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Light (2002)

by M. John Harrison

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Kefahuchi Tract (1)

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2,057617,955 (3.42)60
On the barren surface of an asteroid, located deep in the galaxy beneath the unbearable light of the Kefahuchi Tract, lie three objects: an abandoned spacecraft, a pair of bone dice covered with strange symbols, and a human skeleton. What they are and what they mean are the mysteries explored and unwrapped in LIGHT, M. John Harrison's triumphant novel.… (more)
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» See also 60 mentions

English (58)  Italian (1)  French (1)  All languages (60)
Showing 1-5 of 58 (next | show all)
Author is definitely very smart, very interesting weird concepts. It makes sense that the somewhat distant future (& outer space) would be so strange that it would be hard for us to understand it. But it made this hard to read. He just drops you right in with the jargon w/o explaining it so you have to figure it out yourself by context which took about half the book. Brunner is like that too, but this was even more difficult. Didn't finish it feeling satisfied w/plot. But willing to re-read ( )
  dtscheme | Jan 1, 2024 |
Great book! ( )
  JWvdVuurst | Sep 20, 2023 |
I'm torn on giving this 3 stars vs. 4. I think it might in some sense "deserve" 4 stars, while I'm leaning heavily toward giving it 3 stars. I read this in often short chunks in between doing other things, getting interrupted, etc... an especially bad way to read this particular book, given the intertwined storylines, the number of main characters you're therefore rapidly introduced to, and their convergence (and clues, and whatnot scattered along the way).

But... in my reading, I think 3 stars, even if in a perfect world I'd give it 4; so 3 stars it is. ( )
  dcunning11235 | Aug 12, 2023 |
Author certainly has an interesting and creative imagination. I did get tired, though, of all the constant references to sex and frequent use of the word "f--k". But I suppose it must have been a fairly good book if I could overlook all that. Everything tied together in the end, but I wish it could have been tied together more clearly. ( )
  MarkLacy | May 29, 2022 |
Well. Tempting as it is to simply rant about how much I disliked this book, I'm going to at least try to provide slightly more studied, thoughtful analysis, i.e., WHY do I dislike this book?

1) It consists of completely unengaging stories presented in a wandering, incoherent writing style. The technique of writing alternating chapters from the viewpoint of different characters can be a very effective way to tell a story. But for this to work, each of the individual plotlines needs to be able to catch and hold the reader's interest, and in this case, none of the three does. Physicist Michael Kearney? I found him contemptible. I didn't understand why he behaved as he did, and the story didn't even make me care why. Seria Mau Genlicher? Some of these chapters were so shot through with casually tossed-off quantum physics-related word diarrhea that they were meaningless. To be clear, I like quantum physics. I find it fascinating. But I thought that the author was using it as a cheap techno-version of "magic." If something incomprehensible was happening, he simply threw in some quantum jargon in lieu of explaining it and called it good. Ed Chianese? This character has both problems. He is a completely uninteresting character, doing nothing of consequence, and the chapters that include him are peppered with cyberpunk jargon that the author has made up. It's as if the author had three unrelated novellas in mind, and decided to try to splice them together into a novel. To the extent that the stories come together at all, they do so only very awkwardly, and only at the very end of the book.

2) Excessive use of unexplained jargon. I was extremely annoyed by this. Harrison casually tosses off terms he has created without any definition or explanation of their meaning. He does this at points where understanding what he means is pretty much required if one is to follow the story. The casual way that he uses his made-up vocabulary fails to provide much of a hint for what these neologisms mean just from context. The author might- or might not- later get around to explaining his neologisms several chapters later, but even where this is done, it's never adequate. Examples: What is a "fetch?" What are "shadow operators?" What is a "shadow boy?" What is a "cultivar," and what distinguishes it from a simple "clone" (both terms are used in the book). What is a "one-shot cultivar?" What exactly is a "twink?"

3) Masturbation, masturbation, masturbation. Lots and lots of masturbation. Other sex acts as well, but a creepy focus on masturbation. The so-called "New Men" are explicitly described as masturbating every twenty minutes, and I have no idea why we readers needed to know that. The omnipresent onanism involves not just characters relieving themselves in private. People walk in on other people casually masturbating and no one bats an eyelash at it. Now, I don't object to putting sex into a story if there is some point to it. But all the masturbation in this book is just pointless. If it's supposed to make me feel more contempt for the characters, well, that's not possible, I pretty much disliked them all already.

And while we're on the subject of sex, a detail in the life of Seria Mau's was pretty disgusting. Her widowed father telling her she needs to be the mother now, and touching her inappropriately, made me very nearly decide to just give up on this book altogether.

From all the above, it's probably no surprise that I do not intend to read the remaining books in the trilogy. I finished this one only because I make a point of finishing every book I start - but this one brought me closer to making an exception to that rule than anything I've read in the last ten years. ( )
  Ailurophile | Mar 6, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 58 (next | show all)
Contextualizing Harrison's approach to SF generally more than a review of any given book, and to the Viriconium series more than to books not part of that series. Nevertheless, he reminds readers of Harrison's quote on world-building as "the great clomping foot of nerdism" and derides it as destructive more than constructive.

Harrison's own books, the Viriconium sequence, are in his own words, "a theory about the power-structures culture is designed to hide; an allegory of language, how it can only fail; the statement of a philosophical (not to say ethological) despair." But he doesn't want them to be read for the "furniture" of the world so he makes sure that the reader can never grasp it. Viriconium has an evershifting description – there is setting but no continuity. He makes sure that "you can't read it for that stuff and so you have to read it for everything else."
 

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
M. John Harrisonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tervaharju, HannuTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Youll, StephenCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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To Cath, with love
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1999:

Towards the end of things, someone asked Michael Kearney, "How do you see yourself spending the first minute of the new millennium?"
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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On the barren surface of an asteroid, located deep in the galaxy beneath the unbearable light of the Kefahuchi Tract, lie three objects: an abandoned spacecraft, a pair of bone dice covered with strange symbols, and a human skeleton. What they are and what they mean are the mysteries explored and unwrapped in LIGHT, M. John Harrison's triumphant novel.

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