A Clarke-winner, and not quite as strong as I'd expected from my reading of other books of that type. Vurt wasn't bad, but I'm not sure I'd call it a very good one either. A gritty, character-driven exploration of near future society. Most of the story revolves around the use and misuse of virtual reality, linked to certain other cybernetics as a form of addictive element. The whole thing reminded me a lot of Dick's Ubik, a comparison that didn't do the book any favors, drawing attention to its reduced energy of story and reduced amount of creative detail. As well, unlike with Ubik, things are grounded enough that we're supposed to accept this story as a plausible future, which I take issue with. It's not precisely cyberpunk, but shares a number of stylistic and political overtones. Which brings up a level of unrealistic backdrop that I generally find incredible about cyberpunk--the presentation of technology leading to an absence of a real community, of a state, or wider political sovereignty.
There are some very interesting passages, moments and concepts, but the whole thing never came together for me into a compelling story.
Worse than: Ubik by Philip K. Dick
Better than: Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding