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on 18 May 2014
Ever since M John Harrison's first SF novels, it was clear that he could write most mainstream novelists, not to mention fellow SF writers, under the table. The sheer beauty of his prose has always been my main reason for recommending him to others, and "Empty Space", the culmination of the Kefahuchi Tract trilogy is so well written that you read whole paragraphs with a shudder of pleasure, followed by the urge to go back and read them a second or a third time. In this sense, "Empty Space" confirms Mr Harrison's status as SF's premier poet, someone who takes the old tropes of sciences function - star drives, quantum physics, stellar landscapes, and turns them into verbal artistry of a high order.
But the book is not for everybody. There are sections that are so dense and complex they will make your head ache, possible loose ends (depending on how you interpret certain plot developments) and a concentration on flawed and confused human protagonists rather than interstellar heroes. But for me those are virtues. What's he going top follow this with?
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on 5 September 2017
The term tour-de-force is overused, but to me it fits Empty Space like a glove. The novel is, I think, about the interaction of truly alien events - embodied by the Kefahuchi Tract, a vast area of the universe that has appeared and leaks utterly inexplicable and deeply strange phenomena - with the non alien. I hestiate to describe Harrison's "non alien" world as normal, it is very far from we normally understand by the term. But it does have its own internal logic, unlike the alien events of the Kefahuchi Tract. Much of the style is Chandleresque and the text drives forward with incredible energy. I loved it.
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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.
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on 13 February 2013
I have read many of Harrison's books and enjoyed them all. I especially liked "Climbers" which is a very rewarding story of people obsessed with rock climbing of all kinds. "Light" is another excellent work because it meshes together various stories and times in a clever and entertaining way.Unfortunately though I found Empty Space to be rather like its title.......empty.

Empty Space is supposed to be the third part of a trilogy but all three books are so different that only very thin threads hold them together. It is very wordy and Harrison rarely uses 2 words where 5 will do. The characters are mostly cardboard. The story is very fragmented which , for me, meant that for much of the time I only had a vague idea of what was going on. It was difficult to care, most of the time, about what was happenein or why.

So to sum up its an okay kind of book, well written of course and imaginative, but leaving one with an empty feeling. It passes the time and their are flashes of brilliance but ultimately is just another modern SF novel from a writer I expected much more from. Perhaps Harrison will come back to form with his next work of fiction.
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on 4 April 2013
On finishing reading this, my first reaction was to go back and re-read the whole trilogy for the sheer pleasure of it. Terrific imaginative power, elegant prose, tantalising oddness and uncertainty: all present here, as throughout. Yet I would rate this as the weakest of the trilogy, if only because the visualisation of 2040s England - a bien pensant orthodoxy of financial crisis/peak oil/rising sea levels etc. in a South East setting - clunks badly in such an otherwise imaginative work.
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on 19 March 2013
Can't tell whether I loved or hated this book, it seems to polarise people. Initially I thought it was rubbish, but it's one of those that I've found myself thinking about during idle moments. After the fabulous first book, Light, the second one Nova Swing was a bit of an anticlimax, but if you made it all the way through that one, crack on. This one's weirder, but probably better. If anyone works out what it's all about though, let me know...
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on 11 April 2015
One of the best SCIFIs ever written.
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on 15 December 2014
make sure you read them on order, deranged mastery
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on 28 January 2013
Quite good fun - lots of nanosecond fornication. I hope to enjoy the next two books as much as I have this one..
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on 28 July 2012
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. People who dismiss his work because of the way he chooses to explore these fundamental ideas are missing not just a treat, but work that leaves shadowy forms flickering just out of range of your internal sensors, teasing you to leave the gaudy neon life of the surface to explore the darker alleyways of your psyche where the real you is probably lost.
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