Light

Light

by M. John Harrison

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Light 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
TEST NOOKUSER More than 1 year ago
Harrison is an incredible talent, with perhaps the strongest command of the english language of any writer living. He is definitely the most vividly visual writer going, and his characters are satisfyingly human, all of them mad, broken, and learning. This is perhaps Harrisons most accessible work, and all around entertaining.
PhoenixFalls More than 1 year ago
This is a difficult novel. Harrison's prose is meaty, but that is not where the difficulty lies; his characters are unlikeable, and while that is a challenge, it is not insurmountable. The main difficulty lies in the novel's structure -- much of it is an elaborate smoke screen, ultimately having little to no effect on the resolution. This also makes the novel particularly difficult to review, as its true nature doesn't become evident until the last four chapters, but any mention of what is in those chapters (and what is in those chapters will make or break the novel for most readers) constitutes a giant spoiler. Alas, I am committed to writing reviews that are as spoiler-free as possible, so I will focus on what the novel focuses on, which is that smoke screen. The novel consists of alternating chapters from three perspectives, two sociopaths and one junkie. All three are running from something, and most of the novel is spent figuring out what they are running from and what turned them into sociopaths/junkies. In this sense the novel is akin to a character study, and I suspect it will work best for those people who generally like character studies. (I am one of those people, but I will admit it didn't work particularly well for me in this aspect because I'm not a big fan of sociopaths and junkies.) One perspective is set in contemporary England & America, with just enough detail to be immediately recognizable, and the other two are set in 2400 A.D., which is a future with plenty of SF world-building that Harrison spends very little time describing -- the world is catch-as-you-can, and readers who aren't used to hard SF will likely be hopelessly confused at points while readers who are used to these sort of milieus will be able to fill in the blanks fairly easily. There is some action, but most of the novel is spent getting into these peoples' heads. But at its heart, and despite the first 350 pages, Light isn't a character study. It's a Big Idea story, and its Big Idea is what constitutes the spoiler, so I have to talk around it. The jacket description actually does as much as it can to help readers to that Big Idea -- it doesn't describe the set-up and first act like most jacket descriptions, but instead provides clues to the elements astute readers need to keep track of in order to decipher the resolution. That resolution will determine whether the novel succeeds or fails for most readers, so anyone who attempts this novel needs to be prepared to read it to the end to give it a fair shot, and unfortunately even reading to the end will not guarantee that you will like it. Ultimately, I decided I did not like the resolution Harrison provides, but I get it, and I can see why other people love it, and I will defend his pure craft that went into making this book. This is the rare novel I will recommend despite not having enjoyed it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read the whole book to find out what it was about and was very dissatisfied with the entire book. Difficult to read, and lacks direction while it jumps around.
tnt-tek on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is opaque on its first reading. There is an expectation that it will progress like a plot-driven thriller, moving us through disconnected story-lines, picking up clues and dropping a nice tidy conclusion on us at the end. By the time I realized this is a character study, I'd missed the points of interest, glazing over them looking for nuggets of plot in the narrative. It was on the second take that the nature of this book really revealed itself. It's a study in paranoia, missed opportunity, retreat from the harsh light of reality. Each of the characters mourn the loss of their former selves. Each of them seeking redemption for their hostile reactions to the world, though in very different ways. If you approach this book from the standpoint that you are going to witness character evolution rather than space opera, Light will reward you with it's enigmatic yet poetic ending. Recommended.
gonzobrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For those with even the slightest interest in reading Light by M. John Harrison, two words of caution¿be patient. Be patient with three seemingly (and I stress seemingly) unrelated (in time or space) storylines, be patient with the author¿s constant digressions into the semi-erotic genre, and be especially patient with the endless stream-of-consciousness like spew of space-pop jargon, regurgitated with often scant explanation. Be patient with it all. Or, think of it as a roller coaster ride, whereby one can enjoy the rush of it all in their face rather than getting caught up in any one loop or curve. Do that, and you might just find a handful of brilliance in this work, other than referencing the title. What Harrison does really well in this novel is his ability to provide glimpses of a future where everything looks different, but retains the essential human condition. For all the advances in quantum physics and popular chemistry, the hazy lure of the twink-tanks, interstellar travel and adventures of the K-captain, Harrison essentially writes of the frailty and fear that humanity just can¿t seem to shake. That, and the sheer wonder of the connections between time, space and the human brain¿s potential. Unfortunately, what Harrison takes for granted is the casual reader¿s attention span given an ultra thick space-stew of components that comprise the mystery of the Kefahuchi Tract. While it still remains mysterious after reading, I don¿t think he quite pulled it off by rapid-firing its components rather than aiming at the whole. The impulse and insanity of human beings is accelerated to the nanosecond, but the Tract in its obscurity remains. That being said, if one is patient, there is a fine reward in seeing the connections blossom between Seria Mau, Ed Chianese, and Kearney, culminating in the mystery surrounding everything around and beyond The Shrander. It¿s a really imaginatively conceived story, if you are willing to survive the whole ride.
isabelx on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a hard book to get into. When I picked it up the day after starting it, I had to start reading from the beginning again, as I couldn¿t remember what was going on in two of the three plot threads. It was interesting but I was still left slightly baffled at the end.
kd9 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Any description of a sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from gibberish. Start with an amoral serial killer haunted by a being from the far future, add a virtual reality addict on a planet days from war, and finish with a sexually abused girl who has been joined to a spaceship run by mathematics. You have now been introduced to a cast of characters who it is impossible to identify with and impossible to like in any form. I might have given this book just a single star, but I did finish it. Maybe I thought it would turn into something more meaningful. I was wrong.I can't imagine what the 56 people who gave this book 4 stars or better were thinking. Does Harrison have such a large family?
clong on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a strange book, a sort of space opera, as seen through a cyberpunk lens, with elements of urban fantasy thrown in for good measure. Light is highly atmospheric. Harrison takes us through a series of dark, compelling, and fantastic settings. This is a future where "people" struggle to survive in a purposeless, ugly, and dreary high-tech universe. The storyline jumps back and forth between three parallel stories, one set in the present, and two set in the distant future. It takes quite a while to make sense of how the three stories fit together. This is a book where nobody is what they seem, and everybody's motivations are dark. The three main characters are challenging. One, Michael Kearney, is a haunted, physicist, serial killer (this isn't much of a spoiler--he kills someone on the third page of the book). The second, Seria Mau Genlicher, is a psychopathic, cyborg space pirate, haunted by a dark past. The third, Ed Chianese is a space thrillseeker turned virtual reality addict. We eventually learn about how Chianese's dark past intersects with Seria Mau's. The characters are haunted by dreams, dreams in which they relive the past and run from their future. There is lots of sex, none of it "normal." I can easily see why this is not going to be a book for everyone, but I would definitely recommend it to fans of Samuel R. Delany and China Mieville. If Mieville had written Delany's Nova it might well have turned out something like M. John Harrison's Light.
incognito on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Disappointing. Something about the language was strangely cold, which unfortunately I find happens in a lot of science fiction. For all of its fantastic situations, Light came across as dry and... cerebral. I thought the premise(s) were interesting, but not enough time was spent showing me who any of these people were. Or, at least, the wrong questions were being answered. I also was bored by the more sexual and violent aspects, and thought they were unskillfully dealt with. Not that there's anything wrong with sex and violence; some of my favorite books are filled with it. I just couldn't connect with Michael Kearney's motivations here, or see why the story needed the New Men to be so needy and clinical. Interesting premise, boring and strangely executed story.
bililoquy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The landscape Harrison creates in Light is the book's greatest boon--a gleaming, dirty, likely milieu, electric with disposable bodies, chemical realities, hardscrabble circuses and living quantum spacecraft. Light's protaganists, unfortunately, are not so engaging. Lead characters need not conform to our standards of morality--they must, however, exhibit more than occasional glimmers of character. Even with the book split between them, Light's three anti-heroes cannot carry their own narratives.It's worth noting that Harrison's short story "Tourists," available in Science Fiction: The Best of 2004, is a much more successful utilization of the universe created in Light.
Shrike58 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While this novel has it's virtues, I never really understood what a shaggy dog story was till I finished up this work; at that point I had to groan. To his credit, Harrison has created an interesting melieu, but at the end of the day none of his characters captured my imagination and there was insufficient suspense to grab me plot-wise; that I was reading this for a book club was my main motivation in pushing to the end. To put it another way, having three main characters who are smucks (or worse) was just a little too much to take. This is particularly the case with the character of present-day scientist Michael Kearney, the sort of person who if you saw them drowning you'd throw them a large rock. As for future characters Seria Mau Genlicher & Ed Chianese, their glamour wears off quickly and after a certain point they simply become annoying, not tragic.
selfnoise on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Definitely full of interesting ideas, but I found it a bit too cold to be engaging.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Harrison lays out a complex tale that is actually three separate stories. Though the three stories span significant space and time, Harrison smartly ties them all together to provide a very satisfying ending. There are moments when he sheds light on why someone might commit the most heinous of acts and be able to fully rationalize them. Everyone has a part to play in the complexity of our universe and M. John Harrison picks fallen angels and the never do wells to tell a riveting story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The best part of this book is the cover art, which is spectacular. Once you crack the cover, the writing doesn't flow smoothly and it is almost impossible to track the author as he leaps from subject to subject.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was our book club selection based on the recommendation of Neil Gaiman on the front. No one in the book club read the book through to the end, I still have 120 pages to read and still am not sure what it is about. It is like trying to read 3 separate stories that the author tried to tie together and never really managed to do. Good luck if you choose this book, maybe you can make sense of it.
harstan More than 1 year ago
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
erzulieloo More than 1 year ago
brilliant.