M. John Harrison's latest novel, Light, arrives from the U.K. having already won the Tiptree Award and follows the critical and sales success of his short fiction collection, Things That Never Happen. Light is a genre-bending novel, part space opera, part murder mystery, maybe something entirely new.
Harrison is an immensely confident writer: confident in his writing, the power of his narrative and in his readers. He quickly introduces us to three narratives that eventually intertwine in an unexpected and marvelous manner. Michael Kearney is a physicist on the cusp of transforming his field. Seria Mau Genlicher is a 24th-century woman who has fused her body and mind to an ancient and little-understood alien spaceship. Ed Chianese is the most stable of the three, but perhaps only because he spends most of his time immersed in virtual realities he can't really afford. Chianese has to flee the local mob when he reaches his credit limit and ends up working at a backwater circus.
None of these characters are particularly sympathetic, but neither are they the cardboard cutouts of old science fiction. These are believable people in a believable 24th century where there are areas of space in which the laws of physics don't work, there is fascinatingly weird and shiny alien technology, and people are scraping by on the edges of mainstream society.
Harrison's writing is top-notch and involving. He takes old ideas and mechanisms from early science fiction (abandoned alien technology, wars that occur in the blink of an eye) and invigorates them with a sense of possibility and even, strange within this dark and foreboding book, transcendence and hope. Gavin J. Grant writes from Northampton, Massachusetts.