Feb 08 2007


Published by at 9:21 pm under Books

M. John Harrison

This book popped into my purview a few weeks ago and I decided to read it without much investigation. Somewhere, I read a positive assessment and then discovered it was available at the local branch library. I walked over and picked it up in anticipation of needing a book for a trip. The blurbs in the front and back covers refer to it as a ‘space opera’. That was a new category for me so I looked at Wikipedia which has a good description of that genre (though Harrison is an early practitioner of the “new” Space Opera sub-genre). In general, if you think of “Star Wars” and you’ll be in the same fiction galaxy as space operas.

However unlike Star Wars, this tale is not a pitched battle between good and evil. It does range far and wide over an imagined galaxy inhabited by humans and several other types of beings. The background is an ongoing war between humans and another race, but that war is just background. The store consists of the intertwined telling of three tales. Two are contemporaneous but the third occurred about 400 years earlier. The tales relate to three protagonists; a hotshot space ship pilot, a young ‘girl’ that has been melded into a super sophisticated space ship and functions as its captain, and a twentieth century physicist who is apparently involved in building some sort of quantum device (probably a computer?). Good tales with good writing well mixed and then drawn together at the conclusion.

In addition to the background war, a super evolved understanding of currently perceived ‘weirdness’ of quantum physics pervades the story.

Coincidentally an idea similar to “uplift” in David Brin’s series of books that I’ve been working through is also involved in this tale. Not so similar that the idea seems borrowed or copied, however. In this version, humanity has a special role among the alien species, and one hardly discussed species is involved in spawning the uplift of humans.

So I call it a strange but pleasant story and aspects of it have kept returning to mind. A good sign

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