EMPTY SPACE is a space adventure. We begin with the following dream:
An alien research tool the size of a brown dwarf star hangs in the middle of nowhere, as a result of an attempt to place it equidistant from everything else in every possible universe. Somewhere in the fractal labyrinth beneath its surface, a woman lies on an allotropic carbon deck, a white paste of nanomachines oozing from the corner of her mouth. She is neither conscious nor unconscious, dead nor alive. There is something wrong with her cheekbones. At first you think she is changing from one thing into another - perhaps it's a cat, perhaps it's something that only looks like one - then you see that she is actually trying to be both things at once. She is waiting for you, she has been waiting for you for perhaps 10,000 years. She comes from the past, she comes from the future. She is about to speak...
EMPTY SPACE is a sequel to LIGHT and NOVA SWING, three strands presented in alternating chapters which will work their way separately back to this image of frozen transformation.
The third in genre legend Harrison's Kefahuchi Tract sequence, following Light (2002) and Nova Swing (2007), is a self-referential mash-up of comedic horror and space opera caricature. By turns brilliantly satirical, impenetrably dense, and deliberately crude, it alternates between the near future, where twice-widowed Anna Waterman is haunted by memories of her first husband, and a further space-faring future. A policewoman investigates a series of murders while trying on various names for size; the renegade crew of Nova Swing takes aboard dangerous cargo; and a woman appears suspended from a star-sized alien research tool thousands of years old. Deliberately inconsistent, most characters wallow in a state of existential angst and quantum absurdity, eventually coming to imaginatively grisly ends or beginnings, in a universe where sexual tourism powers economies and "stars and galaxies... look almost as remarkable as a new pair of Minnie Sittelman fuck-me pumps." Fans of Harrison's previous works will enjoy this postmodern pastiche, though it could prove excessively opaque to others.