Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Review:: Light, by M. John Harrison

Title: Light
Author: M. John Harrison
Format: eBook (epub)
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Making sense is a stylistic choice. A stylistic choice that this book firmly opted out of. That’s not to say that’s always a bad thing. There are a few books where “not making sense” works rather well. This is not one of them.

M. John Harrison appears to be trying to write cyberpunkish weird fiction and in doing so, misses the mark on both. The cyberpunk isn’t cyberpunk and the weird isn’t weird. It’s just an incoherent far-future what-the-fuckery mess. Now, I usually like the worldbuilding style where you don’t explain the world and you can let the reader understand it through immersion. But here’s the thing: the reader needs to be able to understand it eventually.

Light seems to just constantly throw more nonsensical technobabble and futurespeak at us by the second, then never looks back to see if things are clear. Considering how disjointed and unexamined the writing is, that makes sense. I think the disjointed, frantic writing was once again, a choice. I think Harrison is trying to emulate the styles of Stephenson and Gibson, but what he doesn’t understand is that their writing was well-crafted and purposefully put together. It wasn’t cobbled together in a fit, even though that’s how it feels when you're reading it. Stephenson and Gibson also rely on readers having a bit of genre knowledge to use as hooks, which Harrison seems to miss out on.

To be honest, this book feels like I’m reading badly written fanfiction for a fandom I’m not familiar with and the author is trying to expand the scope of the medium. And failing badly all the while.

Also, like much of fanfiction, a constant onslaught lot of sex (and masturbation). While I personally think there’s nothing wrong with sex (or masturbation), the number of references feels less sex-positive and more of a hangup. There is more on-page sex in this book than in most erotica I've read. Even grosser, many of the sexualized characters are described in a lusty tone as looking underage. You even have a sex-crazed anorexic named Anna with daddy issues, written with what seems to be a completely straight face...

Much of it reads like someone who was trying to be too hard to be edgy. The book kind of sort of attempts to deal with some real issues, like anorexia, suicide, mental illness, abuse... but it all comes off as glib and just ends up being offensive rather than anything useful. The characters aren’t even caricatures. They’d need more personality for that. Maybe these “issues” were an attempt to make the characters more complex or compelling. If it was, it failed. Like pretty much everything in this book.

The end is also stupid. It's hard not to get deus ex machina in a time travel book, but this wasn't "intricately crafted." It was deus ex machina.

Do not recommend.

1 comment:

  1. Welp, that helps. *strikes that one off the maybe list*