Friday, April 06, 2007
Jeff Noon, 1993
Jeff Noon is something of a cult writer, who moves in what the blurbs call ”urban fantasy”. While I was reading Vurt, I was thinking a lot about why they simply don’t call it “cyber punk”. You travel the same kind of environments as in Neuromancer, the activities in which you take part are close to those of The Diamond Age, but… You don’t plug in. You take a drug by putting a feather in your mouth. A blue feather for a fun trip, a pink one for a hot trip, black for a scary trip, and a yellow… Well, take a yellow and you might die. If you die on a yellow trip, you die in the real world. The others are more like computer games; you can restart and log off. In the yellows however, there are no safety nets, and it’s all about finding out just how far the rabbit hole goes… I claim that it’s pretty damn likely that the W brothers have read this book. If they haven’t, the random coincidental overlaps between Vurt and the Matrix are quite scary.
The plot. Yes. Scribble has lost his beloved sister to the Vurt, the looking-glass world where you go when you do a feather. She remained when they took one containing a touch of yellow. The balance between the world and the Vurt has to be constant, so if you leave something in there, something else will come back out with you. And vice versa. Take something out and something of like value will be drawn into the Vurt. Scribble is desperate to get his sister back from the Vurt and return the Vurt creature he got instead, And he rises to the challenge.
A lot in the set-up is classic quest fantasy. A mission, a group of people, a young man with hidden talents he doesn’t even know of himself, but has to master to carry out the mission. It’s quite interesting to see it in this environment.
This is definitely a very, very good read. I strongly recommend it. But – as the Game Cat would say: Be careful. Be very careful.