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Nova Swing by M. John Harrison

Nova Swing

by M. John Harrison

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Kefahuchi Tract (2)

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English (18)  Finnish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (20)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
I read Light and liked it and found its shifting narrative intriguing so I gave Nova Swing a try and 50 pages in, can't make heads or tails of what I'm reading except its a major tonal shift and repeating some 80s cyberpunk tropes and recycling Stalker. ( )
  LamontCranston | May 3, 2017 |
Harrison is one of my favourite authors and this is his sequel to the Science Fiction novel Light. Here he fuses Science Fiction with Noir, all wrapped in his usual surreal poetic style. Pieces of the Kefahuchi Tract have fallen to earth, creating a strange, dangerous zone of shifting landscapes within the city. Vic Seratonin, a 'travel agent' will, for a price, take people into the zone. But things have started escaping too. New artefacts bringing with them the dangerous daughter code that leads to decay and disaster. On his tail is Lens Aschemann, a detective in Site Crime, a widower fascinated with the mysterious new people who emerge from the zone, only to fade away within hours. Then there's Liv Hula, bar owner and former rocket jockey; Fat Antoyne, desperate to be Vic's friend who falls into the employ of Paulie DeRaad, and in love with Irene the Mona. Familiar themes surface - a strange, afflicted city; strange new diseases; dysfunctional people. There are echoes here of the Viriconium stories, to my mind his masterpiece (especially the novel In Viriconium). But in the end I found this novel unsatisfying somehow. Don't get me wrong, it's good and well worth reading, but Harrison has written better. ( )
  David.Manns | Nov 28, 2016 |
A bizarre world, an enjoyable and well written read. ( )
  brakketh | Nov 4, 2016 |
Found this a bit if a slog, to be honest. Not sure why. I quite like Harrison, and he seems a good fit after a Mieville. This is the science fiction novel as mood piece, a piece of improvised jazz noir - I think it says that somewhere on the cover. The space-port setting is amazingly atmospheric, the surreal but ultimately meaningless labyrinth like something out of Borges provides a sort of abstract null attractor at the book's centre, a void of meaning that replicates the moral void at the heart of noir. The writing is cool and clipped, shiny and sharp as diamonds, like something uttered laconically from the corner of the mouth of a PI poet staking out a street corner or holding up a bar nursing his drinks and his scars. Kinda brilliant really, even if it took me a while to get in the mood. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
M. John Harrisonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Harman, DominicCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Youll, StephenCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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'The further into the Zone the nearer to Heaven.'
Boris & Arkady Strugatsky, Roadside Picnic
'Nostelgia and science fiction are spookily close.'
A.A. Gill, Sunday Times
'Our lives are more like fragmentary dreams than the enactment of conscious selves.'
John Gray, Straw Dogs
To Lara, Julian and Dan
First words
Vic Serotonin sat in a bar on Straint Street, just outside the aureole of the Saudade event, in conversation with a fat man from another planet called Antoyne.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0553385011, Paperback)

Years after Ed Chianese's fateful trip into the Kefahuchi Tract, the tract has begun to expand and change in ways we never could have predicted--and, even more terrifying, parts of it have actually begun to fall to Earth, transforming the landscapes they encounter.

Not far from Moneytown, in a neighborhood of underground clubs, body-modification chop shops, adolescent contract killers, and sexy streetwalking Monas, you'll find the Saudade Event Site: a zone of strange geography, twisted physics, and frightening psychic onslaughts--not to mention the black and white cats that come pouring out at irregular intervals.

Vic Serotonin is a "travel agent" into and out of Saudade. His latest client is a woman who's nearly as unpredictable as the site itself--and maybe just as dangerous. She wants a tour just as a troubling new class of biological artifacts are leaving the site--living algorithms that are transforming the world outside in inexplicable and unsettling ways. Shadowed by a metaphysically inclined detective determined to shut his illegal operation down, Vic must make sense of a universe rapidly veering toward a virulent and viral form of chaos ... and a humanity almost lost.

Questions for M. John Harrison

Amazon.com: You've returned to the same setting as Light with Nova Swing, but Nova Swing isn't really a sequel, right?

Harrison: It's a kind of companion piece. It's less sprawling than Light. It could be read independently but there's some interplay, which you would miss if you hadn't read the other book. I wanted to revisit the genetically-modified servants and entertainers--the prostitutes, gladiators, rickshaw girls, and gun-kiddies--and show them as more human than some of the human beings. A key element I wanted to extend from the first book was the idea of human behaviour as code, further undermining conventional ideas we have of personality, character, and consciousness. I liked the idea of a kind of life based on complex algorithms which can run themselves on any platform. The Kefahuchi Code is imagined as preceding physics in some way. Reality is just another substrate it can run on.

Amazon.com: If a reader came up to you and asked you what Nova Swing was about, what would you say?

Harrison: It's about being a meme and not knowing it. The set-up is this: we are on one of the Beach planets. A generation--perhaps two--after Ed Chianese took his ship The Black Cat off the Beach and into the Kefahuchi Tract, part of the Tract has fallen to earth in a city called Saudade. It's a zone of the unreliable. It's infected with K-code: or maybe it is K-code, the wrong physics loose in the universe. Everyone is drawn to the "event site" like moths to a flame, from failed entradista Vic Serotonin to middle class tourist Elizabeth Keilar; from Vic's friend Pauli DeRaad, ex vacuum commando and all-round Earth Military Contracts factotum, to Lens Aschemann the dissociated police detective. They're all looking for something their lives don't show them. But for everyone who goes in, something new and weird is coming out...

Amazon.com: You've written novels with contemporary settings, novels that mix the contemporary and SF, like Light, and then something like Nova Swing, which is all set in the future. What is it that attracts you to the SF element?

Harrison: SF is an opportunity to have an intense relationship with your own imagination. It's a kind of drive-by poetry, trashy and addictive; it's fun. After that, for me, it's an opportunity to explore that kind of imaginative artifact from inside, and use a little camped-up contemporary science as a way of generating new metaphors around my typical obsessions. While I agree with almost everything that Geoff Ryman and the Mundanes say about SF, I can't join them because I find it impossible to assign different levels of plausibility to acts of the imagination. If you limit yourself on the grounds that faster-than-light travel isn't "realistic," you might as well go whole hog and write only fiction set on the street where you live; if you limit yourself to that, you might as well go whole hog and write nothing but nonfiction; if you limit yourself to that, you might as well go whole hog, admit that writing is not the real world--and can't even successfully represent the real world--and give it up altogether. I'd be happy to do that, and indeed I've already done all of those things more than once in the last 40 years. But if you're going to write SF in the first place, why not lie back, admit it's a farrago, and enjoy it? I think there's a great deal to be gained from revaluing and enjoying the distinction between the invented and the real. As long as you maintain that, SF's a great genre.

Amazon.com: When you start a new novel, is it easier every time because you've got more experience each time?

Harrison: If you were trying to solve the same problems every time, I think it would get easier. But if you can maintain a complex relationship with who you are, and always let form show you what you could say (rather than going the rationalist route of selecting a form that fits the things you already expect to be saying), the next book will always be a challenge. Whatever you do, it's hard to escape your typical subject matter and obsessions. The main thing is to look for situations in which you can make bad decisions, otherwise you're writing from a template.

Amazon.com: You read and review a lot of novels for English media. What's most disappointed you and/or most surprised you in a good way recently?

Harrison: I didn't enjoy House of Meetings. I thought Amis's need to add literary value obscured the human facts of the Gulag. By the opposite token, Dave Eggers's What Is the What is one of the most powerful and affecting books I've read, precisely because he doesn't let his own needs and abilities overshadow the work the book is doing. Though I was a bit sniffy with it in the Times Literary Supplement, I really rather enjoyed my encounter with The Dictator and the Hammock, by Daniel Pennac. Pennac is as intrusive an author as Amis, but that's part of the contract: you don't read him, you have a lively argument with him then lose your temper because he was gaming you all along. Someone else who is gaming you, in a different way, is Chuck Palahniuk. I adored Rant, though I found its voice a bit overpowering by the end. Apart from the Eggers, the books I've liked most recently haven't been books I've reviewed: Ali Smith, The Accidental; Houellebecq's Atomised [The Elementary Particles in the US]; The Mistress's Daughter by A.M. Homes.

Amazon.com: What projects are you working on now?

Harrison: I'm writing a collection of short stories. I'm foraging about in the set-up for the next novel, trying to set enough limits for it to be writeable. I've been blogging at Uncle Zip's Window. (That turned out to be a project in itself.) I recently wrote some stories for Barbara Campbell's web-based durational performance 1001 Nights Cast; and, along with Tim Etchells, Deborah Levi, Jo Randerson, and Richard Maxwell, generated text for a performance by Kate McIntosh (Loose Promise), which premieres in Berlin later this year. The 1001 Nights rules encourage you to write quickly, relinquish control of the product, give up the obsessive write/rewrite cycle. Challenging for someone like me.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:31 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Years after Ed Chianese's trip into the Kefahuchi Tract, the Tract begins to expand and change, with pieces falling to Earth and transforming the landscape with strange artifacts and organisms that threaten surrounding areas.

» see all 3 descriptions

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