Review: Vurt


Talk about a successful summer project. I’ve been so busy reading and enjoying the books my friends picked for me, the thought of reviewing them slipped right out of my mind. For the first time in a long time, I was reading for sheer enjoyment, instead of with an eye to analysis or criticism.

Not that those are bad things. But reading for pleasure alone, when you review and analyze books for a living, is the best feeling ever. It’s just you and the text. Like diving into the ocean, and letting surf carry you away for a while.

Inevitably, alas, you have to come back. It’s almost Labor Day, and soon my little project will be at an end. I’ll save all the numbers until then, but to get back into the swing of reviewing things, here’s a bit about one of my favorite summer reads, Jeff Noon’s Vurt.

Click through for image source and additional review

Click through for image source and additional review

Noon relentlessly plunges you into a world of made-up words and unfamiliar diction right from the very first page. If that sort of thing intrigues you, you’ll follow along and puzzle it out. Otherwise, you’ll put the book down in frustration and disgust. SF/F lovers, however, have always been an adventurous lot, so if you’re willing to work for it a bit–and you haven’t already read this classic novel–you’ll be well rewarded.

Still with me? All right then.

Our hero, Scribble, and his mates live in a Blade-Runner style world, only about 110% drearier because Manchester rain. To escape from their everyday lives, they take a lot of Vurt, a drug you imbibe by tickling the back of your throat with a feather. Each Vurt is a different color, indicating the kind of trip you’ll have…but taking Vurt is more than just a trip: it’s an inter-dimensional experience, and sometimes Very Bad Things can happen.

On one incredibly bad trip called English Voodoo, Scribble lost his sister, Desdemona, to the Vurt. Every trip he’s taken since then has been a valiant attempt to get her back, but with no leads or luck, Scribble’s at his wits’ end. The only thing he can think to do is find English Voodoo again and repeat his fateful trip in hopes of picking up some answers. But if you want to take something out of the Vurt, you need to be willing to leave something behind…

Reading Vurt is a what-is-this-I-don’t-even experience. Because it’s the first book in a trilogy, there’s a lot of set-up (specifically the chapters narrated by Game Cat, which only begin to make sense by the end of book 1 – keep going). Scribble’s friends and enemies are more types than well-rounded people, but the sheer variety of types (shadow-people, dog-men, bloblike jellies from other dimensions, etc.) is delightful. On top of that, Scribble’s love for his sister is so sincere that even after a few potentially squick-filled revelations, you still root for the guy.

Which brings us, I suppose, to a salient point: this is not a book for the easily offended, so if you’re one of those, you might want to wait for my next review. If, however, your punk sensibilities remain intact, and/or you’re just a broad-minded person to begin with, Vurt is a head-trip well worth taking. Or, as I’m fond of saying in other contexts, “It’s not nice…but it’s good.”

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