Thursday, August 25, 2016

Review of Equations of Life by Simon Morden

For certain there is a core of genre—stories and novels with easily identifiable elements clustered around commonly used tropes and settings, and Simon Morden's Samuil Petrovitch trilogy, led off by the novel Equations of Life (2011), is a prime example. A science fiction thriller, it tells of a smart-talking, brilliant young physicist who accidentally gets in over his head, and soon enough the mob and machine intelligence want it—his head, that is.

A standard story, but one that Morden reveals carefully and assuredly, Equations of Life steadily reveals the “reality” of the novel, even as it becomes more and more distant from ours. One ordinary day, Petrovitch is walking one of London's main squares and happens upon a kidnapping, and, for better or worse, decides to help the victim. Winding up protecting the daughter of a yakuza boss, his reward is soon enough offset by death threats from the Ukrainian mob which was trying to kidnap her, all the while a strange detective starts keeping tabs on his personal life. Experimental technology floating in the laboratories of the yakuza's massive corporation, strange messages begin to appear on Petrovitch's mobile, and it isn't long before his understanding of the world gets spun upside down, all the while various groups try to cut short his time on it.

In the end, Equations of Life is straight-forward, thriller sf. Starting out recognizable near-future London, it quickly goes world takeover (yeah... world takeover). It's the nerdy Russian cousin of James Bond with a sharp rather than suave tongue, however. There is a robocalypse, and the hero gets the girl—a .44 Magnum toting nun, as it were. While I personally lose interest in stories that move from the mundane to wildly implausible, they do seem to capture the the imagination of a lot of mainstream sf readers, and for that the novel would come recommended to that audience.

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