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M. John Harrison

M. John Harrison(1945- )
Michael John Harrison, known primarily by his pen name M. John Harrison, is an English author and critic. His work includes the Viriconium sequence of novels and short stories, (1982), Climbers (1989), and the Kefahuchi Tract series which begins with Light (2002). He currently resides in London. Learn more about his work at M. John Harrison’s website.

Viriconium

Viriconium — (1971-1984) The third book, The Floating Gods, was also released as In Viriconium. Publisher: In the distant future, a medieval system rises from the ruins of a technology that destroyed itself. Armored knights ride their horses across dunes of rust, battling for the honor of the Queen. But the knights find more to menace them than mere swords and lances. A brave quest leads them face to face with the awesome power of a complex, lethal technology that has been erased from the face of the Earth — but lives on, underground.

Individual books:                                                                                                  Omnibus:
M. John Harrison Viriconium 1. The Pastel City (1971) 2. A Storm of Wings (1980) 3. The Floating Gods (1982) In Viriconium 4. Viriconium Nights (1984)M. John Harrison Viriconium 1. The Pastel City (1971) 2. A Storm of Wings (1980) 3. The Floating Gods (1982) In Viriconium 4. Viriconium Nights (1984)M. John Harrison Viriconium 1. The Pastel City (1971) 2. A Storm of Wings (1980) 3. The Floating Gods (1982) In Viriconium 4. Viriconium Nights (1984)M. John Harrison Viriconium 1. The Pastel City (1971) 2. A Storm of Wings (1980) 3. The Floating Gods (1982) In Viriconium 4. Viriconium Nights (1984)    M. John Harrison omnibus review 1. The Pastel City 2. A Storm of Wings 3. In Viriconium 4. Viriconium Nights

The Pastel City: Viriconium is now on audio

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The Pastel City by M. John Harrison

Viriconium sits on the ruins of an ancient civilization that nobody remembers. The society that was technologically advanced enough to create crystal airships and lethal energy weapons is dead. These Afternoon Cultures depleted the world’s metal ores, leaving mounds of inscrutable rusted infrastructure with only a few odds and ends that still work. The current citizens of Viriconium are baffled by what they’ve dug up, but they have no idea what any of it is for.

tegeus-Cromis, “who fancies himself a better poet than swordsman,” used to be Viriconium’s best fighter until he left the Pastel City after King Methven died. But Viriconium is now under threat — young Queen Jane, Methven’s daughter, is about to lose the empire to her evil cousin. Queen Jane needs the help of the men who once served her father so faithfully, so she sends tegeus-Cr... Read More

A Storm of Wings: Strange, outlandish, blurry

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A Storm of Wings by M. John Harrison

A Storm of Wings is the second part of M. John Harrison’s VIRICONIUM sequence. Viriconium has been at peace for eighty years after the threat from the north was eliminated, but now there are new threats to the city. Something has detached from the moon and fallen to earth. A huge insect head has been discovered in one of the towns of the Reborn. The Reborn are starting to go mad. Also, a new rapidly growing cult is teaching that there is no objective reality. Are the strange events linked with the cult’s nihilistic philosophy? And what will this do to Viriconium’s peace? Tomb the dwarf and Cellur the Birdlord, whom we met in The Pastel City, set out to discover the truth.

A Storm of Wings was published in 1980 — nine years after The Paste... Read More

The Floating Gods: My favorite Viriconium book

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The Floating Gods (aka In Viriconium in the UK) by M. John Harrison

In this third volume of the VIRICONIUM omnibus, we visit the old artists’ quarter of Viriconium — a lazy decaying place where gardens bloom and the smell of black currant gin exudes from the taverns where the increasingly lackadaisical citizens used to sit and talk about art and philosophy. This part of the city used to be vibrant and innovative, but it has been deteriorating as a psychological plague has been creeping in from the high city. The artists’ patrons, infected by this plague of mediocrity, have become dreamy and only want to purchase uninspired sentimental watercolor landscapes. And all they want to talk about is the debauched antics of the Barley Brothers, a couple of twins who act like buffoons but are rumored to be demi-gods.

Ashlyme is a renowned artist who... Read More

Viriconium Nights: I will remember Viriconium

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Viriconium Nights by M. John Harrison

I was in Viriconium once. I was a much younger woman then. What a place that is for lovers! The Locust Winter carpets its streets with broken insects; at the corners they sweep them into strange-smelling drifts which glow for the space of a morning like heaps of gold before they fade away.

Viriconium Nights is the last book in M. John Harrison’s VIRICONIUM epic. It’s a collection of these seven short stories set in and around the city of Viriconium:

“The Lamia and Lord Cromis” — tegeus-Cromis, a dwarf, and a man named Dissolution Kahn travel to a poisonous bog to destroy a dangerous Lamia.
 “Viriconium Knights” — Ignace Retz, a young swordsman and treasure seeker, discovers an old man who has a tapestry which shows Retz at different times in Viriconium’s hi... Read More

The Kefahuchi Tract

The Kefahuchi Tract — (2002-2012) Publisher: In M. John Harrison’s dangerously illuminating novel, three quantum outlaws face a universe of their own creation, a universe where you make up the rules as you go along and break them just as fast, where there’s only one thing more mysterious than darkness. In contemporary London, Michael Kearney is a serial killer on the run from the entity that drives him to kill. He is seeking escape in a future that doesn’t yet exist — a quantum world that he and his physicist partner hope to access through a breach of time and space itself. In this future, Seria Mau Genlicher has already sacrificed her body to merge into the systems of her starship, the White Cat. But the “inhuman” K-ship captain has gone rogue, pirating the galaxy while playing cat and mouse with the authorities who made her what she is. In this future, Ed Chianese, a drifter and adventurer, has ridden dynaflow ships, run old alien mazes, surfed stellar envelopes. He “went deep” — and lived to tell about it. Once crazy for life, he’s now just a twink on New Venusport, addicted to the bizarre alternate realities found in the tanks — and in debt to all the wrong people. Haunting them all through this maze of menace and mystery is the shadowy presence of the Shrander — and three enigmatic clues left on the barren surface of an asteroid under an ocean of light known as the Kefahuchi Tract: a deserted spaceship, a pair of bone dice, and a human skeleton.

M. John Harrison LightM. John Harrison 1. Light 2. Nova Swing 3. M. John Harrison Light 2. Nova Swing 3. Empty Space

Light: I feel drained

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Light by M. John Harrison

Michael Kearney is a physicist. He’s also a serial killer. Obsessed with numbers and patterns since he was three, he sees something behind them. Something is there, something dark and ominous that starts to emerge sometimes. He calls it the Shrander and the only way to hold it back is to kill someone. Trying to appease the Shrander, Michael uses Tarot cards and a special pair of bone dice to try to figure out what he’s supposed to do next. He’s also teamed up with a colleague named Brian Tate to study the relationship between mathematics and prophecy.

Three hundred years later, explorers are using the “Tate-Kearney transformations” to navigate the space phenomenon they call the Kefahuchi (K) Tract where ancient alien races have left artifacts from their advanced civilizations. One of these explorers is Seria Mau, who was molested by her father and esca... Read More

The Centauri Device: A simple story deliciously told

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The Centauri Device by M. John Harrison

M. John Harrison’s 1975 The Centauri Device is a rare beast in science fiction. Short (200 pages), prosaic (the language is at most times brilliant), and with literary aims, it is sure to draw the disapproval of any genre fans expecting the easy-to-digest hero’s story typical of space opera. Harrison’s offering to the sci-fi world is instead one for connoisseurs who appreciate well-written stories with a driving — though it at times seeming fantastical and obtuse — purpose.

The Centauri Device is on the surface a rather simplistic story. John Truck, belying his name, is an average Joe living the life of a loser space trucker, hauling freight, legitimate and otherwise, planet to planet whenever contracts arise. He lives on Earth while the universe around him is at war. On one side are the IWG, a Jewish pro... Read More

The New Weird: As terrifying as Kafka on LSD

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The New Weird by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

It’s easy to imagine two different readers reacting in opposite ways to The New Weird. One might find it delightfully odd; the other might find it as terrifying as Kafka on LSD. And a third might find it delightfully odd because it’s as terrifying as Kafka on LSD. Certainly, no one is likely to find it boring.

The New Weird is a well-organized anthology, with a short, useful introduction; a section entitled “Stimuli,” containing older selections (though not very old; the oldest piece, by Michael Moorcock, has an original copyright date of 1979, while the Thomas Ligotti selection was published only in 1997); “... Read More

The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories

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The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

I haven’t actually read every page of The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, yet I’m giving it my highest recommendation. Edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, Master and Mistress of Weird, The Weird is 1126 pages long and should really be considered a textbook of weird fiction. It contains 110 carefully chosen stories spanning more than 100 years of weird fiction. Here’s what you can expect to find in this massive volume:

A “Forweird” by Michael Moorcock gives us a brief history of the weird tale, discusses how it has defied publishers’ attempts to categorize it into neatly-bordered genres, and gives examples of writers who are revered by modern reade... Read More

More books by M. John Harrison

M. John HarrisonThe Commited Men — (1971) Publisher: First published in 1971, this novel is about a future Britain devastated by mounting radiation levels.


M. John HarrisonClimbers — (1989) Publisher: Retreating from his failed marriage to Pauline, Mike leaves London for the Yorkshire moors, where he meets Normal and his entourage, busy pursuing their own dreams of escape. Travelling from crag to crag throughout the country, they are searching for the unattainable: the perfect climb. Through rock-climbing, Mike discovers an intensity of experience — a wash of pain, fear and excitement — that obliterates the rest of his world. Increasingly addicted to the adrenalin, folklore and camaraderie of the sport, he finds, for a time, a genuine escape. But it is gained at a price…This dark, witty and poetic novel is full of the rugged beauty of nature, of the human drive to test oneself against extremes, and of the elation such escape can bring.


M. John HarrisonThe Course of the Heart — (1990) Publisher: John M. Harrison delivers an extraordinary, genre-bending novel that weaves together mythology, sexuality, and the troubled past and present of Eastern Europe. It begins on a hot May night, when three Cambridge students carry out a ritualistic act that changes their lives. Years later, none of the participants can remember what exactly transpired; but their clouded memories can’t rid them of an overwhelming sense of dread. Pam Stuyvesant is an epileptic haunted by strange sensual visions. Her husband Lucas believes that a dwarfish creature is stalking him. Self-styled Sorcerer Yaxley becomes obsessed with a terrifyingly transcendent reality. The seemingly least effected participant in the ritual (who is haunted by the smell of roses) attempts to help his friends escape the torment that has engulfed their lives.M. John Harrison


Signs of Life — (1997) Publisher: An unusual story of love finds drifter Mick Rose, who works in a shady waste-disposal job, at a friend’s wedding, falling head over heels for a younger woman who dreams of flying.”

Story Collections by M. John Harrison

M. John Harrison Story CollectionM. John Harrison Story CollectionM. John Harrison Story CollectionM. John Harrison Story Collection

 

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