Movie Review Under the Skin

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Rating from TwistedSciFi ★★★☆☆ 

Director: Jonathan Glazer
Starring: Scarlett Johansson

 -“Time is a man, space is a woman, and her masculine portion is Death.” William Blake 

Under the Skin’ is a flawed but audacious adaptation of Michel Faber’s 2000 quirky, semi-satirical novel about an extraterrestrial predator. The movie version, directed and co-written by Jonathan Glazer (previously known for ‘Sexy-Beast’ and ‘Birth’) tells the tale on several levels: on the one hand it is a straightforward psychosexual horror movie in which feckless, lustful youths appear to receive their comeuppance, and it is also a ‘Stranger in a strange land’ story – the fish-out-of-water, the mysterious visitor transplanted out of their comfort zone into a place baffling to them. In terms of narrative and atmosphere, Glazer’s film reminded me most of ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’, Nicholas Roeg’s adaptation of the excellent Walter Tevis novel in which David Bowie plays an alien who crosses the galaxy in search of water only to end up as a failure and an Earthbound alcoholic. Both Bowie’s character ‘Newton’ and Johansson’s ‘Laura’ inhabit a human form by which they eventually become distracted and derailed – the complications and unforeseen reactions of their human bodies, exemplified through interaction, sex and empathy, or lack of it, become contributing factors to their downfall.

However, the notion of alienation in this movie becomes a more complex issue and perhaps a polerizing one. One of Glazer’s achievements here is a disorienting level of discomfort, arising from familiar things being severed from their customary context. He stylishly absorbs the influences of Nicolas Roeg and David Lynch, and further filters them through the stern and dispassionate lens of Kubrick or Tarkovsky. The film becomes a stark parable about gender relations, loneliness, lust, empathy and alienation.

I’m not a great fan of Scarlett Johansson and have never found her to be the most expressive of actresses, but, like Bowie in his movie, an estranged, deadpan, understated approach is perfectly suited to this role. Laura is an alien creature adrift in a beautiful woman’s body, unwittingly learning what that may mean. In an audacious, if not wholly successful move, Johansson’s kerb-crawling expeditions were shot with hidden lenses as she trawls the streets of damp, windly, grimy Glasgow in search of male flesh. A Hollywood A-list starlet in this kind of environment is as much of an alien as any extraterrestrial from an intergalactic spaceship could ever be, and that of course, is the point. Johansson being placed in this context, with lots of hidden-camera shots of real passers-by in real Glasgow streets and Glasgow shopping centres, while she coolly sizes them up for their seduction potential and calorific value, is quite disconcerting. Her dissociated ‘life-form’ observes the earthly life-forms around her, from ants to men and while on the prowl, her expression is imperturbable and her feelings unreadable. From these genuine crowds, professional actors emerge for dialogue scenes, although one can never escape the fact that it is Johansson that dominates the screen.

Glazer’s interest is primarily in Johansson’s face and its striking, incongruous, somewhat amorphous beauty. It is helpfully deconstructed by one of the hitchhikers she picks up: “Your eyes. There’s summat about your eyes – your lips – your black hair.” She assumes a friendly personality, peppered with flattery, when she’s smoothly seducing the startled young men. The men she meets are bored and horny and can’t believe their luck— but if she is bemused by a response or begins to feel something like empathy, she retreats into a near-catatonic state, her eyes like the vast pools of dark oil that appear solid, but where the aroused men will soon disappear, engulfed into a cosmic void. Her alien lures them in with polite, persistent questions, barely pausing to hear the replies. Then she takes them back to ‘her place’ where, undressing, she leads each one into a pool of viscous black fluid where they see the bodies of former victims floating naked in the gloom. It’s never made entirely clear what the purpose of her collection is (although in the book they’re ‘meat’ for the gourmets of another planet).

While the Faber novel takes satirical swipes at a range of human targets, from sexuality to factory farming, and is a reflection on class, humanity, and sexual identity, Glazer and co-writer Walter Campbell create a sparse, slightly surreal fable with a minimum of dialogue, relying on his trademark striking visuals which here serve to juxtapose scenes of fantasy with gritty realism to disorienting effect. It has proved to be polarizing work. On initial viewing the movie was met with negative and positive criticism in fairly equal measure. The dissociation and dissonance is underlined by Mica Levi’s “musical” score — all scraping violins and droning synth jumps and thumps which remain aurally grating.

Metaphors about the male-female dynamic abound throughout – Johannson’s alien ‘Laura’ being both a watcher and predator of men. In the society she enters, and to which she brings nothing besides a body, Laura is a knowing sex-object, in dress and demeanour a kind of sex toy; she might have come to Earth to prove a point about male expectations of women. If ‘Under the Skin’ conveys any gender-political message, it does so through the disparity in excitement between the male characters’ reaction to Laura and that of her response to them and to the camera.

Her beauty is her trap but, inevitably, it also proves to be her undoing. As the Marquis de Sade observed, “We get pleasure from the sacrilege or profanation of objects that expect our worship” – he perceived that a beautiful woman excites reverence in direct proportion to how she also inspires violence – her beauty may be her power, but it is also her peril, and the beautiful woman is often especially punished for her indifference. Just like another ‘girl-next-door’ pretending to understand sex more than she really does, Laura, while aware of her appeal to men, views sexual fulfillment as an abstraction. She attempts to play by the sexual rules she sees operating in the society in which she is placed, seemingly to acquire her own ends, but the rules have their pitfalls and of these she will soon be made aware. When she allows herself to be penetrated by a comforting stranger, her shocked reaction sends her spiraling into confusion not unlike that into which she drops her own victims. She is not of this Earth, but now her alienness is a mark of a more recognizable sense of estrangement. The existentially uprooted Laura finally begins to understand herself in the way she does her victims – as a commodity, and recoils in distress from this knowledge and her newly found sentience which has been set in motion by her sexual initiation and, subsequently solidified by the violence and degradation of a sexual attack. As she comes to better understand ‘the human’, she becomes increasingly vulnerable and terrified as a woman, which I’m guessing is Glazer’s point, rather obliquely made – and that, as the film sadly articulates through its abstract visual language and downbeat ending, is no way for a girl to come to understand her body, regardless of what’s under her skin.

Copyright R.H. Zelen – ©RenZelen 2014 All rights reserved.

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About Reviewer, Ren Zelen
REN ZELEN describes herself as “a writer, academic editor, reviewer, pop culture junkie, movie buff, rock music enthusiast, science nerd and Sandra Bullock lookalike”. Her fiction and past reviews can be found on her own website: Lethal Lexicon.

Her post-apocalyptic science-fiction novel ‘The HATHOR DIARIES’ is available from Amazon in both the UK and USA.

Her book/film/TV reviews can be found on various sites on the web. Information and contact on twitter.

Review of The Circuit: Executor Rising by Rhett Bruno

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Rating from TwistedSciFi ★★★☆☆ 

Set in the far future where Earth is now an uninhabitable wasteland, The Circuit: Executor Rising follows four people who want to defend or destroy (or both) The Kepler Circuit, a system of colonies spread through the local solar system, and its deeply religious government: the New Earth Tribunal. After a series of raids on transports carrying the newly discovered element Gravitum, the Tribunal asks a former Tribune Cassius Vale for help. Vale, unbeknownst to the Tribunal, is the one orchestrating the raids by using his seemingly unstoppable android ADIM to carry them out. This also leads the Tribunal to send the beautiful, but extremely deadly Tribunal Executor Sage Volus to spy on their most hated foe – The Ceresian Pact, who they believe are behind the raids. When Sage arrives on Ceres, she happens to fall upon the dying mercenary Talon Rayne. Sage finds her loyalty and faith to the Tribunal tested tested as Cassius Vale moves to bring down The New Earth Tribunal to its knees.

I have to mention that throughout the novel there were a few mistakes. They were mostly spelling errors which I can forgive. However, in some of the chapters (which are told from different POVs) there are mistakes with characters names, an example when having a POV character meet another character for the first time, their name should not be mentioned until the character has actually said what it is. Also, Talon (who does not know Sage’s true Identity) should not say they’re name nor have it in an inner monologue. It just took me out of the story a little bit and made it look carelessly written. Although even with these mistakes, I continued on with it.

From the first few pages the novel sets quite a dark in tone with descriptions of gruesome murders/killings throughout and uses the common dystopian fiction tropes – oppressed populace, strict governmental regime, rebels, seedy bars, prostitutes, anti-heroes etc… Now I have no problem with these tropes and I think the world of the novel is a interesting, well thought out and I can see what the author’s intent was. However, the dystopian-ness did get a little too on the nose e.g. having a bar where people could do drugs and have sex with the stripping prostitutes in front everyone else. It can become quite clichéd or sometimes ridiculous and I think the lack of subtlety is a bit of a problem. And example, although it is clear to see what they’re overall motivation is, the characters actions can be a bit on the nose. Benjar Vakari acts pleasant, sexually advances himself on Sage, apologises, gets angry – this is all done to make him look a bit of a creep, but it comes off rather like mood swings that swing faster than the speed of light. There’s no flow to his emotions. It needs a subtle build up. There is also a sort of reveal where a character has a previous connection with a dead character, which is never hinted at and looks to just be put there to advance the plot and therefore it doesn’t really work. It’s this lack of subtlety and steady-build up with in the novel’s story.

What is also obvious is that the author plans to write more novels set in this world, which is perfectly fine as I said it’s an interesting world to explore. However, the novel seemed to be setting up for further novels to be written. This again is perfectly fine, but the story suffered from it as it felt rushed in places and things happened to advance to the plot and set up cliff hangers. It needed to be a more fully rounded contained story and not try to be a set up for later novels.

In my opinion, what the novel could have done with is: at least was a polishing over, at most another draft.

All in all, I do think the characters (despite on the nose action and dialogue) and the world of the story is interesting. The novel does have its problems: spelling and wrong name mistakes, the lack of subtlety and it’s events that advance the plot to possibly set up more novels. Having said all this, I will give the author the benefit of the doubt, as it is his first adult SF novel so he can hopefully improve on some of the problems that this book has.

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About the Reviewer: Born in Blackburn Lancashire in the UK, Luke grew up watching the original Star Wars films and found a love for Science Fiction. At the age of 16, while following a career at being a groundsman, he decided to take the idea of being a writer seriously and started reading novels, this is where he discovered the wonderful world of reading, particularly Science Fiction literature. He has studied film making at the University of Wales, Newport and is a big film buff He is a keen writer of Science Fiction and hopes to get his work published soon.

You can keep in touch with Luke at his blog or on Twitter

Review of Starship Grifters by Robert Kroese

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Rating from TwistedSciFi ★★★½☆ 

A space opera adventure with nuggets of comedy, Starship Grifters tells the story of Rex Nihilo, a ‘space-faring ne’er-do-well with more bravado than brains’. After Rex wins a planet in poker game beating (not entirely honestly) a wealthy weapons dealer Gavin Larviton, he finds that the planet is utterly useless and has debt of 1.6 billion credits. Stuck with this debt and fears of a lifetime of torture on the prison world of Gulagatraz, Rex along with his robot assistant, Sasha will do anything and fleece anybody even if it means getting involved in the war between the fascist Malarchian Empire and the rebels of the Frente Repugnante – and even double crossing them both. All while trying avoid a large breasted bounty hunter and space apostles (outer-space Jehovah’s Witnesses) and all with a Martini in Rex’s hand.

The novel is primarily a kind of 1950s Space Opera adventure with comedy peppered throughout it. The entire story is told from point of view of Sasha (a vaguely female looking robot who cannot lie), Rex’s faithful assistant, despite Rex’s incompetence, arrogance and treatment of Sasha as some sort of lackey. What Sasha untimely takes on is straight-man kind of role; someone who is the voice of reason in all the insanity happening around them. It’s very common comedic trope. However, with Sasha because she just faithfully goes a long with Rex, she becomes a little bit of a passive character. She just says “Yes sir” and does what Rex tells her and in order for this to be comedic, I think Sasha could have done with a bit more of a personality. One close example I was remained of was (although it’s a TV show) Zapp Brannigan and Kif Kroker from Futurama. Now I don’t mean that in a bad way at all, I really like Futurama and Zapp and Kif’s situation/relationship is one of its best bits. However every time we see Kif and Zapp; Kif absolutely hates Zapp and hates being around him and that’s what makes it funny. At times it’s just Kif’s reaction to it that get’s the laughs. With Sasha (this maybe down to the fact that she’s a robot) she doesn’t seem to be bothered most of the time. She just accepts Rex’s arrogance and incompetence without so much of a sigh of despair. Once or twice she gets angry, but most of the book it’s all fairly indifference. I know she is a robot, but the some of the most funny and memorable robots have personalities – that’s what brings out the humour.

So I have to ask myself ‘did the novel do the job of making me laugh?’

Now I wouldn’t say it’s up there with what maybe consider as the greats SF comedic novels like: Hitchhikers Guide (there is actual a quick homage to Hitchhikers) or some of Kurt Vonnegut’s novels, but I have to say I did laugh at points. It had some ironic humour/jokes in it, although a lot of the comedy was hit and miss. The tone of the humour at some points seemed to be silly for the sake of being silly and I personally don’t like that. Most of the humour though came from Rex. He is a sort of ironic character; he can be really incompetent yet gets out of situations using only quick thinking. The character is a twist a 1950s brave space adventurers and also a twist on 1970s anti-hero, the sense he’s a loner who is out for himself, but he is the smartest person in the room – or in Rex’s case, arguably the dumbest person in the room. This does create humour, but Rex can get a little bit annoying at times, perhaps because it is told from the point of view from someone else.

In terms of the secondary characters and the world that the novel is set in, I did enjoy the parts with Pepper who I would have liked to be involved a bit more as I found her quite an interesting character, although maybe it is better that she wasn’t used that much. It keeps the mystery about her. The character of Wick was funny and enjoyable as was General Issimo and to a lesser extent Gavin Larviton, I thought the characters were well used in their parts and had a character arc to them. I think the character of Heinous Vlaak could have been less silly, but I think that is what tone the author wanted to get across.

I found to have a good pace and story be well thought out, although the ending revelation I felt was a little bit off tone, as it went from a comedic space opera to a Philip K. Dick like kind of hidden world controlling everything. It just felt it was a bit disjointed and off tone with what had happened previously.

If you’re a hardcore SF reader, it’ll be something that has been done before a little better and maybe find the humour hit and miss. However, despite what problems I have with Starship Grifters, it is fairly short book and I think some people would find it funny.

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About the Reviewer: Born in Blackburn Lancashire in the UK, Luke grew up watching the original Star Wars films and found a love for Science Fiction. At the age of 16, while following a career at being a groundsman, he decided to take the idea of being a writer seriously and started reading novels, this is where he discovered the wonderful world of reading, particularly Science Fiction literature. He has studied film making at the University of Wales, Newport and is a big film buff He is a keen writer of Science Fiction and hopes to get his work published soon.

You can keep in touch with Luke at his blog or on Twitter

Review of An Unproven Concept by James Young

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Rating from TwistedSciFi ★★★★½ 

In An Unproven Concept, the year is 3050 and the Confederation Star Ship Constitution is conducting military exercises under the command of Captain Bolan. The Constitution is a hybrid ship, the brainchild of Fleet Admiral Malinverni who will do everything in his power to make sure it succeeds while other factions will make sure that it fails.

Meanwhile the Spacefaring Ship Titanic under Captain Herrod is one of a dying breed. Technology is making ships faster and cruise ships are slowly becoming a thing of the past. In an attempt to go out with a bang instead of a whimper Captain Herrod is under orders to disobey Section 195 of the Spacefarer’s Code, “A vessel whose primary purpose is the carrying of passengers will be prohibited from entering a system until it is properly named.” Considering that the only alien contact so far is from ruins thousands of years old a lot of factions wish to repeal the code. Captain Herrod is caught between a rock and a hard place and the decision he makes will have cataclysmic results.

I loved this book. The action sequences are of epic proportions. It opens on a bang and just keeps going from there. The sense of foreboding throughout the beginning of the book is so well maintained that I had to read the entire book in one sitting to find out what would happen next. What really made this book good for me were the characters. They weren’t heroes or bigger then Ben Hur they were just ordinary men and women who made choices under the worst kind of conditions. Some of the choices were bad ones and some were good but it was this that made the crews come alive for me and made the book such an exciting read.

I would also recommend Ride of the Late Rain before reading this book though I feel that An Unproven Concept stands up quite neatly on its own.

Click here to see our review of the first book in the Vergassy Chronicles series, Ride of the Late Rain.

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About the Reviewer: Yvonne lives on the NSW/Victorian border in Australia so it is always boiling hot or freezing cold, in other words great reading weather. She reads across all genres with the exception of Westerns. During the day Yvonne works at a library and loves her job and can’t imagine doing anything else.

You can connect with Yvonne on Twitter or Goodreads.

Review of Alien: Out of the Shadows by Tim Lebbon

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Rating from TwistedSciFi ★★½☆☆ 

Out of the Shadows is the story of a group of space miners lead by Chris “Hoop” Hooper who discover the planet they are currently mining contains a nest of Xenomorphs. Just as they make this discovery a shuttle crashes into their spaceship, damaging it beyond repair. The shuttle contains, surprise, surprise, Ellen Ripley, the last survivor of the salvage ship Nostromo. (This unlikely coincidence is later explained and the explanation becomes a sub plot throughout the story). The shuttle survives the collision with minimal damage and can be used for the crew and Ripley to escape and return to Earth. However to do this they need to obtain power packs which are stored in the mine on the planet, hence confronting the aliens in their nest within the mine.

In approaching this novel the author has two major problems to overcome: the novel is set between the events of “Alien” and “Aliens” so anyone familiar with those films can easily guess the outcome of this story, while the Xenomorphs being nothing more than voracious predators and egg laying parasites are one dimensional and quickly become boring in the context of a novel. Tim Lebbon is an author that has written almost thirty novels and many novellas and short stories, yet he fails both of these challenges.  There are no unexpected surprises as the story wends its way to its conclusion; there is no attempt to give the aliens any complexity.  More disappointingly the human players have no depth of character, being mainly fodder for the action. True there is some backstory for Ripley and a little for Hooper, though these threads are surprisingly similar.

Four fifths of the book consists of the crew avoiding or fighting off the aliens with various degrees of success. This concentration on action makes for very boring reading, though, with the right, innovative director the plot could make a good Sci-Fi action movie, and this is, I suspect, where the problem with this novel lies: it is written with one, perhaps both, eyes on being turned into a film script.

In the final fifth the sub story becomes the main plot and the finale concentrates on the human dilemmas created by the preceding events and the book is much improved because of that.  Alien fans will probably enjoy this but there is little of substance for anyone else.

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About the Reviewer:  Bruce Taylor lives in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, England and is married with two grown up daughters. He left school at seventeen, became a computer programmer in 1969 and worked in or around IT until he retired in 2011. He’s an avid reader mostly of Science Fiction.

You can connect with Bruce on Twitter.

Review of Dark Space by Jasper T. Scott

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Rating from TwistedSciFi ★★★★☆ 

-In Dark Space Nobody Knows You Exist

Freelancer and ex-convict Ethan Ortane is in hiding from crime lord Alec Brondi, to whom he owes a considerable amount of money. Brondi lures Ortane out in the open and captures his ship as part payment of his debt. Ortane can pay of the rest by doing one last job for Brondi.

Brondi sends Ortane onto the Valiant, a prime military starship, to sabotage it and bring it down after convincing him that the vessel is bringing danger and further threat of war to Dark Space. Once on the vessel it soon becomes clear that Brondi sent him there on a one way mission.

This is a fantastic fast-paced space adventure from Jasper T. Scott and it makes for an easy and entertaining read. I could imagine a young Harrison Ford in the lead character role.

It has a simplistic, low tech style and doesn’t explore any deep or meaningful themes, which is why I give this book a four star rating as I prefer more complex storylines . So if you’re looking for a quick read that’s not too taxing on the brain cells, this is it.

This is the first book in a trilogy by this young and up-coming author and is already outselling many of the great classics. It’s well worth your time and at only $1.26 (£0.77) in kindle format is also well worth your cash too.

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About the Reviewer
J.M.Tweedie writes Science Fiction and is currently three quarters of the way through her first novel (as yet untitled). When she’s not writing, she can usually be found working hard at her full time day job with the NHS UK, looking after her family or with her head in a good book.
You can find out more about her and sample some of her writing at her website or alternatively follow on Twitter.

Review of Red Rising by Pierce Brown

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Rating from TwistedSciFi ★★★★★ 

-Death isn’t empty like you say it is. Emptiness is life without freedom.

Red Rising is the best book that I’ve read in the last 12 months, and I read quite a bit.

-How clever of them. How much hate they create between people who should be kin.
From a genre classification, Red Rising falls somewhere between Science Fiction and Fantasy. The clips about Red Rising compare it to both Ender’s Game & the Hunger Games, but I also see similarities to Hugh Howey’s Wool, especially at the beginning of Red Rising. As in Howey’s ‘Wool’ universe, the leaders of the society in Red Rising suppress key information about their world in order to manipulate their citizens.

-I’ve been in the mines for three years. You start at 13. Old enough to screw, old enough to crew.
This is a gripping story of Darrow, a boy born to a clan of repressed miners on Mars. Darrow’s miner clan is part of the lowest rung on the societal ladder, the “Reds.”

-Life’s dealt us a hard hand. We’re to sacrifice for the good of men and women we don’t know. We’re to dig to ready Mars for others.
The miners are responsible for mining “helium 3” which will enable the terraforming of the Martian surface. The miners’ lives are lived exclusively underground. In fact, they don’t even have access to view the surface of Mars or the stars.

-When your wife died, she didn’t just give you a vendetta. She gave you her dream. You’re its keeper. Its maker.
The characters are well-developed and credible; you can’t help but feel emotionally connected to their plight as the story unfolds. The story is chock full of moral dilemmas with blurred gray lines that will make you constantly reevaluate “good,” “evil,” “right” and “wrong.”

It’s difficult to discuss too many details without revealing spoilers. In fact, some of the most compelling parts of the story are the countless unanticipated plot twists revealed slowly throughout the course of the book.

This book hits squarely on all bases. I’m stunned that this is Pierce Brown’s debut novel considering the quality of the work. I’ll be the first in line to pre-order the sequel as soon as it’s available for sale.

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Review of Light by M. John Harrison

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Rating from TwistedSciFi ★★★★★ 

– In a universe where there’s only one thing more mysterious than darkness…

It’s difficult to know how to describe this book, let alone pigeon-hole it into any category. Some have described Light – the first novel in M. John Harrison’s Empty Space trilogy – as a work of literary science-fiction, others more a condensed space opera. More recently it has been described as an example of quantum fiction. That is to say, a story that ‘reflects modern experience of the material world and reality as influenced by quantum theory and new principles in quantum physics.’ It is a label that the author seems quite happy with.

The first of three interlocking strands is set in England, 1999, the following two in the post-Earth future of 2400. Pre-millennium, we learn of Michael Kearney – a physicist and serial killer – whose spent all of his adult life running from the Shrander, a mysterious entity complete with a horse’s skull for its head. Michael murders women to keep it at bay but the Shrander’s never satisfied. Involved with his partner, Brian Tate, on a research project that appears ready to break under the weight of its own uncertainty, Kearney keeps running away from the Shrander with his psychologically frail ex-wife, Anna, for company.

Fast-forward to 2400 and Tate-Kearney transformations are used widely for space travel. Human civilisation is smeared across a host of planets surrounding the Kefahuchi Tract, a space-time anomaly described as a ‘naked singularity without an event horizon.’ The K-tract has beguiled every race that has ever encountered it, a phenomenon that takes no notice of conventional physics and where you can expect to find ancient artefacts and alien technology that can’t be understood.

Seria Mau Genlicher pilots her ship, The White Cat, around the K-Tract, the craft bristling with weapons and capabilities beyond most thanks to this abundance of this alien hardware. It’s run by sentient mathematics and algorithms – known as Shadow Operators – that possess a life of their own and which allow Seria to spend much of her time plugged into the ship. She’s just acquired an mysterious artefact that gets the attention of the authorities because it promises the kind of opportunities that humanity has long lusted after.

On the planet below, in the city of New Venusport, ‘twink’ Ed Chianese – a once famous explorer – is washed up and spending his days in a tank playing out clichéd old-Earth scenarios in virtual reality. Ed’s forced back into the real world when his evil debtors come looking for him, chasing his sorry soul into a strange new life as a visionary in the circus. There, he starts a relationship with a genetically modified rickshaw girl by the name of Annie Glyph as he searches for some kind of redemption.

Into this delightfully twisted and surreal pleat of narratives, the reader is left trying to find out how it all might tie together. About halfway through, though, it becomes apparent it probably won’t, at least not conventionally. At best, objects and circumstances mirror over, such as the white cat in Tate’s apartment becoming the name of Seria’s vessel. It is, however, the nature of the Tract, that unites the overriding theme of senselessness throughout.

The pleasure of this novel, then, comes in the craft of its construction. Harrison’s prose is regularly exquisite, operating at a refined level that demands re-reading, sometimes to unpack hidden meaning but often just for the sheer hell of it. Every word is expertly placed and it becomes hard not to wallow in sentences so evocative and poetic, succinct and packed brimming with wonder.

One criticism of the novel concerns a set of characters which are flawed but also rather unpleasant. However, if it becomes hard to develop much in the way of sympathy for the protagonists, the atmosphere is leavened by a shot of dark humour that enhances the sense of anarchy and fun.

The end, as you’d expect from a novel described as the first in a trilogy of quantum fiction, does not end in the traditional sense. By exploring the idea of quantum physics in such a nuanced way, however, Harrison creates a brilliant, vivid and unsettling work that lives long in the memory. It’s the type of book you want to take some time with, because you can’t help feeling it raises the bar – be it for space opera, quantum fiction or anything else – quite considerably.

Have you read Light or any works by M. John Harrison? Please share your comments below, and don’t forget to click on the yellow stars at the top of this post to share your rating (1-5 stars) of Light.

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About Reviewer, Ol Wilson
Born in Kenya but raised in England to British parents, Ol wrote comedy and science fiction as a kid before studying Film & Television at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. Moving back home to Nottingham, he penned film scripts in the evenings whilst working a succession of day jobs. It was during this time that he rekindled his love for science fiction and started reading and writing it as much as he could.

Ol’s published a number of short stories since, both online and on this website. He also writes reviews for Twisted and continues to work on his forthcoming novel, The Iron Gate. He’s just started working as a freelance proofreader and is currently studying for an accreditation in publishing.

He supports Nottingham Forest, has a love of crazy music and lives wherever he can.

You can keep in touch with Ol at his blog, on Twitter, or you can click here to read Ol’s freethree-part Science Fiction short, The Sleeper.