04 July, 2009

Review: Light, by M. John Harrison

Light (2002), by M. John Harrison, was critically received with much fanfare and acclaim, and went on to win the James Tiptree Jr. Award. Shrugging of the traditional elements of style and structure, Light dazzles the reader with its highly original prose and esoteric plot.

The Setup

Light follows Michael Kearney, Seria Mau, and Ed Chianese across space and time. From 1999 England to 2400 galaxy spawning human civilization, the reader is immersed in a tale that is both epic in scale and yet also highly personal. Imbued with Harrison's characteristic irreverent pessimism Light, as it is ironically named, will blind, confuse, and amaze.
A unique aspect of Light is the general approach that Mr. Harrison takes to the laws of physics; they are wielded and harnessed through a perplexing combination of scientific knowledge and artistic talent. Perception is the key to survival--at least as far as space combat is concerend, although there is also hefty helping of introspection throughout the novel. Beyond that, I only recommend this book to the minutely attentive reader who appreciates prose over content. Reading light is not disimilar from reading a normal science fiction book through a kaleidoscope... you get dizzy and just aren't sure if you enjoy the feeling or not.

My Take in Brief

As you have already guessed, this was not one of my favorite reads. It was fractal, drawn out, repetitive--elements that uniquely well crafted prose make up for, but not entirely. I understand that I am in the minority here, and that every review I have read has glowed with praise brighter than a supernova. I don't care. Go ahead and call this book a work of art, and I'll agree, I just don't think it is good art.
The ship/Seria Mau plot line was by far my favorite--in retrospect I feel that this is because she was not incessantly plagued by the humanity of the other protagonists. I don't need to see the same dejected thought process played out in ten different scenes to get what is going on--I get it the first time around.
Mr. Harrison adopts a somber and dismal view of the human condition, one that finds justification in his twisted characters--but at the same time manages to emphasise some of our races' greatest strengths. As a consequence, 'curriosity killed the cat', to me, seems to be the premise of Light--I know it missed the mark with respected to the message, but that's what I got out of it. I hope those enlightened minds among you find more to enjoy in Light then I did, as I often found myself skimmng ahead, trying to find an interesting section, which is never a good sign.

Ratings & Links

Amazon: 3/5
B&N: 3.2/5
My Rating: 2.2/5

Piqued Your Interest?

If you didn't listen to a word I said and still want to give Light a try, then got for it. Don't say I didn't warn you...

3 comments:

ediFanoB said...

I'm not that science fiction reader but I like to read reviews in order to find interesting books.

I think it is a normal experience that you get disappointed by a book even it has been praised in a lot of reviews. In the end it is question of your personal taste.

Fortunately there are so many books which wait to be discovered by you.

Enjoy reading!

OnlyTheBestSciFi/Fantasy said...

They were out of stock at B&N of the book you recommened Michael, so I picked up some Brian Buckley. Its off to a great start so far.

ediFanoB said...

The whole Godless World trilogy is on my shelf. So far I read Winterbirth and I liked it.
Anyway in case you want more fantasy recommendations send me a mail.