Kirkus Reviews QR Code
SIGNS OF LIFE by M. John Harrison

SIGNS OF LIFE

By M. John Harrison

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-15656-1
Publisher: St. Martin's

 Mainstream contemporary about the sometimes destructive nature of dreams, from the British author of various science-fiction novels (A Storm of Wings, 1980, etc.). Mick ``China'' Rose starts up a medical courier service with associate Choe Ashton, who's given to erratic behavior and gnomic utterances. Their first job is illegally to dump a load of hazardous medical waste. Meanwhile, waitress Isobel Avens, China's live-in lover, dreams, literally, of flying. But as his business expands, Isobel becomes increasingly unhappy, complaining that she can no longer fly in her dreams; soon she leaves China for rich doctor Brian Alexander (one of China's clients) and disappears into Brian's Miami clinic. In a rare moment of candor, Choe tells China about a transcendental experience he once had at beautiful Jumble Wood involving a green-eyed woman; unable either to comprehend or repeat the experience, Choe makes an annual pilgrimage to the spot. Then Isobel phones. Rejected by Brian, she's now almost constantly ill after mysterious--and illegal--treatments in Miami. Slowly, horrifyingly, China watches as the treatments begin to take effect: Isobel grows feathers while her metabolism turns birdlike; but she still can't fly and attempts suicide. China takes her to Brian and demands help. Eventually, Isobel recovers, physically, but she can't, or won't, give up her dream, and China leaves her. Choe, meanwhile, now rich through an association with gangsters, has bought Jumble Wood and turned it into a toxic waste dump. A fascinating and terrible little tale, illuminated from unfamiliar perspectives in a spare and glowing prose.