Saturday, 18 April 2009

On: "Nova Swing" by John M Harrison

Generally I don't regret having done something I didn't enjoy, once, because it's a new experience and should help set the things I do like in context. But having been somewhat disappointed by the vague way Light imitated having a plot, I perhaps shouldn't have been so hopeful that the 'sequel' would shed more light on this universe; because it really doesn't! It is only a sequel in the loosest sense. There's a couple of arbitrary references to characters from the previous book, and the entire story is sat in one of Harrison's generic, pseudo Film Noir cities composed primarily of Lycra clad, horse-sized girls, called “Annie”, pulling rickshaws.

More plot is available from the back cover description, than on the pages within. It is ostentatiously busy being Avant-garde surrealism. And while this seems to have convinced a number of critics that it's clever, I found it to be a puzzle with no solution: a contrived nonsense. 

Apparently, Lisa Tuttle (THE TIMES) praises it as having “...well observed descriptions of the real world.” But the characters are only 2D snapshots of personality, each offering no more depth than could be gleaned from a single, evocative, monochrome photograph. Certainly, everyday existence can often seem impenetrably pointless, but real people and places don't fit exclusively into a dozen templates (which he mostly established in the previous book). And again he presents physical ultra-impossibilities, with the Detective's Assistant running back and forth invisibly fast, purely by means of her genetic modification.

Maybe his description of agoraphobics (for example) is spot on, and I'm just too naïve to appreciate it. Maybe I'm so hopelessly caught up with the drum beat of our progressive reality that I miss the entire point of this piece. Or perhaps it is just stupid.

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