SCI FICTION, January 26, 2005

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"A Man of Light" by Jeffrey Ford

Image This week's SCI FICTION offering, novelette "A Man of Light" by Jeffrey Ford, is elegant, filled with lyrical prose that resonates from the first sentence.  It begins quietly, with great dignity, and then gently slithers its way into your subconscious, leaving behind an India-ink blot of the heebie-jeebies in your mind (centered, perhaps, at your sixth chakra, right between the eyes).

August Fell is a reporter on a hallowed mission to interview the elusive and solitary Larchcroft, the "Man of Light," so named because of his wizardry with the element of illusion—mirrors, candles, luminescence.  Larchcroft is famous for his ability to mold light—"from sunlight to starlight, firefly to flame"—to his will, bending and sculpting it to perform feats as lofty as making a full-sized bank appear to float, and as adroit as making antiquated grandmothers look young and lissome.

But more than a mere prestidigitator, Larchcroft is a truth-seeker, a scholar on the nature of light as a sentient entity.  He believes in the will of light, both the external variety of suns and candles detected by our eyes, and the inner sort that originates from within our minds.  As part of his quest, he undergoes a surgical procedure, trepanning—having a hole drilled in his head—to free his inner light, and so grows to understand the truth, that darkness is also a participant in the universal design.

And that's when it gets really disturbing.

"A Man of Light" is a marvelous ovation to the question of reality versus perception.  It is reflective (pardon the pun), and immersive, with beautifully crafted prose.  It also left me sleeping with the lights on.

Highly recommended.