Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Light (Empty Space Trilogy, #1)” as Want to Read:
Light (Empty Space Trilogy, #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


(Empty Space Trilogy #1)

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  4,408 ratings  ·  506 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
Trade Paperback, 310 pages
Published August 31st 2004 by Spectra (first published 2002)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.60  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,408 ratings  ·  506 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Jul 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Surprising and grand, I'm always thrilled and amazed when I get to read a serious SF about the soft and squishy underbelly of the universe. The world-building and the span of time and the characterizations are tops, too. The writing is actually pretty spiffy, too, with very clever idea-connections between every chapter and deep mirroring going on, not to mention a thousand and a half great SF ideas and themes running around and deepening the tale.

I would never have read this if Gaiman hadn't sel
Jul 06, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Kat  Hooper
Oct 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
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
Jan 18, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
“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”

This is one
Oct 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf-fantasy
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
Dec 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, read-2016
5 Stars

Light by M John Harrison is a science fiction worth full marks. This is not an easy read. Harrison dumps the reader into three separate story lines as well as multiple time differences. The reader has to push through the tough start and trust in the author as well as the reviewers that it is worth your time and your energy. Three losers for protagonists, one is a junkie another is a sociopath and the last is a mathematical genius serial killer. None of them are good people yet you can id
Jun 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
There's a rogue rim of science fiction inhabited by experimentalists. Harrison is one. Moorcock another. A few less distinct figures slip in and out of the wings. Theirs is a careening brand of storytelling that skates the edge of comprehension, fueled by twisted psychological truths and the madness that fumes at the root of the math that makes travel of any kind (spatial, temporal, evolutionary) eerily possible. Light finds Harrison at the top of his game, and can best be described as desperati ...more
Sep 18, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Jun 21, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-the-best
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
Jul 21, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: sf-fantasy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 02, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jun 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 08, 2015 rated it did not like it
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
Jon Lyndon
Oct 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Sep 28, 2012 marked it as did-not-finish
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
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
Ericka Clouther
This was not good. Neil Gaiman recommended this, and I'm not going to trust his recommendations going forward.

Imagine if Stephen King wrote A Wrinkle In Time but you didn't even know what was going on until close to the end? That's this novel.
If I was polemically inclined, I would start this post off with saying that Light is Science Fiction for readers with a brain. Since I am not, I would of course never do that, but even so I would like to say that this is one of the more intelligent Sci Fi novels around and that it requires a reader for whom reading is a process of active participation rather than passive consumption to fully enjoy it. I (in case you were wondering) can be either, depending on my current mood and on the book I’m ...more
Kyle Muntz
Jun 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Apr 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2000s, sf, read-in-2017
A sweeping and hallucinatory amalgam of space opera, cyberpunk, and horror. There are a lot of exasperating, unfortunate sex scenes--pretty much every time a female secondary character shows up, she's horny--but the quality of the prose and bombardment of very cool SF ideas make up for that, mostly.
Matthew Gatheringwater
The most persistent reminder I have of my mortality is the nagging consciousness of all the good books I will never read. From this perspective, Light is my least favorite kind of book: one I regret having taken the time to finish. I usually follow a 100-page rule but, in this case, the reviews were so good I felt sure that I must be missing something, or the quality of the writing would make up for the adolescent themes, or everything would come together in a brilliant conclusion that redeemed ...more
Mar 15, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Daniel Polansky
A serial killer/scientist in the present day, an amoral fighter ship captain, a ragtag ex-pilot, all bound together kind of loosely with a mystery that doesn't exactly come together but was pleasant to get through all the same. Harrison has some reasonable prose chops (though he leans too much to the William Gibson school of let-me-name-check-40-proper-nouns-a-sentence-to-give-you-some-color school of writing), and I totally enjoyed reading this, but it was cooler than it was profound. Which mak ...more
-Buen pulso, tinta equivocada sobre el papel tal vez incorrecto.-

Género. Ciencia ficción.

Lo que nos cuenta. Tres tramas se alternan: una capitana mercenaria al servicio de una civilización alienígena en contra de los intereses humanos, un antiguo piloto de combate que ahora es un adicto a la realidad virtual y un físico que descubrirá las bases científicas para viajar entre estrellas pero que es un asesino en serie. Las tres relacionadas, de una u otra forma, con una singularidad en el espacio,
Oct 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: genre-sf, read_2012
I started Empty Space, the highly awaited 3rd Kefauchi Tract book by MJ Harrison and I realized that I forgot a lot about the series (the first pov in Empty Space is Anna, 20+ years later from the present day events in Light, Anna being the first wife and last known companion of Michael Kearney one of the 3 pov's of Light) so I first read Light for the 3rd time (I read it twice on publication in 2002) and I realized that now it reads even better than 10 years ago as its great writing and inventi ...more
Tudor Ciocarlie
Jan 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Night Sessions
  • Air
  • Eternal Light (Four Hundred Billion Stars, #3)
  • Hello Summer, Goodbye
  • Ascent
  • Yellow Blue Tibia
  • The Quiet War (The Quiet War #1)
  • The Troika
  • Dreamships
  • The Etched City
  • Permanence
  • The Old Men at the Zoo
  • Veniss Underground
  • Black Wine
  • Desolation Road (Desolation Road Universe, #1)
  • Vellum (The Book of All Hours, #1)
  • Natural History
  • Osama
See similar books…
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)
  • Nova Swing (Empty Space Trilogy, #2)
  • Empty Space: A Haunting (Empty Space Trilogy, #3)
“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…