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Empty Space: A Haunting Paperback – 5 Mar 2013

3.9 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 243 pages
  • Publisher: Night Shade Books (5 Mar. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597804614
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597804615
  • Product Dimensions: 15 x 1.8 x 22.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,133,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

An extraordinary writer --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

At last: the final book in the awesome Kefahuchi Tract Trilogy! --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past"

As a teenager in the 1960s, I read science fiction avidly; the usual suspects - Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, Aldiss, Ballard - all the postwar writers I could find, really.

But by the time the "New Worlds" school of sex and drugs and rock'n'roll sf came along, I had largely moved on to more mainstream fiction. In the forty-plus years since then, I have occasionally dipped a toe back into the genre, without ever really finding anything to get me really excited. Then I (re)discovered M. John Harrison. A chance find of "Light" (the first part of this trilogy) in a charity shop had me intrigued, not least by the heavyweight recommendations in the review blurbs. My initial attempt to read it was a false start - the first chapter introduced us to a rather unlikable theoretical physicist with a penchant for randomly murdering yuppies. Was this going to be some sort of British rehash of "American Psycho"? I put it down and read something else. But some months later I gave it another shot. And, as the action shifted to a bizarre (yet strangely familiar) 25th century culture far out in a region of the galaxy where conventional physics breaks down in unpredictable ways - The Kefahuchi Tract - I was hooked.

The apparently unrelated threads of the story, were ultimately reconciled - sort of. It left me slightly confused, but entertained, intrigued, and wanting more. So I got a copy of the sequel "Nova Swing". Still set in the futuristic cultural mash-up of the region around the Tract, this was a wonderful detective noir pastiche, chock full of sly in-jokes and pop culture references, like some sort of deranged collision between Philip K.
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Format: Paperback
The good: it is exceptionally well-written. I mean, Harrison's prose is fantastic, and I found myself re-reading entire pages not because of the story, not because something was happening, but just for the sheer pleasure of it. The story itself is incredibly complex on one level and pretty straightforward on another - you could say that while there's a lot going on, in fact there's an almost... minimalist feel to the whole thing, which is also rather pleasant.

But this is where it becomes (for me, at least) difficult: after a little while I realised that I didn't care at all about the story. Or the characters. Or their entire bent universe, for that matter, because all the different plot lines just weren't... I don't know... "human" enough. Another reviewer made a comparison with a few great movie directors, and one of them I find particularly significant here - David Lynch. Now, I consider Lynch an absolute genius and I love his movies, but I can't help finding some of them a trifle perplexing. Take Lost Highways: great visual. Breathtaking scenes. A sense of dread that insinuates into you from the first few minutes and doesn't go away, and yet... and yet... what the h*** is it all about?!

Now, Lynch himself admitted that for the most part he doesn't know what it is about, either; and I'm sure this is not the case for mr Harrison. Still, to me and for my evidently limited abilities, "Empty Space" is exactly like Lost Highways, which is a real shame because with a little more it could have been Mulholland Drive instead - i.e. something that, in the end, actually makes sense. As it is, it left me with a feeling of having read something exceptional without really "getting it", and that ...is not very pleasant. :)
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A beautifully written continuation of 'Light' and 'Nova Swing'. An experience such as this is difficult to express as a review. Nominally a work of science fiction, it is actually a work that explores metaphysics as well as physics, inner space as well as outer space (and, indeed, recognises that these are false distinctions), and the dynamics of personal relationships. The whole thing is a glorious feast of symbolism that will provide generations of students material for their theses, none of which will ever come close to exhausting the deep veins of meaning - although like the aliens who gave up trying to understand the Tract, the universe will be littered with these long abandoned and forgotten experiments in understanding whilst the thing itself will still provide pleasure and a rich metaphorical background.

Harrison (even in his earliest works) has always been a writer able to find ways of discussing ideas through action and events. And not content with that skill, he writes with a confidence, wit, and intelligence that leaves a lot of other writers gibbering incoherently on the starting blocks. Literate, entertaining, and clearly working at his craft in order to enhance his art. One could wish that we were able to say as much of many of our so-called literary authors.

Despite having written `straight' novels, there is a perception that Harrison is a science fiction writer (or worse, a writer of fantasy). But like all good writers, he transcends that. For one thing, he always manages to turn any genre tropes he uses inside out and upside down. And at the heart of his work are human beings trying to come to terms with being human.
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