The Centauri Device by M John Harrison

What did I just read? This had flashes of brilliance but I felt like I was on an acid trip while reading it. There are moments when you can feel the great novel clawing through but it is all over the place. It is a dark, bleak novel. There is some hidden meaning behind it all, I can feel it trying to come out at times, but it’s hard to grasp. It feels like the start of an amazing novel but has too many competing themes, and characters.

After five years, he had ended up on Earth, where everybody ends, guarding heavy plant machinery for the Israeli World Government, where he was paid handsomely for every Arab he shot, but not enough – not enough for dirty work.

The author imagines a dark future.

Angina Seng had finally convinced him that when the landed gentry cuts up a seedcake for tea it makes no difference to the cake which of them holds the knife; whoever ‘won’ Earth’s war, it would be the same old crew who stepped up afterwards to hold out their plates.

I read some other reviews of this book and it feels like since this book was published in 1975, the writer was influenced by the cold war a lot.

The ruled never suspected what is being done to them in their own name; how would they dare?

… the Earth-human has no use for thinking except in the service of acquisition. He stands at every gate with one hand held out and the other behind his back, inventing reasons why he should be let in. From that first bunch of bananas, his every sluggish fit or dull fleabite of mental activity has prompted more, more; and his time has been spent for thousands of years in the construction of systems of ideas that will enable him to excuse, rationalize, and moralize the grasping hand.

This is an example of a part where the the writer delves into philosophy.

“…all of us down here are survivors of some personal atrocity, even if it’s only birth. We breathe the dust of tragedy, and you offer us politics”

“Colonel — both of you — we’re sick of ideology. It doesn’t seem to work for us, only for you. You watch us crawl round the world — because there’s nothing else for us to do — and see in us the reflection of a dream that was never worth the words you use to describe it…”

You will probably love or hate this novel if you read it. I don’t hate it but I was expecting more from a novel included in the SF Masterworks series.

Oh and if you’re still interested in reading it, here is the back cover ‘plot’ information:

John Truck was to outward appearances just another lowlife spaceship captain. He peddled drugs when they were available, carried cargo when they weren’t. But he was also the last of the Centaurans - or at least, half of him was - which meant that he was the only person who could operate the Centauri Device, a sentient bomb which might hold the key to settling a vicious space war.

Rating: ★★★

Book #70 in my 202X Reading Challenge

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