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Nova Swing (Empty Space Trilogy #2)

3.59  ·  Rating Details ·  1,361 Ratings  ·  140 Reviews
We are in a city called Raintown. Nearby is the event site, the zone, out of which pour new, inexplicable artefacts, organisms and escapees of living algorithm which can cause plague and change. An entire department of the local police exists to stop them being imported in the city by adventurers and profiteers.
Hardcover, 247 pages
Published January 1st 2006 by Victor Gollancz
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I had slightly higher expectations for this novel simply because I was blown away by all the awesome ideas that he managed to stuff into Light, and don't get me wrong, he continues the trend beautifully and a lot more cohesively from Vic's PoV, a travel agent that sometimes takes chumps to the Kefahuchi Tract, or at least to what has become of it after it descended to, and transformed, huge portions of Earth.

To be clear, this means that the laws of what should or should not be possible have been
The whole debate, which is mostly due to the 20th century publishing industries insidious pollution of our intellectual market, of whether or not Sci-Fi is trash or literature is best summed up by the Ted Sturgeon quote, “Yes 95% of it is trash, but 95% of everything is trash.” But what dyed in the wool science fiction books of recent times match masterpieces of contemporary literature for tone, symbolism, meaning, intelligence, and ferocity? On this short shelf I would place Gene Wolfe’s Fifth ...more
Jul 12, 2016 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, read-2016
4 Stars

Nova Swing book two in the Light series by M John Harrison was bound to come up short when compared to the brilliance of the first book Light. This was exasperated for me as I read this one immediately following my read of it. One thing that they both share in common is the brilliant writing of M John Harrison. His books are literary and verbose and they deserve a wide audience.

""You must be careful of me, Vic. I'm not really here.""

Nova Swing is a much smaller scoped story that tak
Jason Pettus
Jul 02, 2008 Jason Pettus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(My review of this book is much longer than Goodreads' word-count limitations. Find the entire essay at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [].)

Regular readers know that I've been in a bit of a special situation for the last month, in that by random luck I was able to track down at my local library five of the ten twelve(!) science-fiction books nominated this year for either the Philip K Dick Award or the Hugo Award; added to my review of Charles Stross' Halting Sta
Sep 18, 2011 Szplug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love the science fiction of M. John Harrison, which he writes in burnished steel, elegantly and smoothly detailing heartbreak and loss, perversion and excess, etching rapid, brutal violence with the same casual ease he tosses off bar-stool patter between mean-street acquaintances and gene-spliced miscreants. I have yet to come across another writer who can so vividly—yet matter-of-factly—describe the interplay between multidimensional mathematics and quantum exoticness in ultra-technology, whi ...more
’Nova Swing’ puede considerarse como una extraña secuela de ‘Luz’, ambas ambientadas en el universo del Canal Kefahuchi. La novela transcurre en Saudade, zona en la que cayó parte de dicho canal, y que ha dado lugar a una singularidad espacio-temporal donde las leyes de la física se han visto alteradas, y en cuyo interior pueden encontrarse artefactos, tecnologías y organismos de origen extraterrestre (aunque esto se supone). Es aquí donde entra en juego Vic Serotonina, una especie de recuperado ...more
Jan 02, 2012 Morgan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi, noiresque
I read this for three reasons:

1. I figured it would be best to read it after Light, seeing as they occupy the same universe;
2. To move it from the traveling library into the Massachusetts semi-permanent library; and
3. So that I could have three books in a row on my Read shelf with cats on the cover.

The third reason was actually the deciding point, and if I knew where it was I'd consider rereading The Schrödinger's Cat Trilogy for a try at four books featuring cats on the cover. (Or maybe Tailcha
Jan 26, 2013 Shane rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Two stars means 'It was OK' according to goodreads which really sums up 95% of this novel. I'm not going to go to town on this review. In fact, it's more of a personal reminder or a general overview of why I didn't quite dislike it, but certainly didn't rate it at all. So here it is then. This is the story of an anomaly or part of it anyway that basically drops off the main anomaly and causes a kind of rent or tear through to somewhere else. Predictably, things come through from that side and pe ...more
Dec 20, 2007 Adam rated it really liked it
The whole debate, which is mostly due to the 20th century publishing industries insidious pollution of our intellectual market, of whether or not SciFi is trash or literature is best summed up by the Ted Sturgeon quote, “Yes 95% of it is trash, but 95% of everything is trash.” But what dyed in the wool science fiction books of recent times match masterpieces of contemporary literature for tone, symbolism, meaning, intelligence, and ferocity? On this short shelf I would place Gene Wolfe’s Fifth H ...more
Jan 25, 2011 Viridian5 rated it did not like it
Shelves: science-fiction
I don't know how this won the Arthur C. Clark Award and the Phillip K. Dick Award and was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award. I really don't. The narrative jumps around without much warning, to the point where you're not sure what character's being talked about or whether it's the past, present, or future. It uses a terse pseudo noir narration that makes all that worse by cutting out words that would help the reader figure that kind of thing out. Characters react to things in ways that of ...more
Tudor Ciocarlie
Jan 19, 2013 Tudor Ciocarlie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Marvelous novel which is set in a sea/space-port intersected by the Kefahuchi Tract. Now, that I've reread Light and read Nova Swing, it's, finally, the time for Empty Space, the conclusion of Kefahuchi Tract trilogy.
Nov 17, 2010 Yupa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

Notevoli passi indietro rispetto al precedente Luce dell'universo.
Harrison sembra essersi un po' perso, e in Nova Swing si limita a incollare in maniera ondivaga e confusa varie scene senza andare a parare quasi da nessuna parte, senza riuscire a riprodurre l'intensità emotiva e poetica del romanzo precedente.
Ne risulta un manierismo molto molto scialbo.
Soprattutto, l'ambientazione comune con Luce dell'universo è alquanto pretestuosa: tolti alcuni riferimenti in termini di personaggi
I'm not sure how to describe or review this book and do it justice.

Set in the same timeline as Light, Nova Swing follows an assortment of characters who have come to settle in Saudade (still not sure if this is the planet or the city or the Event Site...): Fat Antoyne and Liv Hula used to fly spaceships, Edith and Emil used to be part of a traveling show, Irene the Mona came from farther up the tract. Now they live in on a backwater world where they can hop in a tank and be whoever or wherever t


Any trendy genre is doomed to become desperately uncool in time. Take cyberpunk, bless it. That self-consciously wired sci-fi stepchild ended up making the journey from envelope-pushing early-80s edginess to nothing more than fodder for mid-90s straight-to-video stodge. But hey, it's not cyberpunk's fault. It heralded the age of information overload, but now that we're sliding down the infolanche for real, it can seem as naive as a 1950's World's Fair. A lot of its concerns - styl
Nick Tramdack
Apr 25, 2011 Nick Tramdack rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since this book is a sequel to Light, one of my favorite novels, I wanted to love it. Sadly, I only really like it. It lacks the strong plot coherence of Light; very often while reading one Harrison's brilliant lines I was like "That's cool, that's cool, but why here and now? Why is he focusing on THIS?"

There's really something to be said for a more discursive style of novel writing, especially in genres like space opera that have historically been given over to plot at the expense of everythin
This book won 2007 Arthur C. Clarke Award and the 2008 Philip K. Dick Award, and was a finalist for a few others as well. It is a follow-on to Harrison's earlier novel Light, which I have not read.

From the onset, this reminded me more of a tone poem than a composition. The writing included lots of descriptive narration and depth of character that seemed more concerned with how it felt than where it went. Harrison uses the word 'noir' often enough that I think it's clear that's the tone what he w
Gina Durst
So little to say about this book. While I've heard some good things about Harrison, I didn't gain any enjoyment or pleasure from reading this. While, yes, there were many times when my mind wandered and was curious about certain phrases he used or ideas he spouted, but....
Actual pleasure from this book? I think not. There was no point to it, no real life. I enjoyed the story of the Monas and most especially the too-few pages on the Saudade Event Site, but other than that:
Nada. Nothing. A comple
Nova Swing takes part in the same future setting as Light, though without the alternate worlds/times that made that book complex but interesting. Here we have a typical noir story superposed with the peculiar world that Harrison created in the previous book. And in doing that the book lacks originality, nor does it really present much new. The oniric, surrealist setting becomes tired and wearisome, while the few new ideas are not really explored, sacrificed to the noir plot.

Only recommended for
Jul 12, 2015 MJ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-f, read-in-2015
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Guy Salvidge
Jul 26, 2014 Guy Salvidge rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's been a looooooooooong time since I read Light, the first book in this series. Like 12 years. And the only thing I've (re)read of Harrison's in that time is his novel, Climbers. Why? Because I hated Light so much when I read it at age 20. I bought a copy of Nova Swing when in came out in 2007, partly because I liked the cover so much (not this cover, a more colourful one), but I lost my copy before I read it. I finally bought a second copy in about 2012 and it's taken me another two or more ...more
Jun 25, 2007 Bob rated it really liked it
I found this in parts compelling and baffling. It's a kind of SF noir that picks up on the same universe delineated in Light, one in which unimaginably old and intelligent civilisations have messed with the quantum fabric of the universe and caused uncontrollable ruptures in space-time. Impacted on this are various members of a decadent and scattered human race, scratching out a living by stealing unimaginable arefacts from the discontinuity.
Albert Myburgh
I feel slightly cheated by this book. Not because of the author: M. John Harrison is a great writer and 'Light' is a phenomenal piece of work. I think the awards 'Nova Swing' won greatly influenced my expectations and I have been keeping it at my bedside as a gem to dig into when I felt it was time.
I expected it to be better than 'Light', but it's not; not nearly. The pacing, complexity and mystery of 'Light' are abandoned in this installment of the Kefahuchi Tract chronicles and replaced by th
Jun 05, 2014 John rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I nearly gave up on this one. It's hard to read over 1/4 of a novel before any hint of a plot shows up. I accepted that as evidence that plot was not the point, and soldiered on. Now that I've read all the way through, I'm still unsure of the point.

The low-brow genre reader side of me is tempted to dismiss this as an exercise by Harrison to demonstrate how his style is so cool that he can make a novel-length piece out of a short-story plot. He can expand it into aerogel with descriptions of sen
Peter Dunn
May 30, 2014 Peter Dunn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Science fiction has a real problem delivering well rounded intriguing characters. However in this book M John Harrison not only achieves that with the main cast, he even makes you engaged and interested in at least one character who could perhaps be best described as doubly unreal and insubstantial. A bonus for me in that cast list is that, unlike the other M John Harrison books I have read so far, a fair number of the protagonists are actually fairly sympathetic characters and are not simply a ...more
Jul 23, 2012 Liviu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: genre-sf, read_2012
After reading Light for the 3rd time, I did an end to end rereading of Nova Swing and I found it still very good though a bit too much noir and too little sf for my taste.

However tied into Light and Empty Space which both feature characters from here - Empty Space starts its first two chapters alluding to the events of Light and then nova Swing - the book becomes more than itself as a single volume so to speak
May 30, 2016 Jerico rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nova Swing is a very solid book. It continues the world from Light, and follows a more noir template than Light`s fucked up space opera. There`s a few point of view characters, but all the action takes place in the `present` of a world where an impossible thing has fallen from space, possibly as a result of something that happened in the previous book.

There`s no reason to read Light to understand this book (this is very much a Count Zero to Neuromancer relationship- familiarity with the previous
Robert Spencer
Ah, it's just such a shame. Light was such a fascination, this follow-up promised to build on it. But instead Harrison reverts to a narrow noir-ish tale which, while less obscure, seems to pull back from fleshing out the dizzying spaces of its predecessor and instead fold in on itself and snuff out the energy of the whole enterprise. There must be some strategy here, the contrast is so vivid between the two volumes. I am left bewildered. I suspect M. John is OK with that, and is somewhat taking ...more
Jan 24, 2010 Amanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
started this last night. I love it already. The book that comes before this one, 'Light', which Neil Gaiman said was- "easily my favourite SF novel in the last decade, maybe longer" was excellent with a kinda Noir aspect to it. Nova Swing has an even more deliberate Noiry Pulp feel, yet is still deeply thoughtful and literary. Beautiful!
I realised about quarter of the way through that this novel was basically an extended love letter to the Strugastky's Roadside Picnic. So I read it as such. It's also crossed with Chandler esque noir vibes that work much of the time but fail occasionally. Harrison's prose is as stylised and pleasing as in Light.
Jun 25, 2009 Erinn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I did not like this book. It was an audible book. I normally like strange science fiction books but this just made no sense.

It was a slow buildup of story and then one thing happened and the rest of the book was just what happened to the characters afterwards. Not a very good story line.
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Ed Chianese vs. Chinese Ed 1 14 Mar 20, 2013 03:49PM  
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aka Gabriel King (with Jane Johnson)

Michael John Harrison was born in Rugby, Warwickshire in 1945 and now lives in London.
Harrison is stylistically an Imagist and his early work relies heavily on the use of strange juxtapositions characteristic of absurdism.

More about M. John Harrison...

Other Books in the Series

Empty Space Trilogy (3 books)
  • Light (Empty Space Trilogy #1)
  • Empty Space (Empty Space Trilogy #3)

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“Perception of a state is not the state.” 4 likes
“When I was little, she thought, I wanted nothing except to stop travelling. I wanted time for each new thing, each new feeling, to be held properly in suspension until it could be joined by the next. Given the chance I could easily hold all those beautiful things together. I could be like a box in which they would be held new forever. Instead, everything aged and changed. People too.” 2 likes
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