Light by M. John Harrison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Surprising and grand, I'm always thrilled and amazed when I get to read a serious SF about the soft and squishy underbelly of the universe. The world-building and the span of time and the characterizations are tops, too. The writing is actually pretty spiffy, too, with very clever idea-connections between every chapter and deep mirroring going on, not to mention a thousand and a half great SF ideas and themes running around and deepening the tale.
I would never have read this if Gaiman hadn't selected it for our notice, honestly, and that's a real shame because it's pretty damn high in not only literary quality and style, but also all the little things that make up a very memorable tale. Virtual reality, post-cyberpunk, dreams and alternate dimension-spaces, and broken physics. That's some great stuff, let me tell you. It's broken in terms of how certain particular math-branches see it, but each alien race manages to make a full math proof that disproves all the others and yet EVERYTHING works. It reminds me of all the alien races in Brin's Uplift saga with so many ways to break space, including the ones that Believe and then Make. :) Quantum Awesomeness.
Quantum mechanics in SF can be rather streamlined and silly, sometimes, but then we get works like this that don't focus so much on descriptions of how it works or any small engineering applications, but instead become a grand world-building exercise of what happens to so many alien species (and human) when they simply want to know why or what a portion of deep space is doing when it goes very wrong.
The Kefahuchi Tract. How many aliens and now humanity has broken themselves trying to understand what is happening there? Go in, and never come back out. Anything that can be imagined or tried, from super smart races to BDOs have been thrown at it, and every race fails. Humanity is in the process of it's greedy drive to understand and crack open its secrets, too.
We have three characters that run square up against some sort of entity called the Shrander. One is a modern physicist that also happens to be a serial murderer. One is an odd adventurer and virtual slacker from the future, and another is a heavily modded female captain of one of the really *broken* alien physics crafts that travel in 14 dimensions, with four of time, and all of the tales are pretty amazing.
Lots of sex, too. Not gratuitous, but it is part of the theme and it works very well, literarily, into the final message. Things are quite dark, but there is also light. :)
This is a novel that should be very welcome to hardcore Space Opera fans who love Iain M Banks, Reynolds, and some of the wilder and weirder authors of Science Fiction. It's not for the faint of heart, either. It's rich, rich, rich with ideas. :) I can't wait to read the rest of the trilogy, now!
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