Signs of Life

Overview

From the realm where modern technology meets modern fiction comes this novel of a woman who yearns to fly and a man who can't keep his feet on the ground. Mick "China" Rose runs a fast courier service for the genetics industry with his buddy Choe Ashton. They get paid well and don't ask questions. When Mick meets beautiful Isobel Avens, his junior by two decades, the connection is immediate - she thinks him a pilot and she wants to fly. Her aspirations of flight cross with his down-to-earth pragmatism to create a...
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Overview

From the realm where modern technology meets modern fiction comes this novel of a woman who yearns to fly and a man who can't keep his feet on the ground. Mick "China" Rose runs a fast courier service for the genetics industry with his buddy Choe Ashton. They get paid well and don't ask questions. When Mick meets beautiful Isobel Avens, his junior by two decades, the connection is immediate - she thinks him a pilot and she wants to fly. Her aspirations of flight cross with his down-to-earth pragmatism to create a beautiful, heartrending tale of a future that is nearly upon us and of dreams that will always be distant.
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Editorial Reviews

A Guran
In Signs of Life, M. John Harrison reveals with images rather than with plot as he tells his story in a gradual, dramatic fashion, more theatrical than literary. It is only in retrospect that the story fully achieves its chilling impact and one realizes Harrison has devised a dark morality play for a new century.

Mick "China" Rose and his partner Choe Ashton deliver and sometimes dispose of things -- fast and without questions -- for the European genetics industry. Choe is an erratic and endearing sociopath. Mick, a world-weary fifty, meets Isobel Avens, a young woman half his age who dreams of flying and falls in love with her. As Mick and Choe deal with the practicalities of business and life, Isobel begins to lose her dreams. She leaves Mick for one of his clients -- a wealthy Miami doctor -- then returns, sick and weak from mysterious treatments the doctor has administered.

Isobel has been transformed and destroyed by both her dreams and near-future alchemy: DNA cut-and-splice has given her a birdlike metabolism and feathers. But she will never actually fly. Her needs, dreams, and incomplete transformation are as toxic as the waste Mick and Choe pollute with. In Harrison's world choices have consequences and the symbolic becomes real. The the world is filled with the poisoned detritus of infectious rubbish and its inhabitants refuse to accept moral responsibility for their own actions, let alone that of others.

"Some events [writes Harrison toward the end of Signs of Life] take language away from you. The pieces of the world settle into a shape that won't be said. It is a kind of vertigo, the endless panic bubbles up but it doesn't seem to show."

Harrison, however, never loses his exquisite gift of language as he shapes his world. It is not until the end of Signs of Life that you comprehend the horror of the story and realize how unforgettable and unsettling an experience it has been.
darkecho.com

Kirkus Reviews
Mainstream contemporary about the sometimes destructive nature of dreams, from the British author of various science-fiction novels (A Storm of Wings, 1980, etc.).

Mick "China" Rose starts up a medical courier service with associate Choe Ashton, who's given to erratic behavior and gnomic utterances. Their first job is illegally to dump a load of hazardous medical waste. Meanwhile, waitress Isobel Avens, China's live-in lover, dreams, literally, of flying. But as his business expands, Isobel becomes increasingly unhappy, complaining that she can no longer fly in her dreams; soon she leaves China for rich doctor Brian Alexander (one of China's clients) and disappears into Brian's Miami clinic. In a rare moment of candor, Choe tells China about a transcendental experience he once had at beautiful Jumble Wood involving a green-eyed woman; unable either to comprehend or repeat the experience, Choe makes an annual pilgrimage to the spot. Then Isobel phones. Rejected by Brian, she's now almost constantly ill after mysterious—and illegal—treatments in Miami. Slowly, horrifyingly, China watches as the treatments begin to take effect: Isobel grows feathers while her metabolism turns birdlike; but she still can't fly and attempts suicide. China takes her to Brian and demands help. Eventually, Isobel recovers, physically, but she can't, or won't, give up her dream, and China leaves her. Choe, meanwhile, now rich through an association with gangsters, has bought Jumble Wood and turned it into a toxic waste dump.

A fascinating and terrible little tale, illuminated from unfamiliar perspectives in a spare and glowing prose.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312156565
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 2/29/2000
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 255
  • Product dimensions: 5.78 (w) x 8.55 (h) x 0.95 (d)

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