Yesterday I was taunted for my slow pace in adding book reviews. It was pointed out that I hadn’t even said a word about Light by M. John Harrison, and I have to admit I’m ashamed as it’s one of the best books I read in 2004. Michael reviewed it in March of the same year, so he was a bit more timely than I since we read it in January.

Light [5/5]
by M. John Harrison
(This links to the Bantam edition published in August 2004, but I own a signed first edition from the U.K. which I bought at World Fantasy when I decided I didn’t want to wait.)

Three storylines, seemingly only slightly connected until they are adroitly merged together in the somewhat abstruse culmination of the story. A contemporary scientist struggling with quantum technology and his own dark secrets. The pilot of the future, who sacrificed her body to gain her ship. And a virtual reality junkie who suddenly needs to learn to cope with the real world.

The language in this book is nothing short of inspired, and, dare I say, illuminating. The author’s way with words transports the story to a level that transcends the simple definition of space opera (with a touch of hard SF). Even without that, the characters, with their conflicted goals and fully-realized individuality, are compelling, though perhaps not particularly likeable. In addition, the plot runs on pure adrenalin, with a page-turning quality throughout so few achieve. And Harrison’s view of the future is extraordinary. While I wouldn’t label it an effortless read — the concepts require a willingness to stretch mentally and it takes a dark view of mankind that some may find less than comfortable — it’s definitely rewarding; a book that satisfies on many levels. Even after all this time, I can still recall what a profound effect this reading experience had on me. I don’t tend to gush about books these days. However, if you haven’t read this, I really believe you’re missing out.

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