Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Light” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Light (Empty Space Trilogy #1)

3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  3,207 ratings  ·  377 reviews
In M. John Harrison’s dangerously illuminating new novel, three quantum outlaws face a universe of their own creation, a universe where you make up the rules as you go along and break them just as fast, where there’s only one thing more mysterious than darkness.

In contemporary London, Michael Kearney is a serial killer on the run from the entity that drives him to kill. He
Paperback, 432 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by Spectra (first published January 1st 2002)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk KiddCoraline by Neil GaimanThe Lovely Bones by Alice SeboldLamb by Christopher MooreLiving Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris
Best Books of 2002
157th out of 292 books — 121 voters
Snow Crash by Neal StephensonThe Martian Chronicles by Ray BradburyConsider Phlebas by Iain M. BanksPandora's Star by Peter F. HamiltonFahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Sword and Laser Sci-Fi list
443rd out of 529 books — 1,142 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
M. John Harrison is under the impression that plot and character can be totally abandoned in favor of a frantic and sloppy exercise in "cyberpunk" style.

Far future cyberpunk just doesn't work.

First of all, the voice of the book is off: some deep future hep cat telling you like it is about quasars, dark matter, and quantum physics, baby, in language so opaque and "snappy" that a sense of wonder or even simple coherence is never achieved.

If you're going to do cyberpunk, and Harrison is very obvio
Picking up this book was like waking up tired and groggy then talking to someone who has already been awake for three hours and drank a pot of coffee. In other words, it throws you into this weird world without much explanation, moving very quickly through a fairly complex bifurcated story structure (one part set in the present, another in space several centuries into the future). But despite the minimal amount of exposition here, you eventually figure out what is going on, and maybe even come t ...more
Kat  Hooper
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

Michael Kearney is a physicist. He’s also a serial killer. Obsessed with numbers and patterns since he was three, he sees something behind them. Something is there, something dark and ominous that starts to emerge sometimes. He calls it the Shrander and the only way to hold it back is to kill someone. Trying to appease the Shrander, Michael uses Tarot cards and a special pair of bone dice to try to figure out what he’s supposed to do next. He’s also teamed
I normally don't take the time to add specifics to the rating I give a book, but this one necessitates it.
There are things about that frustrated me deeply. For most of the book, the point and the plot were discouragingly unclear. It was difficult to tell what anything had to do with anything, in the most general of senses. There was also a kind of oversexualization of the world setting that seems common nowadays, I think because of the lifting of the Western taboo on sex as a subject. It often s
Ross Lockhart
Light is easily one of the darkest books I’ve ever read, and that’s saying something. With a taut narrative split between three protagonists, a near-future serial killer/brilliant physicist (why are SF characters almost never mediocre physicists?), a far-future woman/starship with the impulse control of a spoiled and heavily armed child, and a "twink," a sort of futuristic virtual reality addict, Light moves along at breakneck speed, combining SF sensawunda, bleak noir cruelty, and lush, violent ...more
I picked up this novel at a thrift shop as an impulse buy, believing that I would be getting something in the same vein as an Iain M. Banks story. I'm glad that I did: Harrison is perhaps a better writer than Banks (with or without the "M."), even as he possesses the same black sense of humour and ability to write wryly and casually about the grotesque and the vicious. Well-crafted science fiction provides a perfect way to pass a weekend, and I thoroughly enjoyed Harrison's tripartite tale.

We op
i frigin' love M John Harrison! WOWEE, this book..umm..this book is so far beyond a simple sci-fi! it is about the choices we make (in the case of the characters, mostly bad choices) for various inner reasons or for fear of living or whatnot and how they shape or warp our existence. Do u really want to shape your life for the better or just pretend to and secretly, or openly, sabotage it at every chance. While i was reading Light i thought of a bunch of good things for the review and now i don't ...more
This a remarkable book and rather impossible to summarize, it being an adventure through the shifting nature of reality.
It starts grim, and if I wasnt so starved for reading material I might have missed out on this thought provoking romp.
I promise when I have the book in front of me to post here some of the great quotes I highlighted.

Okay,have done some,I have put them in the comments
Alex Sarll
For anyone holding to the self-evident truth that genre fiction should be eligible for the big literary prizes, one hurdle remains. Which book, exactly, should win? In any year there are plenty of science fiction books (and doubtless crime ones, if I kept up with crime, and so forth) which bear comparison to the Booker shortlist - but ones which could win over the infidels? Ones unassailable enough to bear the extra scrutiny they'd inevitably receive? Banks' Use of Weapons was one obvious conten ...more
Bill Purdy
Well, now...

If I am scratching my head when you see me next, it's because I am still trying to digest Light, a rather amazing work of literature disguised as a genre piece that will probably get a fifth star upon re-read. Light is just that good.

Problem is, it took me until I was about two-thirds of the way through the novel before I figured out (or, rather, started to figure out) what was going on. Now I feel compelled to re-read it if only to fully experience the clues Harrison weaves into the
Kyle Muntz
Rereading. Back in 2007 or so this book absolutely blew my mind. I wasn't sure whether it book would live up to what I remember--turns out, it's better. There are similarities to Steve Erickson, PKD, Angela Carter, Lynch, Iain Banks, Brian Evenson, Delany's Nova, but none of these comparisons are really accurate. I'm still not sure whether I like this more than Viriconium (which is so different they're difficult to compare anyway), but this is narrative at its most sophisticated and unique. I re ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I chose this for my fourth speed dating project, in a hopeless attempt to clean out some of my to-read collection at home.

It is with mixed feeling that I abandon this book. I know many find it a challenge for various reasons. The sex doesn't bother me, the quantum mechanics is fine, in fact I don't even mind all that much that I don't know all the details. I'm intrigued by the creatures that seem to predate the characters, always in the shadows.

But I can't really find any interest in the charact
Right after I finished it I didn't like it. It bothered me. I couldn't stop thinking about it. About a week or two later I realized I actually liked it a lot. It sneaks up on you.
The one that interweaves three stories: physicist and serial killer Michael Keaton in the contemporary world, plus cyborg pirate ship Seria Mau Genlicher and virtual-world junkie Ed Chianese in the far future.

A-plus for worldbuilding, here. Far-future worlds are tough; half of them are implausibly similar to contemporary life, and the other half are so different they're incomprehensible, but Harrison doesn't fall into either of those traps. I loved the far future and the way he turns so many sci
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jon Lyndon
Oct 19, 2007 Jon Lyndon rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: SciFi & Literary readers.
"The Persian poet Rumi wrote, 'Open your hands if you wish to be held.' Almost the same could be said about M. John Harrison... Open your mind if you wish to be enthralled."—Jonathan Carroll

Few writers have have written better passages with descriptive and poetic prose, especially combined with an estranging vividness "capturing the strange mixture of beauty, banality and menace in everyday life".

"Light" is an aesthetic vision. Imaginative, startling and only barely Science Fiction. OK, it is ha
Tudor Ciocarlie
The most amazing novel! What Harrison creates through this complex three-part storyline, that revolves around the Kefahuchi Tract, a cosmic singularity without an even-horizon that creates rifts in reality, is not only one of the greatest SF books of the last decade, but one of the greatest pieces of literature ever put on paper.
oh WOW! Bloody marvellous space opera with multiple threads of space, deep time, life, death, fear, exultation, exploration, mystery, aliens, adventure, discovery, loss and cats.
Confused and fearful at times, the gentle reader is hurtled along space-time with the protagonists.
And what a ride it is.
This is a difficult novel. Harrison's prose is meaty, but that is not where the difficulty lies; his characters are unlikeable, and while that is a challenge, it is not insurmountable. The main difficulty lies in the novel's structure -- much of it is an elaborate smoke screen, ultimately having little to no effect on the resolution. This also makes the novel particularly difficult to review, as its true nature doesn't become evident until the last four chapters, but any mention of what is in th ...more
Michael Burnam-fink
The second best new sci-fi novel I've read this year (after The Wind-Up Girl), Light is an explosive, densely intertwined triple narrative that links the near present with the far future, a psychopathic mathematician with a girl who is a star-ship, and delivers eyeball-kicking writing on every page. This is not an easy or obvious book to read; in some places complications pile up so high that they obscure the plot and the characters, but it is a work of staggering Imagination and Fancy. Light is ...more
One of Neil Gaiman's new Audible picks. Won the Tiptree award for gender exploration. Very 'New Wave-y'.

10% - Lots of complicated realites, and sexually explicit. Takes some effort to follow in the car.

3 main characters (see wikipedia entry

in the present:
Michael Kearny - physicist, killer, masturbater

in the year 2400:
Seria Mau Genlicher - woman linked with a spaceship, not so nice either
Ed Chianese - virtual reality addict or 'twink'

The Shrander - my
Making sense is a stylistic choice. A stylistic choice that this book firmly opted out of. That’s not to say that’s always a bad thing. There are a few books where “not making sense” works rather well. This is not one of them.
M. John Harrison appears to be trying to write cyberpunkish weird fiction and in doing so, misses the mark on both. The cyberpunk isn’t cyberpunk and the weird isn’t weird. It’s just an incoherent far-future what-the-fuckery mess. Now, I usually like the worldbuilding style
Added because in the acknowledgements of Perdido Street Station, M John Harrison is one of only two authors credited (the other being the wonderful Mervyn Peake).

Comments in the Mievillians group suggest this may be a good one to start with:

This book will continue to reverberate in your head years after you read...something has entered me from this book but what is it...a must read.
My cat is black and white. I love him both.
See the top Goodreads review by Evan. Overall, Light is a huge disappointment given the glowing reviews given of it by the likes of Neil Gaiman and previous work of Harrison I've read like Virconium: occasional flash of inspiration in worldbuilding, excellent writing in parts marred by flat descriptions, repetition (particularly anything to do with K-ships), and some deeply questionable approaches to depicting sex.

The three stories come together and intertwine only by a very generous reckoning (
Nigel Bird
Light is a little different from my usual read, but it came to me highly recommended by a trusted friend and so I went for it.
Essentially, it’s the science-fiction aspect of the book that is my uncharted territory, not that I needed to have worried. M John Harrison has produced a work that is highly engaging throughout and suffuses high drama and tension into an intricate plot that is populated by tremendous characters.
The story is told in three strands which occasionallyoverlap and eventually c
Mark Pantoja
Here's what I've learned from the M. John Harrison school of writing:

1 - Make sure that secondary characters never directly talk about anything, and be sure that they say plenty of enigmatic statements, by using non-sequitor declarative statements and start/stop conversations abruptly.

2 - It is best to describe physical surroundings and characters well after the reader has made a picture in their own mind. Examples: Shadow Boys are mentioned in the first 10 pages, but are not described until pa
This might be a handful for a new science fiction reader or someone anticipating a cyberpunk near-future story a la William Gibson (I only mention that because some readers and reviewers have cataloged Light as cyberpunk sci-fi). If you're a longtime reader of hard sci-fi, though, you won't have any problem grokking Harrison's vision.

Two timelines run simultaneously in Light: the late 1990s, when a two-man team, with an assist from an alien intelligence (though they don't know that) discovers th
This was probably the fifth time I've read this novel (I've read it for fun and a few times for academic purposes) and I'm still greatly delighted by it. Harrison plays around with genres, subgenres and language in deeply witty style that is both deep and satiric. He takes conventions and tropes of cyberpunk, postmodern literature and space opera and melds them into an intoxicating cocktail full of fancy and flair.

Then again, I'n not a fan of cyberpunks nihilism (which by my estimate gets its sh
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Air
  • The Night Sessions
  • The Quiet War
  • Bold as Love
  • The Kappa Child
  • The Troika
  • Ascent
  • Mother London
  • River of Gods (India 2047, #1)
  • Engine Summer
  • Hello Summer, Goodbye
  • Finch (Ambergris, #3)
  • Only Forward
  • Yellow Blue Tibia
  • The Victorian Chaise Longue
  • The Etched City
  • Vellum (The Book of All Hours, #1)
  • Camp Concentration
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)
  • Nova Swing (Empty Space Trilogy #2)
  • Empty Space (Empty Space Trilogy #3)

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“Behind all this bad behaviour was an insecurity magnificent in scope, metaphysical in nature. Space was big, and the boys from Earth were awed despite themselves by the things they found there: but worse, their science was a mess. Every race they met on their way through the Core had a star drive based on a different theory. All those theories worked, even when they ruled out one another's basic assumptions. You could travel between the stars, it began to seem, by assuming anything [. . . .]

It was affronting to discover that. So when they fetched up on the edge of the Tract, looked it in the eye, and began to despatch their doomed entradas, the Earthlings were hoping to find, among other things, some answers. They wondered why the universe, which seemed so harsh on top, was underneath so pliable. Anything worked. Wherever you looked, you found. They were hoping to find out why.”
“She was a tall woman with a wide smile,
good tits and a way of licking mayonnaise out the corner of her mouth which suggested she might be
equally good at licking mayonnaise out the corner of yours.”
More quotes…