Written by: M. John Harrison
Reviewed by: Brad Williamson
Genre: Science-Fiction / Noir
This is only the second M. John Harrison book I’ve read, yet I’ve already bought every novel he’s written that I can find. His stuff is that good. This particular story is the follow-up to Light. Though set in the same world and filled with references and shared aspects, the two novels are very dissimilar in tone and I would hesitate to call this a sequel. Still, it is a shared universe, and reading Light first will make Nova Swing more enjoyable.
It’s difficult to draw parallels to Harrison’s novels, but I would call this one a kindred spirit with Philip K. Dick’s amazing novel, Ubik. It’s also the most noir book I’ve ever read, and is a perfect genre mash-up with the noir tone along with the overt science-fiction themes and ideas.
Despite the relatively short length (it comes in at just over 300 pages) it is not a quick read; each one- or two-page scene feels like an entire chapter, so although there are only 10 identified chapters, there is a great deal of characters, events, and mysteries packed into each. At times it almost reads like a short story compilation within a shared world, but the stories are so tightly connected that the anthology morphs into something new, unrecognizable yet wholly interesting, much like many of the characters in the story.
Everything in the novel connects, all the questions are (mostly) answered, the characters are wonderfully diverse, the prose is direct and powerful yet full of life, the world is intriguing and mysterious but not fully hidden, and the themes are staggering.
This book is everything you could want in a science-fiction novel. Highly recommended.