Short-listed for the World Fantasy Award and a finalist for the Catalyst Award, bona fide rocket scientist Simon Morden has won a considerable fan base for his mind-bending brand of SF. The first in a planned trilogy, Equations of Life stars Samuil Petrovitch, a survivor of the nuclear fallout in a futuristic St. Petersburg. He’s lived as long as he has by following a few simple rules. But when he breaks one of those rules by rescuing the daughter of perhaps the most dangerous man in London, he finds himself beset by Russian mobsters, the Yakuza, and something called the New Machine Jihad.
©2011 Simon Morden (P)2011 Recorded Books, LLC
This is an overly ambitious attempt at a post-apocalyptic tale, set in England after some sort of nuclear catastrophe has destroyed Japan and devastated Russia. The US appears to have devolved to some sort of religious fundamentalism. China and the rest of Europe are not mentioned. Our hero, Sam, is a theoretical physics grad student with a sinister past. In a rash decision, he foils a kidnapping of the daughter of a crime boss.
After this display of heroism, a cavalcade of bizarre events and strange people ensue, all revolving around Sam. Among the various players: a nun as a hired gun, an AI, a clueless American programmer who manages to take over a local gang, Russian mobsters, a prophet who speaks to a machine god via a cellphone, and a Japanese crime boss trying to create a virtual Japan. As the whole place spins out of control with certain destruction due to an entity known as machine jihad, Sam appears to be the only person who gets the big picture and can deal with each random character he encounters.
At the same time, Sam happens upon what appears to be equations for the theory of everything (the classic "formula" that drives many bad spy movies which everyone is trying to retrieve before falling into the wrong hands). The equation's relevance to the rest of the story is dubious and is relegated to a closing remark in passing (because all Japanese crime bosses are physics aficionados) . In addition, exactly how a 25 year old who spent most of his youth as a Russian mobster would be able to do this is never made clear. Sam also has a bad heart that conveniently behaves until it causes problems for dramatic effect.
There are multiple inconsistencies throughout the story that leave the listener wondering. The origin of the prophet is never clear, nor why his followers behave like zombies. Exactly why the AI is creating havoc within the city is obvious, but why the virtual system administrator not know this is difficult to understand (AI thinks its "dreaming," really?). There appears to be only one functioning cop in the entire city and he's there to give Sam a hard time. There doesn't seem to be anyone in the entire city who is not with the Russian or Japanese mobs, or involved with local gangs or become zombified, except for the university which has somehow managed to remain an oasis of tranquility.
A trivial man
A quick listen.I was hoping for a little more science, but overall the book was a great story with interesting characters. When looked at sideways, the story may appear to be a retelling of Shakespeare's Tempest, or perhaps more appropriately, a re-imagining of a certain 1956 movie that was a re-imagining of the Tempest. The narration was great, very easy on the ears for this American listener. I look forward to the next book in the series.
I read a hard copy version of the book and excited to see that an audiobook version is available. It took some patience but worth it to enjoy the book again from a different (audio) viewpoint.In the un-dated future a worldwide catastrophe (which is not explained in the book) has transformed London (and presumably other places) into a crowded city of refugees. Simon Petrovitch is a Russian refugee with a past. While he just wants to blend into the crowd he surprises himself by acting when he witnesses a kidnapping in progress. That one event triggers a whole sequence of events while he tries to extricate himself from crime lords, an interfering police detective, an angry priest, a nun bodyguard, and the birth of an artificial intelligence (AI) which takes control of the city.
The pacing was slow and it felt like he was reading each sentence like a paragraph. Since I was already a fan of Simon Morden's work I was patient and eventually Mr. Moore's reading began to slowly flow into a rhythm.
It was a book I wanted to read in one sitting but not listen to since the performance took a while to become comfortable.
While some people may not like the performance, the book series (3 books) is well worth reading.
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