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Empty Space: A Haunting

(Empty Space Trilogy #3)

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  721 ratings  ·  117 reviews
One of science fiction’s premiere stylists, M. John Harrison has received abundant praise and awards for his wildly imaginative ideas and transcendent prose. Now he returns to the richly complex universe of Light and Nova Swing with a stunning new novel that braids three glittering strands into a tapestry that spans vast reaches of time and space.

In the near future, an eld
Paperback, 241 pages
Published March 5th 2013 by Night Shade (first published 2012)
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3.80  · 
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 ·  721 ratings  ·  117 reviews

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This book focuses equally hard on both the inner space of the mind trapped in the quantum foam of the universe where neither time nor cats can be extricated, and upon the vastness of space that is slowly, inextricably showing us all that we don't quite fit in it and it wants to tell you, slowly, exactly why... by transforming us all.

Of course, we really oughtn't take it personally. After all, every other alien race had to discover it for themselves and probably went mad in the attempt to make se
Dec 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Why can't the world that concerns us be a fiction and why does it need an author?
I suppose you could read Empty Space as a standalone novel, though it makes [somewhat] more sense when you've previously immersed yourself in the trilogy's two brilliant opening acts: the tripartite tales of grungy, multi-physics miracles in a 25th century depressingly continued from our own era—and in the latter of which a disturbed serial killer scientist is molding that very future in his vision-worked hands—th
Sep 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, 2012, sf-f
One of my favourite SF books ever is Nova by Samuel R. Delany, and Harrison's Kefahuchi Tract trilogy reminds me so much of Delany. The sense of a wild frontier, crazy characters caught up in a maelstrom of events in a dark and unredictable universe, where nothing is as it seems and everyone is damaged in one way or another.

A lot of modern SF seems sanitised and focused on technology; Harrison's 'singularity without an event horizon' is dirty, smelly, sexy, and filled with danger and dangerous /
The finale to Harrison’s trilogy is as confounding, obtuse, and beautiful as the rest of the series. His prose is crafted so impeccably and relentlessly it is hard to resist chewing over each line and word choice (it is also very discouraging for the amateur writer) and occasionally losing the plot. But with Harrison you know you are going to read it again, soon I might restart the trilogy and see how they work together. His imagery, imagination, and prose are on such a level that they put much ...more
Jun 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
In his blogs, Harrison often states that the act of writing is a quest for identity, a means for him to understand himself in this world. So, Empty Space essentially is the psyche of Harrison himself, laid out as visceral as neon entrails left in the garden at dusk. He crafts tantalizing clues, slight references to inspirations, influences, and secret obsessions. A viewpoint is rehashed out between multiple characters, and the emergent property is of disassociation.

Everyone's trying to find the
Mar 09, 2013 marked it as lemmed  ·  review of another edition

The perfect formula for the opposite of a best seller in America:

1) it sounds British
2) has a very good vocabulary
3) has some scifi words
4) doesn't skimp on the violence (or weird sex)
5) unlikeable characters

It's as immediately unappealing as I remember Light being (which I didn't finish). Whenever he makes a comparison in his descriptions, I just shrug and go "I don't know what that is". A lot of people respect him, so I'll keep plugging. I've read 2 chapters. Some of the chapters are in the pr
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
There's an almost impossibly extended sequence of mindfuckery and mysticism toward the end that I'm not sure I fully grasp. But whatever: Harrison is smart and sly enough to slip in a few self-referential asides about ungraspability. I was left feeling, I dunno, spun around, ravished, awed despite a predictability or two. The question of whether the language of intentionally impenetrable postmodern space opera is really the best medium for this sort of thing nagged me a bit. As shaped by Harriso ...more
Alex Sarll
As a rule, the only information you can trust in the Daily Mail is the price on the front. But on the cover of this book is a quote from them, proclaiming Empty Space "SF at its most astounding" - an entirely accurate assessment. And what better way to establish, even before the first page, an uneasy mood, a sense of a world where basic laws of the universe fold, warp or decay? Harrison's tired, clunky near future, and the grotty grandeur of a 25th century which has found new vices but no new vi ...more
Jul 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Better than Nova Swing; not as good as Light (but what is?) If Light is full of the "sparks in everything," and Nova Swing is about boundary states, then Empty Space focuses on the nothingness that separates people, places, and times - the "gutters" between two panels in a comic. The subtitle is "a haunting," and the book is certainly haunting.
Tudor Ciocarlie
Glorious ending to the Kefahuchi Tract trilogy. I've never read better literature on the unknownness of the universe and of the human being.

How I'll love to write the review of the entire trilogy for Galileo!
Jul 26, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, read-2016
2 Stars

Empty Space is the third book in the Empty Space Trilogy by M. John Harrison. I tried to make it through. I tried hard. All three of these books are tough and demanding reads that need focus to be clear.

What a tough book this one was. I realized after days of reading(I am not a slow reader) that I was only at 41% and I couldn't tell you anything about what I had muddled through up to that point. It was time for me to call it. I was frustrated while trying to read this one, probably too
Kyle Muntz
Jun 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is difficult, complex, and ingenious--maybe maybe not Harrison's best, but almost definitely his most ambitious. Especially over the first 100 pages, I struggled with it in a way I haven't with a text in a long time: even aside from his prose (which is pretty much flawless), this is a novel so itself, so full of empty space (on every level), that a lot of the time it felt impossible to put together; Harrison somehow managed to create something intensely imagist and strange while still ...more
Dec 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book equivalent of a miles Davis fusion jazz solo. Stunning.
Ania Radosiewicz
Finally finished - this book was so strange that it's hard to say what was it exactly about. Still confused after the ending...
Empty Space is – after Light and Nova Swing – the third installment in M. John Harrison’s Kefahuchi Tract trilogy. Nobody who has read the previous volumes (and I strongly recommend doing so before tackling this one) will expect any major reveals or a neat tying-up of loose threads from this, but even so, the lack of closure here is quite amazing, and I for one can not discern any reason why the author should not continue the series, should he feel so inclined.

Having said that, I should add,
Jul 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction, 2012
Empty Space is easily the hardest SF I've ever read, in both senses of the word. It is also my first M. John Harrison I've ever read. It might not have been the wisest place to start, but it hasn't put me off reading more Harrison as I loved his prose and the challenges his writing poses to the reader. This book was hard work for me as hard SF isn't something my mind processes easily and I'm proud that I finished it and I found it very much worth the work as in the end the puzzle pieces fell tog ...more
Aug 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When reading this series I felt that

#1 Light was amazing and one of the best SF books I have read. Regarding ideas, style and structure, world-building as well as characters.

#2 Nova Swing while still high quality with excellent style and ideas, was much weaker regarding plot, characters and it's general idea. In fact, I found it annoying in parts: I just could not understand where the various plot lines or characters were going, and generally what the entire point of all of it was. It felt as if
Eoghann Irving
Empty Space is a challenging and frustrating book to read.

Certainly it doesn't help that it's the third part of a trilogy so you are rather thrown in at the deep end here. But that's certainly not the only reason.

The text of the book is thick. You can't skim this stuff. It's laden with meanings and inferences Skip a page and you will end up completely lost. That also means of course that if you put it down to do something else, it can take a while to immerse yourself in it again.

It's also a book
Oct 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the third book in the series that began with "Light" and continued with Nova Swing; you will want to read the first two before starting "Empty Space", or else prepare to be utterly confused. Some of the more peripheral characters from the earlier books become protagonists in this novel, which like the first book has three interwoven storylines: one set in near-future England, the others in a remote stretch of our galaxy during the 25th century. The characters are drawn somewhat more thre ...more
Peter Dunn
Like many of M John Harrison stories there is a decent story here – or several stories but not really what you would call a plot. Unlike the pervious book in this trilogy, Nova Swing, those stories aren’t as effective enough to make up for the lack of plot but it is still a good read.

OK the Kefahuchi Tract MacGuffin imposes an increasing non-linear reality on the story which is interesting to start but it does in the end begin to edge into simply being annoying but that his exactly what M.John H
Stephen Toman
Apr 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Complex, difficult, sometimes frustrating but ultimately satisfying. As the third book in the trilogy you might expect things to be coming together but instead, for the first 100 pages you get 3 sets of seemingly unrelated stories. Then the next 100 pages, as the action quickens and connections begin to reveal themselves, the story keeps expanding outwards in a way that makes you wonder how on earth all of this is all going to come together. But in the last 100 pages it all does in a way that is ...more
James Tierney
Dec 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I confess that there were whole passages in Empty Space where I had no clue just what was going on.

Part –but only part- of my confusion was down to the fact that this is the concluding volume in a trilogy of books Harrison commenced in 2002 with ‘Light’ and continued with 2006’s ‘Nova Swing’, neither of which I have read.

But there’s also a graceful inexplicableness at the core of Harrison’s syntax and story, something Gary K. Wolfe calls an “elegant precision about indeterminacy”.

It is at tim
I don't know if it's because I hadn't read the previous books or because it truly is a really weird book, but I just couldn't stick with it. The first 50 pages seemed to jump from one thing to another with no rhyme nor reason and after that I just gave up.
Trish Graboske
Apr 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Roadside Picnic/the Strugatsky brothers meet The Big Sleep/Raymond Chandler, stirred with a big, quantum stick. This is a novel that should be read more than once.
David Allison
Jan 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
It’s important to read new M. John Harrison novels while on holiday. No other author is able to describe with such alarming clarity the necessity of escaping yourself.

Harrison’s latest novel Empty Space is the conclusion of a trilogy of science fiction novels that started with Light in 2002 and was continued in 2006′s Nova Swing.

Like both of its predecessors, Empty Space presents the reader with a future that dazzles with the romance of a thousand yesterdays: women who’ve chosen to be rebuilt wi
Jan 08, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful prose. But I had no idea what was going on.
Jack Deighton
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sub-titled on the cover and the main title page as “A Haunting,” Empty Space follows on and amplifies the universe Harrison constructed with his novel Light and continued in Nova Swing.
In early twenty first century London, Anna Waterman, obsessed by the memory of her first husband Mike Kearney, shuttles in an affectless way between her psychologist Helen Alpert, her daughter Marnie and other rather shiftless denizens of her world. Every so often on her night strolls she imagines her summerhouse
Of the Empty Space Trilogy, I like this novel the most, as it requests perhaps the most mathematics of its readers to understand entirely. It is a surreal manipulation of reconditioned terminologies.
Also, in this book, I learned what saudade was. It is a Portuguese word meaning something like "missingness" according to Wikipedia.

As you can determine from my rating, I did come away from this book with a headache, but not one of those migraines which I have effective medication to address. It's a
Bill Reynolds
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I can't pretend to be objective about a Mike Harrison book. He is one of my favorite prose stylists and this book is full of wonderful sentences. Plot-wise, this pulls together people and events from the earlier 2 books in the Kefahuchi Tract trilogy: Light (one of the most remarkable novels of this century to date) and Nova Swing. Science is used as metaphor, but at the same time it's used with understanding. Science and math terms aren't just thrown into the text for poetic affect (although th ...more
May 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recs
In which the previous two books come together, but at odd angles. In which we get answers, but maybe not to the questions we had. In which maybe key symbols are presented off-hand, in passing, so that you could (or should) miss them entirely. I don't know what to say about this. I read it both quickly and slowly - which doesn't make sense even to me, and I was the one doing it. If you enjoyed (though that's the wrong word for something as chilly and cerebral and distant as this) the previous two ...more
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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.

Other books in the series

Empty Space Trilogy (3 books)
  • Light (Empty Space Trilogy, #1)
  • Nova Swing (Empty Space Trilogy, #2)
“Don’t you know, Fat Antoyne, that three old men in white caps throw dice for the fate of the universe?’ No, Fat Antoyne said, he had never heard that. ‘Their names  are  Kokey Food,  Mr  Freedom  and  The Saint.” 1 likes
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