up, poverty strewn mess peopled with various inventive and atmposheric characters.
All of the five main classes of being (human, robo, dog, shadow and Vurt) mate with each other in unions that bear fruit. Mongrel Alsation-scouse popstars walk around on their hind legs as though they’re actually men.
Cops stalk the streets with a desparate corruption defined by disappointment and terrible pacts made with the best of intentions. Scribble escapes his world in a way that should be familar to any society anywhere in the world at any time in history; the use of the best drugs available. In Scribble’s world these are Vurt feathers. Using them transports your mind to a dreamworld in order to experience whatever dream is contained in that particular feather. The twist being that the world of the Vurt would seem to be in some ways a persistant alternate dimension in which things (and people) can be lost. The plot of the novel is simply the search for the various components necessry to get Desdemona back from the Vurt but it’s the journey and the things that are shown to you on the way that matter.
The Bottom Line: I don’t want to live in the world of Noon’s future Manchester, although I am aware that something very similar (at least in terms of poverty) already exists in our own time. I do recomend reading the book. You may not have read anything like it.