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VERDICT Skillingstead re-creates the atmosphere of old-style Vonnegut and the ingenuity of Philip K. Dick in a tale that holds its greatest appeal for readers who enjoy contemplating eternal truths in fictional form."
"When Jack Skillingstead turns to the novel in Harbinger, he mingles elements of the genres we tend to call SF and mainstream so fluently it's clear they're all parts of a single language: one that subverts cliche and probes under the surface to find both humanity and "singularity" in everything from family traumas to a far future of artificial reality and long-distance space travel....Some SF writers give their futures (both earthly and off-planet) a sense of life as we live it, with its moments of confusion, tedium, effort that's more gradual and tentative than heroic or desperate, and the whole spectrum of human frailties. In Harbinger, Skillingstead takes his reluctantly remarkable protagonist from Earth to space, from awkward youth in the past to survival in a post-human yet unidealized future, until the entire concept of time becomes meaningless. Could everything be simultaneous? Once we have lived long enough with Ellis Herrick, even that freaky concept starts to make sense."
"Readers familiar with Skillingstead’s short fiction will bring with them to this novel high expectations regarding the quality of the prose. Good; let them schlep these expectations into suitcases as massive as they want, and let them hoist carry-on’s too -– there is room and skill in Harbinger’s prose to accommodate them all. It is lean and adroit, sardonic and heartfelt; a refined product. The excision of technical blemishes makes the revelations of its very blemished characters all the more poignant. Descriptive economy is one of the narrative’s strengths...Harbinger is short by contemporary genre standards, just about 250 pages, but it’s long in texture and it unpacks greater emotional complexity than most trilogies...Perhaps the central complication of this novel lies in its expectation that the reader feel at home when he is anywhere but -– the assumption of comfort in strange places. I believe SF affords the opportunity for that paradoxical mode of deciphering meaning in our lives through the proximity of the distant, and vice versa. We could certainly use more novels like the one at hand to propel our own “consciousness evolution” as readers. It’s only slightly hyperbolic to claim that what Hemingway did for bull-fighting, Skillingstead is doing for SF tropes. He makes them truer than they have been by showing that they were false. Harbinger makes SF “conceits” like immortality and the search for self authentic and painful -- tools of trauma and rarefied beauty. Skillingstead’s protagonists, Ellis Herrick perhaps more than any other, seem to spend most of their lives in the tercio de muerte of a corrida, entering the ring of their experiences alone save for a muleta of disarming, almost lunatic charm and a sword of honesty that cuts inwards as often as it swings out. Skillingstead is the matador of our field."
—The New York Review of Science Fiction
"In a day when too many science fiction novels are all about the sizzle, with no steak underneath, HARBINGER is that rarest of commodities--a character-based novel built on real science fictional principles, and daring to flirt with an edge of spirituality. Beautifully written and thoroughly thought out. This is a great read."
-Louise Marley, author of Mozart's Blood
"The way Skillingstead maximizes his story's emotional impact is very impressive."
"Harbinger is like like reading classic Vonnegut or Dick, but with an emotional punch that is uniquely Skillingstead."
-Daryl Gregory, author of Spoonbenders
"Shines a floodlight into the writhing hollows of the human condition."
-Ted Kosmatka, author of The Flickermen
"Takes the reader on a acid-induced trip through a place where the many-worlds theory and quantum entanglement collide with new age mysticism at the edge of the world."
-Brenda Cooper, author of Edge Of Dark
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