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The basic plotlines of this audacious SF novel are easy enough to explain: in 1999, Michael Kearney and his colleague Brian Tate are physicists, but Kearney is also a serial killer, trying to hold of a creature with horse skull for head, from which he stole an odd pair of dice; meanwhile in 2400, on a planet mankind has reached thanks to the paradigm-changing Kearney-Tate equations, Seria Mau Genlicher has had herself engineered into a virtual machine so she can pilot a K-ship, a decision she regrets, and Ed Chianese is an ex-pilot who spends all his time immersed in a noir world of virtual reality and running from the the loan-sharking Cray sisters. Seria and Ed have their own encounters with the creature, which is a Shrander. Add in the Kefahuchi Tract, a naked singularity that trails across space, defying attempts to comprehend its nature and vastness, and you've got the basic elements of the tale. From there, Mr. Harrison follows a series of questions : Where are the three main characters headed? What does the Shrander want? What is the Tract and what can we do with it?

However, reader be warned : the novel is much less straightforward than that set-up sounds. For one thing, Mr. Harrison is the writer who other writers whose books you've tried but failed to finish wish they wrote like. For another, he follows in the tradition of Patrick O'Brian by avoiding much discursion about the time period in which he's writing. In the Aubrey/Maturin series, which is historical, that gives us a sense of reading some sort of lost sea adventures as written by Jane Austen. We at least have what we know of the period and the language to help orient us. But when an author is writing about a future that springs from his own head, we have no such guideposts to cling onto. Rare will be the reader who doesn't set this book down at least once or twice in frustration at not knowing what the heck is going on.

But, if you do pick it back up and continue to the end, and if I've understood Mr. Harrison correctly, that ending is really interesting and makes the effort worthwhile. And the prospect of the Kefahuchi Boogie--you'll have to get that far--is truly thrilling.


(Reviewed:)

Grade: (B)

  

Websites:

M. Harrison Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: M. John Harrison
    -The M John Harrison Blog
    -WIKIPEDIA: Light
    -EXCERPT: from Light by M. John Harrison
    -ETEXT: Isobel Avens Returns to Stepney in the Spring : a novelette by M John Harrison
    -ESSAY: Another view : Sci-? writer M John Harrison on Tate Modern's new Turbine Hall show (M John Harrison, 19 October 2008, The Guardian)
    -BOOK LIST: M John Harrison's top 10 (M. John Harrison, 16 November 2004, The Guardian)
    -BOOK LIST: M John Harrison's favourite books on climbing (M. John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Wreaking by James Scudamore (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of England & Other Stories by Graham Swift (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Cataract City by Craig Davidson (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Posthumous Stories by David Rose (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Three Brothers by Peter Ackroyd (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Joyland by Stephen King (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Far North by Marcel Theroux (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Lewis Carroll in Numberland by Robin Wilson (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Natural History by Justina Robson (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of The Birthday of the World by Ursula K. LeGuin (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Night Work by Thomas Galvanic (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Redemption Ark by Alastair Reynolds (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of The Private Patient by P.D. James (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Plan for Chaos by John Wyndham (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Walking to Hollywood by Will Self (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Just After Sunset by Stephen King (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of The Book of Dave by Will Self (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Dr Mukti and Other Tales of Woe by Will Self (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of House of Meetings by Martin Amis (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of The Butt by Will Self (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Ragnarok: The End of the Gods by AS Byatt (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Thursbitch by Alan Garner (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Her Name Was Lola by Russell Hoban (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of My Tango With Barbara Strozzi by Russell Hoban (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Brother and Sister by Joanna Trollope (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Necronomicon by HP Lovecraft (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Siren Song by Robert Edric (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Dark Voyage by Alan Furst (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Pound for Pound by FX Toole (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Fascination by William Boyd (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of China by Alan Wall (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Firewall by Henning Mankell (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of The Fahrenheit Twins by Michel Faber (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Under the Dome by Stephen King (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Hodd by Adam Thorpe (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Rant by Chuck Palahniuk (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of The Speed of Light by Javier Cercas (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Higher Than the Eagle Soars by Stephen Venables (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of The Shieling by David Constantine (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of The Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines by Janna Levin (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of The Villain by Jim Perrin (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge by Patricia Duncker (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Tony & Susan by Austin Wright (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Look at the Birdie by Kurt Vonnegut (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Black Swan Green: A Novel by David Mitchell (M. John Harrison, TLS)
    -REVIEW: of Rash By Pete Hautman (M John Harrison, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ISLAND By Allegra Goodman (M. John Harrison, NY Times Book Review)
    -Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Authors : M. John Harrison (Worlds Without End)
    -INFO: M. John Harrison (authorsnetwork.org : the directory of contemporary authors)
    -INFO: M. John Harrison (Princeton.edu)
    -PODCAST: Episode 147: Live with M. John Harrison! (Jonathan Strahan, 6/22/13, Notes from Coode Street)
    -INTERVIEW: M John Harrison: a life in writing : 'A good ground rule for writing in any genre is: start with a form, then ask what it's afraid of' (Richard Lea, 20 July 2012, The Guardian)
    -INTERVIEW: Disillusioned By The Actual: M. John Harrison (interviewed by Patrick Hudson, The Zone)
    -INTERVIEW: M John Harrison (interviewed by David Mathew, Infinity Plus)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Irradiating the Object - an interview with M John Harrison (Rhys Williams, University of Warwick)
    -INTERVIEW: Interview: M. John Harrison (Cheryl Morgan, 9 June 2003, Strange Horizons)
    -ESSAY: Covering Viriconium (John Coulthart, Jun 11, 2012, feuilleton)
    -ESSAY: It’s M. John Harrison Appreciation Week (Guy Salvidge, July 28, 2014, Wrapped Up in Books)
    -ARCHIVES: "m. john harrison (NY Times)
    -ARCHIVES: M. John Harrison (The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of The Kefahuchi Tract Trilogy by M. John Harrison (John Gray, The New Statesman)
    -REVIEW: of Light by M. John Harrison (Complete Review)
    -REVIEW: of Light (Iain Banks, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Light (Ted Gioia, conceptual fiction)
    -REVIEW: of Light (Gerald Jonas, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Light (Michael Berry, SF CHronicle)
    -REVIEW: of Light (Adrienne Martini, Book Slut)
    -REVIEW: of Light (Violins in the Void)
    -REVIEW: of Light (Jeff VanderMeer, SF Site)
    -REVIEW: of Light (Adam Roberts, Infinity Plus)
    -REVIEW: of Light (Adam Roberts, Infinity Plus)
    -REVIEW: of Light (Keith Stevenson, Newtown Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Light (Ol Wilson, Twisted SciFi)
    -REVIEW: of Light (John DeNardo, SF Signal)
    -REVIEW: of Light (Carlos Aranaga, sciFi Dimensions)
    -REVIEW: of Light (Chris Moore, SF Reviews)
    -REVIEW: of Nova Swing by M. John Harrison (John Clute, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Nova Swing (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Nova Swing (Massimo Luciani)
    -REVIEW: of Empty Space: A Haunting by M John Harrison (Stuart Kelly, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Empty Space (Matthew Cheney, Strange Horizons)
    -REVIEW: of Empty Space (Matthew Cheney, Mumpsimus)
    -REVIEW: of Empty Space (Paul Kincaid, LA Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Empty Space (Paul DiFilippo, B&N Review)
    -REVIEW: of Empty Space (David Soyka, SF Site)
    -REVIEW: of Empty Space (Harry Ritchie, Daily Mail)
    -REVIEW: of Empty Space (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Signs of Life by M.John Harrison (Complete Review)
    -REVIEW: of Travel Arrangements by M. John Harrison (Rich Horton, SF Site)
    -REVIEW: of Things That Never Happen by M. John Harrison (Desirina Boskovich, Weird Fiction)
    -REVIEW: of Virconium by M. John Harrison (Justin Hickey, Open Letters Monthly)
    -REVIEW: of The Centauri Device by M John Harrison (TC, SF Book)
    -REVIEW: of Climbers by M John Harrison (Robert Macfarlane, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Climbers (Niall Alexander, Tor Books)
    -REVIEW: Mark Bould and Michelle Reid, eds. Parietal Games: Critical Writings By and On M. John Harrison (John Langan, July 2006, Science Fiction Studies)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVES: books by M. John Harrison (Infinity Plus)

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