Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Space Opera Bar Just Went Up

"Beneath the pocked and gouged surface, choked with God knew how many million years of dust, lay what came to be called the Pearlant Labyrinth.

"Two generations of entradistas hacked their way in. That was a story in itself. Lost expeditions, weird fevers, death. Every side-tunnel full of ancient machinery incubating an acute sense of injustice. They contended with fungus spores, cave-ins, passages flooded by non-Abelian fluids at room temperature. They were driven mad by the feelings of being observed. Worse, the labyrinth, clearly some kind of experiment in itself, had been constructed with such exquisite fractality that the term 'centre' could only ever be a distraction. The experimental space,through which temporal anomalies ticked and flared in direct response to events deep inside the Tract ('As if,' someone said, 'it was built to tell the time in there'), would always contain more distance than its outer surface permitted. Eventually a team of maze-runners from FUGA-Orthogen - an EMC subsidiary specializing in nuclear explosives, capitalised out of New Venusport on the sale of mining machinery somewhat older than the labyrinth itself-hacked its way into the vast, ill-defined chamber which would come to be known as the Old Control Room. Their shadows scattered, jittery and spooked, across its perfectly flat allotropic carbon deck. They gathered at a respectable distance. They cracked their helmets and let fall their thermobaric power tools. They admired the fluttering opalescence of the Aleph where it lay suspended in its cradle of magnetic fields. They knew they had struck it rich."

M John Harrison, big Warhammer Fantasy influence, author of Viriconium--the absolute best Weird and D&Dable City novel/short story collection (only it knows which it is) of all time, and, (note, Redditors) avid rock climber, has just written and released something called Empty Space, and after about a dozen slow pages, it is shaping up to be the best postrational sci fi novel of all time. At the very least since William Burroughs died.

And it has a dungeon in it.

No, you don't have to read the other books before it to get it. Or at least: it won't help. It is definitely in a class by itself.


  1. I re-read Light and Nova Swing not too long ago in anticipation of this novel, but I still have yet to buy it (I'm hoping Spectrum is going to release it in the states) . I like you say about Viriconium and it makes me remember a long thread on ENworld about how M. John Harrison can go fuck himself because he said something along the lines of "World Building is complete bullshit and a waste of time". I fucking love that guy.

    1. Well he said something more complicated along the lines of: the way you build a world is by paying attention to how a reader experiences it in a story and worry about that.

      But ENworld, like most forums, is usually a hive of gibbering morons trying to outdo each other in the reduction-to-boringness sweepstakes.

    2. Not sure if this is what they were talking about on ENworld, but it is always worth reading:

    3. Good. And definitely way too subtle a point for the droolers

    4. Good is right. It's almost so obvious it doesn't need saying. But if it is said, those so-called gibbering morons and droolers might mull it over, see the new subtlety and gibber and drool less. The fact MJH does say it suggests he understands that - it's a good reason to take the time after all - and that in itself could be a new subtlety to see. Good and honest, and maybe smart.

  2. I disagree only because I assert: Gene Wolfe. Not to the diminishment of one but rather the exaltation of the other.

  3. Weird. I ordered Empty Space mere seconds before heading over here this morning...

  4. oh man oh man...'light' was mindblowing and 'nova swing' mocks me from the to-read shelf. ever read 'the course of the heart'? nowhere near as immediately compelling as 'light' but what a goddamn showcase. not many have MJH's pure skill.

    looking forward to this.