REVIEW: “The Causeway” by M. John Harrison

Review of M. John Harrison, “The Causeway”, in Settling the World: Selected Stories 1970-2020, with a foreword by Jennifer Hodgson (Comma Press, 2020): 109-121 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the Review of the anthology.

What a strange story. I’m finding that a lot of Harrison’s stories are told at a curious level of remove whereby it’s almost as if the reader is expected to be close enough to already know a bunch of the background details, but in fact is far enough away that none of these gaps are ever filled in. Done poorly, this sort of gappiness can be extremely frustrating. But while this story was one where when I went back and reread the beginning after I’d reached the end and went “oh! I get it a bit more, now”, I didn’t have any of the usual frustration. Instead, as with many other stories in this volume, I found myself reading this with my writer’s brain whirring in the background, watching every step and every move to learn by observation of a master.

(First published in New Worlds Quarterly, 1971).