25 Years of Spectra: LIGHT (2004) by M. John Harrison


I remember being handed M. John Harrison’s Light by former Spectra editor Juliet Ulman with the caveat: “People either really love this book or people either really hate this book.”
I didn’t know her well enough at the time, but there was almost certainly a little look in her eyes that said “You’re going to hate it–your move!”
Strangely, though, I didn’t hate it. In fact, I was intrigued by it. I’m not a hard SF guy by any stretch of the imagination, and Light is certainly hard SF. It’s a challenging book, and something probably more literary than I was used to. M. John Harrison brought a weird poetry to a genre that I though I knew, and I couldn’t help thinking to myself Juliet’s wrong–I don’t hate it or love it, but I do love the fact that I’ve said I read it. Because, like all good books, it’s a novel that you can’t help want to talk about. And, because of that, it’s a novel you find hard putting down.
She and my other boss, Anne, may not have realized it, but I definitely called in sick one nice spring morning to be able to go sit in Tompkins Square Park and read Light. When I was finished, I knew I had made the right choice.
Is the book for everyone? Of course not–for the most part, I think Juliet’s assessment is accurate. But for those who do love it, they’re going to really love it, and even those who don’t won’t be able to stop thinking about it.
For me, it’s books like this which make me happy to work at Spectra. This was clearly a chance we took–a book we were pretty sure wouldn’t be an overnight commercial success, but a book that would endure through the years. This was something that Juliet did so well at Spectra–pushing the envelop, and, I won’t lie–it’s one of the many reasons I miss working for her.

–DP, June 2010

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