M. John Harrison 2018. The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again. London: Gollancz. 254 pp.

Subversive, disturbing, mysterious fiction, a re-imagining of SF. Perhaps some sort of hybrid of Patrick White and Kurt Vonnegut, with more than a touch of the Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Turns the squalor of cheap inner London and desolate country into a horror landscape of undercurrents from which various aquatic forms slowly and fleetingly emerge, or are alluded to: by turn mysteriously slimy, embryonic, proto-human. Meanings are ambiguous but in one sense the undercurrents which intrude are perhaps the qualities, or capabilities, that the two characters (Shaw and Victoria) are missing in their lives and relationship. The dialogue of Shaw and Victoria, and of others, is always terse, almost mute, somehow both acute and obscure. I was uncertain for much of the novel if the author could bring the depressing and ambiguous threads into some sort of confluence (clearly no resolution was on offer). But the end did achieve a power and satisfaction of sorts, despite or because of the ambiguity. A serious literary achievement.

If one were to dare criticism, Harrison’s sentences are so good they are almost a distraction. Are they his deliberate and personal smoke-screen?

Super to find the similarly mysterious Dendrogramma makes a cameo appearance! Though only a bit-player it nevertheless forms a strangely appropriate part of the subliminal science wordscape. Along with genetics, Denisovans, geology and simlar recurrent references.

Wonderful to find my high expectations (based on some early reviews) to be far exceeded for once, so much so I struggle to recall any novel post- Patrick White that is as impressive. I already anticipate the pleasure of re-reading this, but first to find some earlier M. John Harrison works.