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Light Paperback – Deckle Edge, August 31, 2004

3.2 out of 5 stars 132 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Harrison's talent for brilliant, reality-bending SF is on display yet again with this three-tiered tale, published (and highly praised) in the U.K. in 2002. It's 1999, and British scientist Michael Kearney and his American partner, Brian Tate, are studying laboratory quantum physics; unbeknownst to them, they'll become the fathers of interplanetary travel. Kearney nervously holds a pair of predictive dice he's stolen from a frightening specter called the Shrander, whom he keeps at bay by committing random murders. Four hundred years in the future, K-ship captain Seria Mau Genlicher has gravely erred in splicing herself with a hijacked spacecraft called the White Cat—and now she wants out. There's also Ed Chianese, a burned-out interstellar surfer now spending his life within a reality simulation machine. His problem? Monetary debt to the nasty Cray sisters. As Kearney continues to narrowly evade the Shrander, he discovers that company CEO Gordon Meadows has sold the lab to Sony. All three story lines converge and find heavenly closure at the cosmological wonder known as the Kefahuchi Tract, a wormhole with alien origins bordered by a vast, astral "beach" where time and space are braided and interchangeable. This is space opera for the intelligentsia, as Harrison (Things That Never Happen) tweaks aspects of astrophysics, fantasy and humanism to hum right along with the blinking holograms in a welcome and long overdue return.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Reviewers call Light “complex,” yet seemed more than willing to forgive the complexity—as well as the shortage of sympathetic major characters—because of the award-winning author’s style and sheer intelligence. They also lauded the ending, deemed “suitably transformational” and “connection-rich” (Guardian). Harrison brings a far deeper wisdom and maturity to science fiction than other writers typically do, and poses important questions that reach far beyond the old conceits of the genre. Most intriguing of these: “By what moral calculus is [Harrison’s] mad scientist any madder than the legions of researchers who kiss their families goodbye each morning and spend their workdays developing weapons of mass destruction?” (New York Times). It’s an eternal mystery.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 310 pages
  • Publisher: Spectra (August 31, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553382950
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553382952
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (132 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #90,087 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ian Mccullough on January 23, 2005
Format: Paperback
Light was a perplexing read, but in the best way. China Mieville mentioned M. John Harrison as an author to read, so being a Mieville fan I had to try Harrison out. Heck, Neil Gaiman gave the novel an enthusiastic blurb, so it must be good, right?

But, the story didn't grip me at first and I found myself wondering what the big deal was even while recognizing that Harrison is a true wordsmith. Even if this novel deeply turns you off in all other ways, any literate reader should recognize the quality of the writing. Harrison has a true gift for stripped down sentences and a powerfully apt use of vocabulary. Even in the early going, when I was kind of bored, I found myself rereading passages for the simple pleasure of the words on the page.

The plot was bizarre, lurid and somewhat jarring - jumping around in time and space to various loser protagonists. There were three storylines and although I assumed a resolution, the connections remained fuzzy and I was to the point of just getting through it. But about three quarters of the way through something happened - I got it. This is a brilliantly structured novel and I curse my lack of early attention now. Light should be approached as literature, not genre fiction. The convergence of the three characters and their stories happened so gradually, the realization startled me. When you realize there is not three stories, but just one story, interconnections missed earlier spring out. It was a singularly mind blowing epiphany for this veteran SF reader. I am still struggling with the text, but have to recommend Light as a singularly fascinating read.

Light is a fractal novel about fractals, where large ideas are reflected in smaller scale throughout the text.
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Format: Paperback
People have been raving about M. John Harrison for a few years now, and I finally bent before the pressure of public opinion and submitted to what I expected would be a gorgeously written but somewhat dull work that walks that rather tiresome line between genre and mainstream literature: as much literary pretention as genre roots.

Boy was I surprised!

Mostly for the good. This is real science fiction. Harrison takes contemporary and speculative elements of physics, treats them with confidence, and transforms them into poetry. When it comes to working within the genre, he is not merely tossing in a few "speculative" elements, either: His action sequences raise the pulse; his characters are quirky, compelling, in most cases memorable; the fundamental plot hinges on some huge and intriguing unknowns that draw the reader in; there are some frightening scenes that linger with enough power to reappear in nightmare. Harrison has the storyteller's gift for hooking a reader and keeping him hooked.

However, it's worth noting that this book has a serial murderer as one of the main characters: his actions and motivations are grotesque, and ultimately very unsatisfying. This is one of the less memorable characters, and while the whole thread does tie in with the others, by the end it feels quite superfluous.

It's also worth noting that just about every thread, and just about every character, displays an increasingly tiresome fascination with sex. In particular, the graphic, repetitive, and loveless tropes of pornography. I haven't read Harrison's other work; perhaps he intended some deep thematic observation on human motivations, but the whole thing came off feeling like Harrison has a problem with porn addiction.
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Format: Paperback
I have to admit that when I started reading this book, it took me a good amount of time to start to understand what is going on. Three stories going on at the same time, without much explanation how they relate to each other. There isn't much explanation about what is going on in the world in each of the stories either (they seem to be happening in different points in time, but later you find out that time is something very abstract throught the book), but when everything starts to fit together, towards the end of the book, it's delighful. Very well written, impressive piece of science fiction.

But I wouldn't recoment it to people that are not a science-inclined and sci-fi fans. M. John Harrison tends sometimes to throw some deep discussions about the validity of physics that may bore some.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Am going to have to get the sequel to this! Extraordinary SF with amazing characters. Just one note: there is sex in this book, and it is not joyous. The sex here is desperate and empty. The characters are damaged people looking for something to feel good about, and not necessarily any love or affection, just cold sex. That is not my cup of tea. (Much more prefer Peter Hamilton's sexy characters who actually enjoy it!) But, that does not detract from the brilliant story, but seems to add to the stark strangeness. Adult material, but really good plot and characters.
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Format: Paperback
In 1999, research scientists Michael Kearney and Brian Tate work to encode data in quantum events. Recent results are not what they expected, but look more promising than they imagined when they started. However, Michael is turning psychotic, as an internal essence pressures him to commit murder.

In 2400 New Venusport, Ed Chianese daily struggles to survive with his only solace being virtual reality escapes unlike his former glory days of surfing black holes. However, his woes turn bleaker with no escape available when it seems as if half the city wants a piece of him because he owes money to the wrong lenders.

Several years since the Golddiggers of 2400 AD, White Cat Captain Seria Mau Genlicher is linked directly to the mathematics of her spaceship as if her mind is the vessel's AI. On the run, she has problems with her new woman body and her tailor Uncle Zip offers little help.

The woes of these three and other losers will "merge" in a quantum realm at the "Beach", a segment of space abutting the impenetrable Kefahuchi Tract. Here nothing works properly and space debris and the occasional treasure exist, many from before the beginnings of time.

Ironically LIGHT is a dark gritty tale told predominately on three fronts. The story line is not a Star Wars action thriller (even with plenty of violence), but instead a complex cerebral and gloomy science fiction with prime players seemingly doomed to tragic lives. Paradoxically Michael (and Tate) is recognized four centuries later as the fathers of interstellar space. Not everyone will enjoy this tense multifaceted novel that contrasts the intricacies of life past, present, and future.

Harriet Klausner
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