Krishnakumar Sankaran's Reviews > Light

Light by M. John Harrison
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's review
Feb 15, 2011

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bookshelves: sci-fi, fiction
Read in February, 2011

Light is a difficult read. M John Harrison tries to weave three seemingly distinct narratives together to a single contained conclusion. I'm still skeptical about the success of his venture. The plot revolves around the lives of three people all on the run from some aspect of their past: Michael Kearney(view spoiler) ; Seria Mau(view spoiler) ; Ed Chianese(view spoiler)

Let's deal with the bad bits first. The Seria Mau narrative is perhaps the best of the three, evenly paced though I faced other difficulties in it. Of the rest, the Ed Chianese narrative advances jerkily towards its conclusion. Michael Kearney narrative is, for the most part, him running around from person to person and place to place (something like a RPG hero). There are places where Harrison's language becomes too garbled with jargon which forced me to either ignore it altogether or read it harder. I faced this mostly in the Seria Mau narrative as it featured the mechanics of ship travel the most of the lot. Another annoying problem with Harrison's overall narrative was his tendency to casually introduce something and leave his larger explanation behind it for much later. He does with the shadow operators thrusting them into the narrative at an early stage without any other explanation as to their nature, and providing one much farther into the narrative. (view spoiler)

Now for the good bits. For all the problems with jargon, Harrison whips some stunning prose up. He is best describing an environment like Seria Mau's stroll through Motel Splendido or Ed Chianese's time in the New Men warrens. Another nice touch was the subtle repetition of themes. While obvious at times, in case of the cats and some recurring names, it gave a loose, ephemeral sense of connection to the three narratives.

Overall, I wouldn't say Light is a challenging read. It's difficult, plodding through it, true. But there isn't much complex about it. If I read Light again, it would be for the good bits.

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