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Nova Swing

(Kefahuchi Tract #2)

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  1,990 ratings  ·  191 reviews
Years after Ed Chianese’s fateful trip into the Kefahuchi Tract, the tract has begun to expand and change in ways we never could have predicted—and, even more terrifying, parts of it have actually begun to fall to Earth, transforming the landscapes they encounter.

Not far from Moneytown, in a neighborhood of underground clubs, body-modification chop shops, adolescent contra
Paperback, 252 pages
Published September 25th 2007 by Spectra (first published November 9th 2006)
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Average rating 3.63  · 
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 ·  1,990 ratings  ·  191 reviews

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Glenn Russell

Nova Swing - M. John Harrison's mix of Space Opera, Steampunk, Cyberpunk, Biopunk, New Wave, New Weird, Alien Invasion, Parallel Worlds and Retro Futurism to create his own unique literary brew. Wow! What a blastoff.

Signature M. John Harrison since, after all, he told an interviewer he's the type of author who could see no good reason why you couldn't combine genres and do all types of fiction at once, the type of author who uses literary fiction to undercut sf and sf to undercut literary ficti
Aug 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 11, 2016 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
Feb 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: speculative, reviewed

This was another successful Harrison for me – and like his latest The Sunken Land Begins To Rise Again, one that I will probably reread in the coming decade, just as I will reread Light. Now that I think of it, I guess I’ll enjoy Light even more now that I have a better grip on what Harrison tries to do with his books. I might even read Swing's last 50 pages again tonight – expect no update here however, it will be a private affair. Nova Swing is recommended, 4.5 stars – caveats below. I’ll
Jason Pettus
Jun 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
(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
Dec 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 14, 2013 added it


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
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was the spiritual successor to Roadside Picnic that I have always wanted.
Sep 20, 2009 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
Nov 28, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 19, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 25, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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. ...more
Tudor Ciocarlie
Jan 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Fx Smeets
Nova Swing is a lament. A Greek tragedy. A choir comes, holds the Gods as its witnesses and tells the sorrows and misfortunes which befell the hero. No heroic deed, no fatal clench from destiny, no suspense or tension is necessary. Only this joined presence of a choir, a hero, a place.
The place is Saudade, the sorrow, the nostalgia, the longing for something gone. Ask a Portuguese to translate Saudade and he will baulk. There is something holy in this word, something so deeply rooted into the Po
May 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This guy crafts sentences like Turner paints, there is an ethereal quality to almost every paragraph. Like I think, oh I got that, then only to realise after reading it for the third or fourth time, nope I don't. It's like trying to read a book comprised of poetry. One of my favourite and most sublime sentences is this 'Between them and the sea; and the horizon somewhere past the tremendous roll of surf, like a crease in a piece of paper the colour of doves'. It's a challenging book to read cos ...more
Keith Deininger
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Not as good as 'Light', but I love Harrison's literary style applied to speculative fiction themes. ...more
Apr 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I did like this book, I felt a big difference with his previous one, Light. As some reviewers pointed out, Harrison prioritizes the atmosphere over the plot here. I loved the noir feeling he creates, which reminds of China Mieville indeed. However, I felt the book dropped any pretension at a plot at the end, adding dangling sketches of some of the protagonists. I kind of missed some more integration of these within a larger plot, especially because the did enrich the storyline, creating a ...more
Nick Tramdack
Apr 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 06, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
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
Jan 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
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
Regina Durst
Mar 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Sep 01, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed, far-future
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
Jun 25, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Oct 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
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! ...more
Jun 25, 2009 rated it it was ok
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.
Andrin Albrecht
Oct 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
I always find myself pondering the same question at the end of an M. John Harrison novel: Is it really as utterly brilliant as something inside me insists that it is, or is this, much rather, an author who is simply so astonishing skilled in the way he interlaces words, images and subtle surprises, that he could literally write about a guy torn between two different McDonalds meal deals, and still make it feel like a metaphor for solipsism, cynical poetry, mankind and the fabric for the universe ...more
Michael Scott
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
TODO full review:
+ I got to read this book attracted by the premise (Entering Arkady Strugatsky and Boris Strugatsky's Zone, with the writing tools available 40 years later! Winner of an Arthur C. Clarke Award!)
+ Overall, not a bad effort, but I found little sci-fi, or even character- or plot-novelty (see following). M. John Harrison focuses on a broader universe, set of characters, and plot than the original Roadside Picnic, but for me fails similarly to the minimalist (yet extremely ling) [mo
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Ed Chianese vs. Chinese Ed 1 18 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.


Other books in the series

Kefahuchi Tract (3 books)
  • Light (Kefahuchi Tract, #1)
  • Empty Space: A Haunting (Kefahuchi Tract, #3)

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