Book: Light by M. John Harrison

Never got into it, alas

M. John Harrison
Bantam Books, 2004 (originally published in 2002)
ISBN: 0-553-38295-0
310 pages

Abandoned on page 196. Previously abandoned rather earlier in the book.

In Light, two narratives proceed by turns. One begins in 1999 and is about Michael Kearney, a physicist and serial murderer, who seems to perceive the fractal nature of the universe as a kind of malevolent spirit. The other begins in 2400 and seems to be about a gritty future full of odd aliens, intelligent spaceships, and custom genetic engineering. Presumably some time after I stopped reading, the two threads turn out to be connected.

That's not at all a bad premise for a novel. But, alas, the book (or the portion of it that I read) never worked for me. Nothing that happened in it seemed to move the plot in any particular direction, nor was anything that happened especially interesting. And none of the characters were especially compelling. Almost two-thirds of the way through the book, it still felt as though the story was getting underway. It doesn't help that the prose almost never sparkles and is often ponderous:

    He had seen how the same sequences underlay the
    structure of a galaxy and a spiral shell. Randomness
    and determination, chaos and emergent order: the
    new tools of physics and biology. Years before
    computer modelling made bad art of the monster in
    the Mandelbrot Set, Kearney had seen it, churning
    and streaming and turbulent at the heart of things.
    (p. 61)

I set the book aside once some months ago perhaps half as far into it as I got this time. I suspect that I tried as hard as I did to like it largely because of Neil Gaiman's effusive cover blurb ("A remarkable book -- easily my favorite SF novel in the last decade, maybe longer") and because of Jamie S. Warren Youll's beautiful cover design.

Posted: Wed - March 9, 2005 at 08:16   Main   Category: