Book Review – Light

This book was a pick for a local science fiction book club that I participate in. I had never read anything by M. John Harrison, and Light had an interesting premise. I listened to this one as an audiobook, narrated by Julian Elfer. It is book 1 in the Kefahuchi Tract series.

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Here is the blurb:

In M. John Harrison’s dangerously illuminating new novel, three quantum outlaws face a universe of their own creation, a universe where you make up the rules as you go along and break them just as fast, where there’s only one thing more mysterious than darkness.

In contemporary London, Michael Kearney is a serial killer on the run from the entity that drives him to kill. He is seeking escape in a future that doesn’t yet exist—a quantum world that he and his physicist partner hope to access through a breach of time and space itself. In this future, Seria Mau Genlicher has already sacrificed her body to merge into the systems of her starship, the White Cat. But the “inhuman” K-ship captain has gone rogue, pirating the galaxy while playing cat and mouse with the authorities who made her what she is. In this future, Ed Chianese, a drifter and adventurer, has ridden dynaflow ships, run old alien mazes, surfed stellar envelopes. He “went deep”—and lived to tell about it. Once crazy for life, he’s now just a twink on New Venusport, addicted to the bizarre alternate realities found in the tanks—and in debt to all the wrong people.

Haunting them all through this maze of menace and mystery is the shadowy presence of the Shrander—and three enigmatic clues left on the barren surface of an asteroid under an ocean of light known as the Kefahuchi Tract: a deserted spaceship, a pair of bone dice, and a human skeleton.


I really struggled to get into this book and I gave up on it after listening to about a third of it. The audio narration was fine, but I couldn’t follow the story or care about the characters. Much of the writing is spent on meaningless description, and while I like detail and an immersive world, none of the description related to how the characters interacted with their world, making it feel gratuitous.

The story follows three viewpoint characters, but I never felt interested in any of them. The idea of having someone’s consciousness merged into a starship has been done in other books, but is always something that I find interesting. Even with this theme, I couldn’t care what happened to Seria Mau. Of the three, Michael Kearney, was the most interesting to me, and he was a serial killer.

I might consider reading something else by this author because the writing itself was good. It just didn’t engage me at all.

Have you read something by M. John Harrison? Give me other recommendations in the comments above.

Find more of my book reviews here.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. adriankyte
    May 03, 2022 @ 14:46:36

    I recommend you check out MJH’s Nova Swing. It won the Arthur C Clark award. I think it’s more accesible and concisely written than Light (which i also liked but read so many years ago i wouldn’t trust my prose-writing analysis).

    Reply

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