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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

       
Light

Copyright 2002 by M. John Harrison

In Association with Amazon.co.uk
SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point no SOJALS point    Superb (4/5)

I first read this on the 21st March 2003.

Two physicists, Micheal Keaney and Brian Tate, are working together in London laboratory. They are struggling to develop a the first practical quantum computer. ahead of the competition. Every day that goes by without a solution further risks the financing that pays for this research, and increases the chance that another group may succeed before them. The pressure is immense. Brian Tate, perhaps the more brilliant of the pair, is beginning to break under the strain. His partner, Michael Kearney, has been broken, mentally ill and dangerously so, for a long time. Indeed Kearney has believed for years that he is being pursued by an alien monster, known as the Shrander and that this monster requires terrible sacrifices from him.

These two will eventually find something amazing, not at all what they expect, but at least they will be famous for it.

Four hundred years in the future, far out in space, is the Beach, the star systems on the edge of the mysterious Kafahuchi Tract. Among these is the Radio Bay cluster, where the technology of extinct alien civilisations was laid, stacked high and abandoned.

Out here in space, a host of characters are trying to escape the messes they've made of their circumstances and lives.

  • Seria Mau Genlicher is hiding away in her magnificent and ancient K-ship, the White Cat, chased by the forces of the EMC
  • Tig Vesicle, a New Man alien, aping humanity.
  • Chinese Ed dreaming his life away in a VR tank
  • Billy Anker hiding in his wrecked, ancient spacecraft, the Karaoke Sword

"Well, now there's been an eruption!"* M. John Harrison has certainly returned with a bang. I had no idea that he was this good! I shall have to read his "Viriconium" novels again. All this time I've been reading Iain Banks and Ken MacLeod and I'd darn near forgotten that there ever was an M. John Harrison. I liked his "The Centauri Device" back in 1975 but during the '80s I'd pretty much given up waiting for something more to read. Yet there he was still scribbling away in some dark underground, waiting to leap out of the shadows and stamp his mark again on British SF. Stamp it he does with this astonishing book.

Yes, this is reminiscent of Banks and MacLeod, but Harrison's "Light" goes one step beyond. He gives us a disturbed, damaged, grimy but realistic world that's merely the shell around an exhilarating, scintillating universe.

What's it got? Bundles of stuff. There are aliens, AIs, FTL, super speedy virtual worlds, space battles, serial killers and shocking gritty realism. All it lacks is Noise & Nutrition. You need something to accompany the high points. I recommend tequila and tobacco laid out carefully on the floor beside you, and Linkin Park's "Somewhere I belong" looped up ready to roll.


*if he can have the Cray sisters, I can do Bob Hoskins.

Loaded on the 1st June 2003.
    
Cover of Light
Cover by Chris Moore

Reviews of other work by M. John Harrison
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