Award-winning author, narrator, and screenwriter Neil Gaiman personally selected this book, and, using the tools of the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), cast the narrator and produced this work for his audiobook label, Neil Gaiman Presents.
A few words from Neil on Light: The three strands of the plot "are united by the talent of the narrator, Julian Elfer. When I consulted with Mike Harrison…. on the casting, we both thought Julian Elfer subtly conveyed the individualism of each character… part of the delight of a novel like this, for science-fiction fans or just for people who like good books, is watching the Department of Science Fiction known as 'Space Opera' be polished up, dusted off, and reinvented for the future."
In contemporary London, Michael Kearney is a serial killer on the run from the entity that drives him to kill. He is seeking escape in a future that doesn' t yet exist - a quantum world that he and his physicist partner hope to access through a breach of time and space itself. In this future, Seria Mau Genlicher has already sacrificed her body to merge into the systems of her starship, the White Cat. But the inhuman K-ship captain has gone rogue, pirating the galaxy while playing cat and mouse with the authorities who made her what she is.
In this future, Ed Chianese, a drifter and adventurer, has ridden dynaflow ships, run old alien mazes, surfed stellar envelopes. He went deep, and lived to tell about it. Once crazy for life, he's now just a twink on New Venusport, addicted to the bizarre alternate realities found in the tanks... and in debt to all the wrong people.
Haunting them all through this maze of menace and mystery is the shadowy presence of the Shrander and three enigmatic clues left on the barren surface of an asteroid under an ocean of light known as the Kefahuchi Tract: a deserted spaceship, a pair of bone dice, and a human skeleton.
To hear more from Neil Gaiman on Light, click here, or listen to the introduction at the beginning of the book itself.
©2002 M. John Harrison (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
This is perhaps the best audio-book I have purchased from Audible. I feel I must preface this with a warning: this is not for everyone. It is an extremely subtle, dense and fragmented book. But with patience and curiosity it unfolds into a masterpiece of fractal beauty -- it comes together like the blue fusion birth of a star.
The quality of the production is very good, the narrator is, to my mind, perfect and enhances the story in small unobtrusive ways. The story itself is breath-taking. But as I said, it is certainly not for the faint of heart. If you are a fan of M. John. Harrison, or wish to see a very literary take on Science Fiction, I implore you to give this a try, if not stay far, far away.
In short its an esoteric masterpiece.
I would love to understand the ending better.
Packs of trippin' 8 year old assassins bursting into a virtual reality parlor, shooting up the place in a wild west gun fight.
Mr. Elfer made clear text that was difficult to make sense of. I enjoyed his narration immensely.
Oh hell no.
As interesting and provocative as I found this book, I don't know that I want to read any more from M. John Harrison. I was left wondering about characters who I don't think that the author really cared about. His portrayal of the women in this book was especially less than complimentary, though nobody comes out looking good. Some of the ideas were interesting, such as quantum physics providing the breakthrough for humans to explore space, pilots becoming fused with their space ships, and the discovery of technology developed and discarded by unknown entities millions of years before humans became human. His use of language is absolutely breathtaking.
I don't need a happy ending, I don't need to like all of the characters. At the end of it, though, I feel that the book should be putting forth some sort of reason for being. But the future, as envisioned by Mr. Harrison, seems to only enhance the worst characteristics of humanity: fear, hate, misunderstanding, greed, self loathing, addiction, ignorance, narcissism are all accentuated. Mr. Harrison seems to be saying that we should all be continuing on, to push ourselves farther, to
I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!
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 up with a colleague named Brian Tate to study the relationship between mathematics and prophecy.
Three hundred years later, explorers are using the ???Tate-Kearney transformations??? to navigate the space phenomenon they call the Kefahuchi (K) Tract where ancient alien races have left artifacts from their advanced civilizations. One of these explorers is Seria Mau, who was molested by her father and escaped by transferring her consciousness to a K-ship. Now, as a sentient starship, she presides over a crew of brooding self-aware algorithms as she explores the Kefahuchi Tract. Her brother, Ed Chianese, used to be an explorer, but now he???s a Twink ??? he lives most of his life floating in a tank and plugged into a virtual reality that he likes better than real life.
These three characters are all connected by the Shrander. What is it, and why is it interested in these humans??? lives? What is the energetic light-spewing singularity that???s located in the center of the Kefahuchi Tract? Explorers who go there never come back.
When I read over my summary of Light, I think this sounds like an awesome book. I picked it up because I???ve wanted to read M. John Harrison for years. Then Neil Gaiman got into the audiobook business and started a new line called Neil Gaiman Presents in which he works with authors, narrators, and Audible.com to produce some of his favorite works in audio format. Light is one of his very first offerings so, naturally, I jumped. While I did admire Harrison???s characterization and writing style, and Julian Elfer???s narration was spot-on (I hope Gaiman uses him again), I did not like Light as much as I thought I would for two reasons.
First, it???s written in that self-conscious Teflon style that???s slick, vague and nebulous, maybe full of symbolism, and you???re never sure you???ve really got a grasp on what???s going on until the end. Or maybe not even then. And you wonder, ???Is this book too smart for me? Or maybe I just have to try harder???? This can imbue the story with a heady atmosphere of wonder and mystery, or it can frustrate the reader who???s just looking for a good story. In the case of Light, things only start to clear up in the last few pages, which doesn???t feel like enough pay off. I didn???t read any reviews before I read Light because I didn???t want to spoil anything, but I would have enjoyed the plot more if I???d first read a summary such as the one I wrote above.
I could have overlooked the hazy plot if I had liked M. John Harrison???s characters. Unfortunately, and this is my biggest problem with Light, the characters are all, with the exception of one who dies not long after we meet him, completely unlikable. Neil Gaiman warns us in his introduction that we won???t like Michael Kearney, but he doesn???t mention that we won???t like any of the characters. Perhaps it???s shallow to insist on having some character to admire or root for, or maybe it???s simply a reflection of my own optimistic personality, but I know many readers feel the way I do, so I???ll warn them.
All of the characters have sad, desperate, pathetic lives. Many are suicidal and most have some sort of sexual hang-up. They can???t keep their hands off their own genitals, or they keep presenting their genitals for others to handle. Almost every single sex act (and there are a lot of them) is ugly, animalistic, and devoid of all positive emotion. Sex is about pity, power, self-loathing and grief. There is no beauty, passion, love, or hope here. I think that M. John Harrison???s symbolism with light and the singularity shaped like a birth canal is meant to convey some feeling of hope at the end of the novel, but I just felt drained.
I???m giving Light 3 stars because I admire Harrison???s vivid writing style, there are some cool cyberpunk elements (though some were too similar to William Gibson???s work) and this was a terrific audio production. My issues with Light are due to my own personal reading preferences. I recommend Light to readers who aren???t so small-minded that they insist on liking some of the characters. Meanwhile, I???ll be trying a different novel by M. John Harrison, including another produced by Neil Gaiman Presents.
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature.
At first, I didn't love this book. I wasn't really liking any of the characters, wasn't really interested in what was going on... and then, suddenly, I began to change my mind and I can't even explain why. All I can really say is that one day I found myself wondering what happened to one of the characters, then another character the next day, and soon I was actually concerned about them all.
I suspect the narrator, who I found to be very good, had a lot to do with my change of heart. I also didn't have trouble at all following which character I was hearing about; I have to assume my ability to audibly differentiate each plotline had a lot to do with his reading. (Though I think he's probably not American -- he did That Thing With His Rs that I notice a lot of BBC actors do when they're trying to sound American -- but that's something that could just be chalked up to the way people in the future talk. :))
I didn't find the end disappointing at all; without spoilers, I can say that it just seemed right and I'm very glad I stuck with this book, despite my attention not being caught immediately. It was a pleasure to hear how these stories all came together.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
In 1999 Michael Kearney is a physicist working on a breakthrough in quantum mechanics, though he may be spending too much time and killing too many women trying to avoid a terrifying horse-skull headed being called the Shrander.
In 2400 Seria Mau is a renegade mercenary who has sacrificed her body to cybernetically captain an alien spaceship and who, to confirm her identity, destroys less advanced spaceships and their human crews.
Also in 2400, Ed Chianese is a former adventurer space pilot now living in a virtual reality tank, when gangster types start seeking both his hardboiled detective fantasy persona and his ???real??? world self.
Light, read by Julian Elfer with restraint, sensitivity, and clarity (I especially like his ghostly algorithm Shadow Operators), is a metaphysical space opera, like a hybrid of Dick and Banks. In addition to questions of what is real and what is human, it features quantum machines, sentient mathematics, vast scales, and 14 dimensions; inexplicable alien artifacts and etiolated, competitive, or god-like aliens; clones, genetic chop shops, and holographic or corporeal avatars. And lots of (often graphic) sex, perhaps because in an indeterminate universe, sex and love may confirm our humanity.
As the pasts and destinies of Michael, Seria, and Ed braid under the Kefahuchi Tract, Harrison???s monstrous and pathetic protagonists become strangely compelling. The Tract, an artificial singularity halo glittering across half the sky and attracting sentient beings like moths to a flame, a ???place??? where mutually exclusive sets of physics all work, is a sublime conception. In the midst of this ???dark??? book, there is much ???desperate illumination,??? light, actinic and foamy, pouring sparks, laughing particles, whispering photinos, ???Light years of blue and rose fire roaring up out of nowhere.??? And so much possibility.
Finally, Light almost required more effort to (not fully) understand than I wanted to spend, but it was stimulating and moving.
Like another reviewer, I purchased this title on the recommendation of Neil Gaiman, whom I hold in the highest esteem. If I were to guess what he saw in it, it would be the occasional apt phrase or twist of dialogue. But as for the story...I should say that I actually have a very high tolerance for non-linearity, even aimlessness. But half way through I had simply lost patience. It wasn't that I was waiting for the sub-plots to come together; rather, I felt I already had a good sense of how the author would manage this and couldn't bring myself to care, any more than I could muster an affective response to all the bloodless murder and intellectualized sex. The narrator didn't help. Accents should be handled with care. For some reason, the English narrator decided to cast the voices of several alien or far-future characters in what I think was meant to be a North American register. They ended up sounding neither American, nor English, but very distractingly off.
Mr. Gaiman, I still love you--but PLEASE!
I'll eventually listening to it again because the language was so rich and the plot so bizzare
The writing was well-crafted ,literate, yet the style was novel.
The heroine in the tank was interesting; Seria Mau Genlicher, the cybernetically-altered female pilot of a
This trippy little book introduced me to the author and his works. I'm looking forward to the sequel
Sci Fi writers and people who study the human condition with everything that makes us awful.
Developed the world a bit more so I could try to find something to latch onto. The characters were not strong enough to do that.
He has a good ability to do male and female characters. He was also easy to understand.
Disappointment; like others I picked this book based on Gaiman's recommendation and found it lacking.
I could see how things were going to connect between the three main characters within the first hour or so and there wasn't much else to look forward to from that point on.
I could not follow the story at all, even though the narrator seemed to be ok. The story just jumped around too fast and had too many characters all at once for me to connect.
"Haunting, imaginative, frustrating"
As a feat of imaginative writing, Light is stunning. As a feat of storytelling, it's seriously flawed. It took me 75% of the text to have any sense of the direction of travel. The story owes a huge debt to 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick's version more than Clarke's, I'd suggest), and, as in 2001, there is the feeling that some profundity lurks behind what is a very straightforward story. However, meaning is elusive. The style owes its debt to Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. Imagine Rutger Hauer's "Time to Die" death scene extended over hundreds of pages - full of similes which reference imagined scientific concepts which have no basis in common experience (and only a handful of which have any basis in modern research). There are moments where this becomes haunting and beautiful (as in the Blade Runner speech), but for the most part, I was unsure what had been said or why. I'm happy to have read Light - it's interesting, for sure - but it left me ultimately frustrated.
"Well-written, but let down by the narration."
The story was surreal, complex and well-written.
The style reminded me in some ways of William Gibson's early novels, and very much in a good way. Other elements brought to mind the Void Trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton.
Unfortunately not. Whilst his voice is pleasant, he consistently mispronounces words and robs phrases of their meaning by placing the stress in the wrong place. If this were my book, I would be infuriated that the language I had so carefully constructed had been vandalised in this way.
Well written and inventive, but I can't helping thinking it might be improved by the addition of a plot.
"Well Performed and Bewilderingly Original"
A bit like Douglas Adams, one imagines that being in the mind of M. John Harrison is a staggeringly surreal experience. The future world he creates in Light manages to feel real, but also startlingly alien, with enough insanely inventive ideas thrown in to keep most authors satisfied for half a dozen novels. The world he creates and the characters that inhabit it are thoroughly engaging, and I could happily spend a lot of time hanging out there just learning more about them.
Where this book falls down, though, is the plot. Mr Harrison has taken: a modern day Physicist-cum-Serial-Killer plagued by a voice in his head, a future pilot in a state-of-the-art warship unravelling a political conspiracy, and an alien on the run from the space-mob who becomes a prophet. The challenge was always going to be finding a way to pull those divergent strands together into a connected resolution, and... he doesn't, really.
We get a bit of authorial hand-waving, and a few choice character revelations, but mostly the novel really just ends, with the characters coming to some sort of emotional resolution, even as the plot and its underlying questions lie unresolved in the dust. I can't quite decide whether this was the author's intention from the start, or if he just got halfway through the book and realised he had no idea how (or why) to end it.
So if you're a genre fan, and like bold (and mad) world-building then check this out. But if you want satisfying plot resolution and hate being given more questions instead of answers... I'd run away very quickly.
In terms of the performance, Julian Elfer is excellent throughout, distinguishing the three narrative voices neatly and doing them all justice. At times the book is rammed with future jargon for the world Harrison envisages, and Elfer navigates this all with a sure-footed assurance that really helps you engage with the world and not get lost in its strangeness.
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