(I know there could be some mistakes in this review. I’m trying to improve my English, thanks)
(También puedes leer esta reseña en castellano aquí)
I liked it, but I don't know why. Maybe if I write a review I will put my thoughts in order. And -maybe- I could explain this to the kind readers of the blog.
Recently I read a conversation about literary and not literary authors in science fiction. M John Harrison undoubtedly belongs to the first group. His science fiction is... hard? I don't think so, but the scientific basis seems solid. Space opera? But he is at light years away from the other authors I know (except, perhaps, the missed Iain Banks). Weird science fiction? Actually the question does not matter: I think this is a good thing that the author is unclassifiable.
I must explain, this is the third novel on a trilogy. The first one is Light (2003), and I agree with one review that says Light is brilliant. About Nova Swing (2007), I confess that I hardly finished the book. So when I tried to read Empty Space: A Haunting (2012) I did with a different attitude: in a less rational way and more about enjoying the reading. And it worked... more or less. Yes, it was a pleasure to read the embellished prose by M. John Harrison but... well, a terrible reading too.
Thanks to my Kindle and his invaluable dictionary (if you read in other languages you must try the Word Wise function as a shortcut for the meanings), but in this case the English language was the easiest of my problems. Frequently I had to use the function Search in this book, looking for words or acronyms, details, meanings or clues, or anything that I could have missed on previous chapters which don't let me understand completely what I was reading. As I said M. John Harrison's works are not an easy experience to the readers. Most au contraire, I think he frequently tries to mislead you.
Plot & characters: In our XXI century, Anna Waterman is an absent-minded and depressed woman in her late fifties who ignores how she can get over with her disastrous marriage with Michael Kearney (a dead character from Light, his mad studies conducted to the discovery of FTL travel). Meanwhile, in a far future, in a very distant place, the assistant knows nothing about herself: she ignores who tailored her granting her incredible skills -such a 27 to 40 GHz radar- and also a total sense of anomie such so that she does not have a name (the author spares some pages explaining all the names the assistant considers). And in the same future, Fat Antoyne, Liv Hula and Irene The Mona, the crew of the K-Ship Nova Swing, have the mystifying mission to collect the spooky alien objects known as mortsafes.
M. John Harrison uses the language, plays with it and forces its meanings in a way that suggests astonishing alien wonders. And also the dialogues are exquisite. I think that the author, before immersing us in this weird universe, knows very well how to describe human nature. He is like the artist who is able to paint a perfect portrait or landscape, but he wants to paint abstract works: he is a genius and he can do anything he desires. The feeling is about a lot of details that only a second or a third lecture will discover. I realize how Mr. Harrison has to be a person so terribly intelligent (and how much I envy him!).
However, I do not want to transmit the feeling that Empty Space: A Haunting is a masterwork. In my opinion it is not a perfect novel, and in the third novel I begin to see some tricks by the author.
So, it is worth the effort? Yes, if you like literature. Yes, if you like to find astonishing sense of wonder moments, but as a science fiction reader I do not know yet if this is a cosmic joke or simply if M. John Harrison is laughing of us.
To a better understanding of the entire trilogy, I must re-read Light (if I have the time). And also I must re-read Nova Swing (a hard work!). And yes, I must re-read this one. But it happens that we (me) are captivated by the novelties and forget to take delight in good literature like M. John Harrison's books (Mr. Harrison: apologies in advance if you ever read this!)
Really I don't know if I should recommend this trilogy, but we can make a deal: if you have not done yet, I highly recommend you Light, which continues being one of my preferred science fiction novels, and the rest is at your risk.