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The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  464 ratings  ·  97 reviews
Shaw had a breakdown, but he's getting himself back together. He has a single room, a job on a decaying London barge, and an on-off affair with a doctor's daughter called Victoria, who claims to have seen her first corpse at age thirteen.

It's not ideal, but it's a life. Or it would be if Shaw hadn't got himself involved in a conspiracy theory that, on dark nights by the ri
Kindle Edition, 219 pages
Published June 25th 2020 by Gollancz
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Average rating 3.66  · 
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Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
Now winner of the 2020 Goldsmith Prize. I have proposed in the past that given its rather obvious lack of diversity the prize should be renamed the Celtic Prize. So how appropriate to have a “state of the nation” book where the only characters not white are green.

Essex Serpent (by Sarah Perry), River (by Esther Kinsky), Fen (by Daisy Johnson) thrown in a food blender with a dash of Dr Who.

Sea change, taking place in damp air, foul weather, at a distance, at night. Everything liquidised. Wher
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
OMFG this book.

So there's a man, emerging from a kind of loss of self, still only halfway out. There's a woman retreating to a safe place, but it turns out to be something else. There is a conspiracy community, or several. Anxiety: selfhood, brexit, climate change. There is transformation and renewal. And death and disappearance. And transformation. The islands are becoming boats and the boats are becoming islands.

Tense, nervy, spackled with correspondences and coincidences. Lock yourself away f
Paul Fulcher
Jul 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: goldsmiths-2020, 2020
"As I said, in July..."Recommended - and one that would make a good Goldsmith's contender" - now winner of the Prize!!

Is logic in any sense the right method to be applying here?

Two years ago I had the pleasure of reading a range of innovative fiction from UK/Irish small independent presses as part of the Republic of Consciousness Prize.

One of the most fascinating books I read was the collection You Should Come With Me Now: Stories of Ghosts, by M. John Harrison. My review: https://www.goodreads.
Nov 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
'Vast feathery geysers erupted through the road. Prismatic colours flashed in all directions. The water collected in front of the ironmonger’s before racing away like a flood between the bungalows of Woolpit Road towards the river. Everyone was hurrying out of the nearby shops, smiling with a kind of delighted alarm. The children, and even some of the men, shouted and ran about, and had to be restrained. It seemed to her as if the whole town stood there for a moment, wondering if the world would ...more
Nov 23, 2020 added it
Shelves: fiction
Pros: psychogeography (love!) and some beautiful passages
Cons: no semblance of a coherent plot and I had no idea what was happening 85% of the time
Peter Boyle
Nov 22, 2020 rated it did not like it
A middle-aged man, recovering from a breakdown, takes a job from a strange fellow he meets down by a river. His occasional lover inherits a house in a village with some unusual locals. They both hear voices. And then there are rumours of a new species of human in England, green people that come from the water.

What does it all mean? I haven't the foggiest. I know there is an allegory about Brexit buried in here somewhere but I can't summon the energy to unravel it. Even though Harrison does a de
Dec 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
”In fact, the faeries had turned him into a water-baby. A water-baby? You never heard of a water-baby. Perhaps not. That is the very reason why this story was written. There are a great many things in the world which you never heard of; and a great many more which nobody ever heard of; and a great many things, too, which nobody will ever hear of. . .”
”No water babies, indeed? Why, wise men of old said that everything on earth had its double in the water; any you may see that that is, if not quit
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
While I enjoyed the writing, the characters, and the settings in this book, it was often hard to tell what was going on. It highlights a lot of modern-day angst (conspiracy theories, elder care responsibilities, economic and political uncertainty), but too much of the action in the book was murky at best. 2.5⭐️
Darko Tuševljaković
Jul 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Intelligent and eerie, masterfully crafted and inconspicuously relevant, the new M. John Harrison novel draws a lot from his previous work – from "Climbers" to his recent flash fiction, via "The Course of the Heart", "Signs of Life" and even the Kefahuchi Tract novels – subliming the already seen and now perfectly ripe elements of his prose into the essence of almost alchemical quality. Readers who have already tried the previous batches will recognize its taste, but even they are at risk of bec ...more
Jul 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, speculative

But this is a review, so I have to tell you something about the beautiful, beautiful prose, which at times is maybe bit overdone as well. But that didn’t really bother me: it’s art’s prerogative. This novel is first and foremost about its sentences – just like Twin Peaks: The Return is about the scenes. Harrison’s prose consists of fragments of 2020 contemporary life, and an eye for plants and how the weather affects light. I also have to tell you about certain meta-parts, in which Harriso
Oct 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, 2020-goldsmiths
I read this book because of its shortlisting for the 2020 Goldsmith’s Prize. It’s a story that follows two different characters, Shaw and Victoria. But the remarkable thing about the book is that the reader is quickly aware that there is a whole other storyline developing outside of Shaw and Victoria’s lives and, crucially, just outside of the reader’s perception. When, very early on in the book, we read

”He seemed to bring a smell into the kitchen. She couldn’t quite smell it, but she knew it wa
A book with a lot of promise that feels like it's left unfulfilled; eccentric characters, great prose and a mixture of weird and the banal, the novel sparkles for the first 50 or so pages but then it starts scattering and doesn't really come together again; definitely worth reading but I had very high expectations and those fell somewhat short. ...more
Jun 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Let me preface this by saying that I'm a gigantic fan of M. John Harrison's exquisite prose. I don't necessarily love all of his works equally, but The Course of the Heart is quite possibly one of my top three favorite works of fiction (which is why I'm never going to review it; it's too personal, just like my relationship with the utterly sublime The Hour After Westerly), so of course I was excited about The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again when it was announced, and now the digital edition is ...more
Sep 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading through the Goodreads list of books eligible for the upcoming GoldsmithsPrize, I was delighted to find this book by the sf/f writer M. John Harrison. I have read his trilogy beginning with LIGHT and while I wasn’t sure what I thought about it at the time, have thought about it many times since, especially the eerie surreal worldbuilding.

This novel has that same atmosphere, which I can only describe as “UNCANNY”. The main character, a middle-aged man named Shaw, seems to be going through
John Banks
Dec 08, 2020 rated it really liked it

I read M. John Harrison's The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again because it was shortlisted for the Goldsmiths prize 2020 and then won it. A very deserving if slightly uneven winner.

There's much to admire here formally and in terms of just the share quality of writing. The book sets out focusing on the character Shaw, a man in his fifties who has lost his way in life somewhat and seems to inhabit a state of almost permanent, disquieting crisis ("His adult life had been, until then, perfectly n
Stephen Bacon
Jan 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I first came across the fiction of M John Harrison in the late 80s and early 90s, in the anthologies edited by Stephen Jones – the annual Best New Horror and his original Dark Terrors series. His writing, on the surface so straightforward and conventional, merely hints at things just out of sight, the weirdness is not in any way overt. And yet his skill is such that, as a reader, you can’t fail to pick up on the disturbing element of the narrative. He manages to conjure a dreamlike quality to hi ...more
Chris Amies
Jul 06, 2020 rated it liked it
I feel that I'm somehow supposed to give a good review because, y'know, M John Harrison. Amazing writer he may be but this novel left me with a feeling that I'd seen most of it before, probably in Iain Sinclair (question: did M John Harrison invent psychogeography? He may have done). Character lives a peripatetic life in Mortlake, SW London. And how peripatetic: walking to Kingston and round back to Barnes via Richmond Park is what he does for normal - that's around 18km depending on the route. ...more
Jul 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
M. John Harrison’s earthbound twelfth novel brings us back to the Britain of Signs of Life and Climbers—except that now, Brexited and decades older, the country’s slowly sliding back into some sort of primordial state. Like William Gibson’s Jackpot, the crisis here is “distributed rather than catastrophic” and the lessons are “patiently dispensed.” People and culture slide slowly in reverse. It’s not exactly terra firma for protagonists Shaw and Victoria, but this is the terrain MJH works best, ...more
S. Naomi Scott
Jul 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, to-review
A strange and confusing and disturbing and delightfully magical tale, but what more can you ask for from M. John Harrison. Full review to follow shortly.
Areeb Ahmad (Bankrupt_Bookworm)
This is not really a review, and I have marked it as such, as I didn't finish it. I dropped it around 25% cause I was just not feeling it and, to be honest, found it incredibly boring which is really a shame as it had all the hallmarks of books I love. It's as much about England and Brexit as it's about strange occurrences taking place around water bodies. Dereliction and decay permeate the text, the past trying to be present. The promise of regrowth and renewal is there, but hollow.

Harrison kee
Nov 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
I have a high-amplitude oscillating relationship with Harrison’s work, it either murders me cutting deep into my soul, or it leaves me indifferent and bored. This book, somehow, managed both at the same time. It is full of this kind of flip-floppery: it goes on forever, yet it is over too quick; it is highly emotional, but at the same time oddly apathetic; the language flows beautifully right until it crashes in a jarringly unintelligible clatter of sentence structures. The same with the two POV ...more
Jul 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
A dreamlike, stream-of-consciousness prose which evokes deeply felt melancholia in the reader.
Tony Ellis
Jul 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
MJH at his most Aickmanesque, which should tell you all you need to know. It's no Climbers, but then again, what is? ...more
David Harris
Dec 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again is another 2020 book that I put aside till less hectic times and eventually read over Christmas. It was a glorious read for me, but I have to say I find my reviewing skills rather lacking in describing exactly why.

The book follows two protagonists. Shaw is a middle aged man living in West London ('south and west of Hammersmith Bridge in a quiet suburban badlands between East Sheen and the Thames, bounded by Little Chelsea on one side and Sheen Lane on the oth
David Allison
Aug 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you tried to take a holiday from yourself, where would you expect to go? Where might you come back to?
Fx Smeets
Dec 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
M.John Harrison does everything his own way. He puts his initial in first position (which makes sense when you think about it). He subverts genre codes by ignoring all of them within the same novel. He uses a whole verse as a book title. M. John Harrison loves giving book reviewers a hard time. I hope he has a laugh when he reads them – just picturing them having to type “The Sunken Land Begins To Rise Again” ten times must be quite fun.

Reading M. John Harrison has always been a puzzling game to
Ancillary Pride-Goeth-Before-the-Fall
M. John Harrison's writing is always intentional and skillful, and strange. Usually I love it. This one is pretty far from the wild Kefahuchi or Viriconium settings, but its focus isn't totally un-Harrisonian: human disconnection, personal crises without the possibility of expression or even internal understanding, strange events that don't have rational explanation. But I couldn't connect to the two main characters -- after all, their entire core is an inability to connect, one can't even get t ...more
Rachel Dawn Drenning
Nov 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
A lot of people loved this book. I'm sorry, but I found it excruciating to read. I didn't finish. I stopped at page 123. I kept waiting for something interesting to happen, and there were hints of that possibility, but nope. Just a story about two humans with boring lives. It had potential, but just fell flat as a board. ...more
Jul 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Perplexing in the best possible way

Draws you into not only a set of characters but a geography, richly rendered and often wet. It’s a very English alternate universe, very very slightly sideways from our own. Or is it?
Dec 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: eldritch, england, 2020
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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.


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Why not focus on some serious family drama? Not yours, of course, but a fictional family whose story you can follow through the generations of...
98 likes · 37 comments
“Two men deep in conversation could be seen disappearing along the opposite pavement towards Mortlake, their shadows cast huge and filmily onto the brewery walls by the kind of late-night city light that, while failing to relieve the darkness in any way, seems to pour in from every direction at once. Otherwise Wharf Terrace presented itself with only minute differences from his usual point of view. He had expected more.” 1 likes
“I would never have to fake my own death, he found himself thinking. I've all but vanished already. Part of him welcomed that. Another part, larger but distributed so thinly across his personality that it seemed invisible, panicked soundlessly on a twenty-four-hour schedule.” 0 likes
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