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The Centauri Device by M. John Harrison

The Centauri Device

by M. John Harrison

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5681226,489 (3.16)5
  1. 10
    Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany (LamontCranston)
    LamontCranston: The same ephemeral beat prose. And of course Space Opera, updated. Strange mystery, assemble a crew of lively characters, go explore it.
  2. 00
    The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks (LamontCranston)
  3. 00
    Pioneers by Phillip Mann (AlanPoulter)
    AlanPoulter: Two very rare beasts, "anti-space operas"...
  4. 00
    Spirit: The Princess of Bois Dormant (Gollancz) by Gwyneth Jones (AlanPoulter)
    AlanPoulter: Two dark, complex, bizarre slices of space opera, which exist in another dimension compared to most novels in this sub-genre.

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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
The jacket copy on the back of this book begins "Bastard son of a port whore ...," and gives an impression of this book's contents that is unusually accurate among 1970s SF paperbacks. Its setting is a twenty-fourth century in which an interstellar cold war is heating up, and the rival superpowers are both terrestrially-based: the Israeli World Government and the Union of Arabic Socialist Republics. Protagonist John Truck is an alienated loser, who the reader soon finds out is also descended from an alien survivor of human-perpetrated genocide. The "device" of the title is an enigmatic find from the ruined Centauran homeworld, which the agents of the competing powers each think will give them the edge. Other players in the game where Truck seems to be a pawn include a cabal of space anarchists led by a aesthete, an interstellar drug business and its kingpin, and the evangelical cult of the Openers, who have windows surgically installed to reveal their innards.

Although Harrison seems not to be especially proud of this early effort, saying it was from before he "learned to write," it still stands out as bucking the trends of space opera in interesting ways. The antihero John Truck is not too unusual for the new wave science fiction set in which Harrison participated. I enjoyed the surprising passel of Swinburne references, especially to Atalanta in Calydon, along with allusions to Huysmanns and other decadents. Admittedly, most of what Harrison does well in this book, he does again far better in the more recent Kefahuchi Tract novels.
1 vote paradoxosalpha | Nov 23, 2018 |
I picked this up from the library because I'd heard it referred to as a classic of Sci-Fi. The writing is certainly a cut above, but the story, settings, language are pure 70's... and, to my taste, haven't aged well. The blurb on the front gives this much away:
"A last-chance loner from the back alleys of space hold the fate of the earth in his hands."
Well then.

I suppose... think "Escape from New York" but in space. And "Escape from New York" is a classic, too, in its way; but it is very much aged, and not entirely for the better. ( )
  dcunning11235 | Aug 28, 2017 |
The first Harrison novel I have been disappointed by. The author himself is on record as saying that this is probably his worst book, and he's right. A space opera with a hero who gets thrown from one chaotic scene to the next in search of a mysterious Device after a genocidal war, this was a turgid slog of a read. All the usual Harrison tropes are here but nothing seems to gel, to work. You end up not caring about any of the characters. I virtually forced myself to finish it which has not been the case with other Harrison stories.

Heaven knows why this was selected as part of the SF Masterworks series. It is a huge step down from the delights of Viriconium, The Course of The Heart and the Light Trilogy.

For completists only. ( )
  David.Manns | Nov 28, 2016 |
I've recently had the luck to find myself with a huge stack of books, much of it sci fi, which allows me to sort through the really good stuff and throw out the crap. That happened in this case. I read the first two or three pages of this book and I thought it sounded so stupid and I had so many good books to choose from by so many good authors that I thought I wouldn't waste my time on some no talent hack with a crap book with a questionable plot. On the first page, we learn we're not to accept any vegetable seeds as cargo, ESPECIALLY pumpkin seeds, while the dwarf bos'n asks what's a pumpkin. I suppose that passes for humor to Harrison. For me, that passes for crap. I'd rather be reading David Weber, Asimov, Jack McDevitt, Orson Scott Card -- you know, REAL writers! So, I read three pages, closed the book, and threw it in the "sell to the used bookstore" pile. I'm not wasting my time on junk like that. If the author has to resort to cheap gimmicks like that to "hook" his readers on the first page or two, it doesn't seem very promising to me. So, I didn't finish, I admit. It could have turned out to be a decent book, although if you go by ratings and reviews online, it does not. Therefore, not recommended. One star. ( )
  scottcholstad | Apr 28, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
M. John Harrisonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Jones, PeterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lehr, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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And they, so perfect is their misery

Not once perceive their foul disfigurement...

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It was St Crispin's Eve on Sad al Bari IV when Captain John Truck, impelled by something he was forced to describe to himself as 'sentiment', decided to visit The Spacer's Rave, on the corner of Proton Alley and Circuit (that chilly junction where the higher class of port lady goes to find her customers).
"We live in a sick charade of political polarities; of death, bad art, and wasted time--all in the cause of ideologies that were a century out of date in their heyday."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 185798997X, Paperback)

John Truck was to outward appearances just another lowlife spaceship captain. But he was also the last of the Centaurans ' or at least, half of him was ' which meant that he was the only person who could operate the Centauri Device, a sentient bomb which might hold the key to settling a vicious space war. M. John Harrison's classic novel turns the conventions of space opera on their head, and is written with the precision and brilliance for which is famed.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:03 -0400)

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