four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
13-Nov-Dec-2004
user_rating: 
0

A-LightFirst published to rave reviews in the U.K. in 2002, Light links the plights of three protagonists. Michael Kearney is a present-day researcher in quantum physics; his work will make him the father of interplanetary travel. He’s also a serial killer, driven to murder in order to appease a supernatural being. Next there’s Seria Mau Genlicher, a mass-murdering captain of a faster-than-light spaceship in the year 2400, whose body is irreversibly attached to her ship. The third is Ed Chianese, a daredevil drifter living happily in virtual reality until his very rude awakening into the real world. The three narrative strings come together in an abandoned region of space called The Kefahuchi Tract, where space, time, and personal choices merge.
Spectra. 320 pages. $16. ISBN: 0553382950

Entertainment Weekly 4.5 of 5 Stars
"… mind-bending in both its conceptual framework and literary deftness." Noah Robischon

Independent (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"An increasingly complex and dazzling narrative. … If this novel is not already heading the shortlist for the next Arthur C. Clarke Awards, then the world is in even worse shape than we thought." Charles Shaar Murray

Guardian (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"This is a novel of full-spectrum literary dominance, making the transition from the grainily commonplace now to a wild far future seem not just easy but natural, and connecting the minimal and the spectacular with grace and elegance. It is a work of—and about—the highest order." Iain Banks

NY Times Book Review 3 of 5 Stars
"Harrison continually tries the reader’s patience by dropping in references to important new developments that he doesn’t get around to explaining until many pages later. … Harrison’s tale, in all its unflinching candor, succeeds in evoking the sense of wonder that science fiction readers look for in the best of the genre." Gerald Jonas

Critical Summary

Reviewers call Light "complex," yet seemed more than willing to forgive the complexity—as well as the shortage of sympathetic major characters—because of the award-winning author’s style and sheer intelligence. They also lauded the ending, deemed "suitably transformational" and "connection-rich" (Guardian). Harrison brings a far deeper wisdom and maturity to science fiction than other writers typically do, and poses important questions that reach far beyond the old conceits of the genre. Most intriguing of these: "By what moral calculus is [Harrison’s] mad scientist any madder than the legions of researchers who kiss their families goodbye each morning and spend their workdays developing weapons of mass destruction?" (New York Times). It’s an eternal mystery.