Twenty years ago, a book came onto the sci-fi scene, a novel by a new writer called Jeff Noon. That book was Vurt, a hallucinogenic trip into a surreal near future in the North of England. The location alone was enough to catch my eye, and Vurt looked like the kind of bizarre sci-fi I like, so I took a chance and bought it. Vurt's a brilliant book - great story, great characters - one of my few re-reads over the years, but most of all it's superbly written. It may not be to everyone's taste, as it can be disturbing in places, but I'd recommend it to everyone who likes a daring, intelligent read.
All, of course, thanks to Mr Noon. His writing grabs us from the first line, plunging us deep into his creation. Not only does his prose make us see, it makes us taste and smell too, a treat for all the reader's senses and we're submerged into a rich and vibrant world. We're allowed to come up for air, but only when we need it; the world isn't revealed to us in page-length infodumps, but slowly through the eyes of the narrator, making the reader think and wonder, continue through the pages in the quest to know more.
Vurt's an astonishing debut, the perfect introduction to Noon's talent and imagination. His love of langauge is obvious - he plays with it constantly, massaging rather than manipulating - and this continues throught his other works. His tribute to Lewis Carroll, Automated Alice, is sublime, while Cobralingus may be too experimental for some but remains a deft treatise on the formation of both prose and poetry. He's a notable presence on Twitter, too - a format that feels designed especially for his talents in mind - using his tweets to tell tales. I once replied to a tweet of his, to get a quick response in turn that had me in awe.
Vurt's been re-released this year as a 20th Anniversary Edition. Noon's a novelist that deserves to be recognised alongside the likes of Philip K Dick and William Gibson, so let's hope it gets a whole new generation interested in his work. I've always felt he hasn't been given the recognition he deserves, that his debut is a forgotten classic of the genre. Noon's never been away, but it's good to have him back.