10 Most Crucial British Science Fiction Novels 9

Light

By M John Harrison
2002

Back in 1975, M John Harrison’s The Centauri Device was first published. A bleak tale of a mysterious alien weapon, it would prove a key influence on both the new space opera authors and the generation that followed on – Grimwood, Robson, Miéville and Reynolds.

Harrison himself, though, seemed at times positively disinterested in science fiction in subsequent years. Instead, the former literary editor of New Worlds, the New Wave’s house magazine, wrote criticism, earthbound fiction and even a series of animal fantasies, scribbled as Gabriel King in conjunction with Jane Johnson.

His return to hard SF, when it came, was a triumph. A multi-layered tale of three narratives that encompasses quantum theory, a scarily sympathetic serial killer, far-future vistas and pop culture references, Light is austere and bleak yet utterly compelling. More than this, it’s a novel that distils the essence of the best late 20th-century science fiction and thus sets the standard for the century to come. It’s extraordinary whichever way you look at it.

If you like this, why not try?
Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds (200)
Because its deep space gothic vibe is the missing link between Harrison’s space operas and China Miéville.

Click here to go to the next book