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Forget the Space Opera
on 15 August 2014
After reading M. John Harrisons The Ice Monkey, Climbers & Course of the Heart years ago, I came to the Kefaluchi Trilogy with high expectations. The books are divided into action set in the present, and action set in a 'far flung future'. Whilst the present day sequences were what i have come to expect from Harrison, with a bleak vision of people struggling with the meaning of their lives, written in prose that at times soars to poetry, I was baffled and disapointed by the way the quality of the writing seemed to deterioate in the space opera sequences. Confronted by the eternal mystery of the Kefaluchi tract, we have characters and action that seem to have stepped straight out of a comic book. I found the dialogue between the futuristic characters banal and irritating, and seemed to consist of the most infantile use of the F, S & C words with constant references to the reproductive act and other bodily functions. At times, I almost felt I was reading two different authors?
Good Science Fiction / Fantasy / Horror, should invoke a feeling of awe, 'otherness' and mystery, and I felt this to a certain extent in the 'present' sections of the trilogy, particlularly relating to the 'Shrander' in the first volume - Light. These sections were the only ones that conveyed any profound sense of mystery. Any profundity in the space opera sections were lost due to the trivial dialogue of the characters and the comic book action.
I read Light with some interest, waded through Nova Swing with little or no interest, and gave up half way through Empty Space.
Fantasy/ Sci Fi should be an escape from the mundane, but no matter how awsome the subject matter (the mysterious Kefaluchi Tract) it becomes banal when seen through the prism of trivial, one dimensional characters spouting mindless chatter.
M. John Harrison is a hugly talented writer, and Course of the Heart is an excellent novel, but if felt that his excursions into space opera were far less interesting than his other work.