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NOVA SWING by M. John Harrison

NOVA SWING

By M. John Harrison

Pub Date: Oct. 2nd, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-553-38501-4
Publisher: Spectra/Bantam

Not a sequel to, rather a consequence of, Harrison's eerie space opera, Light (2004).

When a piece of the mysterious alien Kefahuchi Tract crashed into the city Saudade, it created a weird event site to which people are drawn in the hope of gaining a glimpse of realities beyond human comprehension. Those that enter the site are changed, contaminated or absorbed by the strangeness inside. Some never come out at all. Others merely want to have sex within sight of it. Meanwhile, things emerge too: “cats,” who later return as mysteriously as they came; “people,” who sing and dance and attempt to have sex only to fade and vanish; or metamorphosing objects such as that retrieved by “entradista” Vic Serotonin. Ineffectually patrolling the borderlands are the Site Crime police, led by Albert Einstein look-alike detective Lens Aschemann, whose need to understand his dead wife transforms into an obsession with the site itself. Vic sells his artifact to gangster Paulie DeRaad, unaware that it’s contaminated by malignant code. Some of the emerging “people” persist and take on human qualities; Elizabeth Kielar, Vic’s current client, may be one of these, as Aschemann’s late wife also may have been. Other folk, like burned-out ex-starship pilot Fat Antoyne and bar owner Liv Hula, avoid the trap the site represents and content themselves with contemplating the rain, the cats and the behavior of those around them. There are consequences for all the characters, and eventually the novel—so dense, demanding and intelligent that it reads as if it were four times the length—insinuates them.

A cross between J. G. Ballard’s intense, static The Drowned World and Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s terrifying Roadside Picnic. The upshot: This science-fiction noir cum literary and social criticism is memorable, perplexing and challenging in equal measure.