Equations of Life Mass Market Paperback – Apr 1 2011
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"Focused, fun, tale of heroes and gangster villains with a huge SF heart...only the start to something bigger―Gav Reads
About the Author
Dr. Simon Morden holds degrees in geology and planetary geophysics. He was born in Gateshead, England and now resides in Worthing, England. Find out more about Simon Morden atwww.simonmorden.com.
Top Customer Reviews
* well-developed and sympathetic characters--characters as diverse as cops and crime lords have believable motivations
* fast-paced and exciting
* memorable setting--a post-apocalyptic/distopian London has been imagined before, of course, but Simon Morden does it in a fresh and skillful manner
* humourous allusions are sprinkled in
* neat speculation on political and scientific developments in an admittedly-grim imagined future
* I found that the amount of abuse Samuil Petrovich's body took required a bit too much suspension of disbelief
* in many of the dialogues, it wasn't always clear who was talking
* it was difficult to keep track of all the neighbourhoods and how they were located relative to each other--at least for those of us on this side of the pond; it would be helpful to have a map of the Metrozone included in future novels/editions or as a supplementary feature online
Finally, I'll say that this novel is a good fit in the cyberpunk genre and should appeal to fans of similar works.
And one little thing: I've never seen the word "Okay" capitalized (consistently) in the middle of a sentence. Is this a convention I don't know about? Even if so, I found it distracting in an otherwise well-edited novel.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I have to admit that I found the book less than appealing. At times it seemed to be just one big chase scene, which works much better in the movies. I could see this book as a graphic novel or a short story, but the author never really explained enough about the world to capture my attention for a full length book.
Equations of Life tells a fun story that obviously isn't meant to be taken seriously (that, at least, is the inference I draw from the armed nun and wisecracking antihero). We learn little about the supporting characters, but Morden infuses Petrovich with enough personality to make him interesting. The characters have appeared in earlier stories that Morden set in the same post-Armageddon future; I haven't read them so I don't know whether they give the supporting characters more context. Exactly what happened to cause the Armageddon is also unrevealed in the novel; perhaps those facts are made known in the stories or in the remaining books in the trilogy.
While the narrative has the feel of a novel hastily written (the word "literary" will never be used in its description), the story roars along with such speed that Morden's stylistic lapses are easily overlooked. Sometimes the plot is a bit over-the-top (an easily won battle against a horde of zombie-like bums is the novel's epitome of silliness) and it never feels entirely original; bits and pieces seem cobbled together from stories already told. Yet Morden reassembles the familiar into something unique and surprising (although the ending is a bit predictable). On the whole, Equations of Life is a satisfying novel that left me sufficiently interested in Petrovich to make me want to read the next installment.
Enter our antihero Samuil Petrovitch, a Russian expatriate mathematics student with a weak heart and a dodgy past. Petrovitch's number one rule is to keep his head down, and he breaks his rule when he steps in to save a girl who is being kidnapped. Suddenly he finds himself the center of attention, right in between the Ukrainians who are angry that he stopped the kidnapping, the Japanese mobster/tycoon father of the girl he saved, and Chain, the dogged policeman who hates the Yakuza. Petrovitch does his best to extract himself from the situation, but his efforts only get him in deeper and deeper. Soon he is battling something called the New Machine Jihad which has the power to control computers and thus buildings, cars, surveillance cameras, communications, etc. However, all is not lost because along the way he meets Madeleine, a tough, sexy, pistol-packing nun who helps him deal with the craziness around him. Adding to the tension is the fact that his artificial heart is on the fritz and needs immediate replacement. He desperately needs to get to the hospital, but is too busy saving the Metrozone.
Petrovitch is a sarcastic, entertaining, and endearingly weak protagonist. He has the previously mentioned bad heart, wears glasses, is nerdy and out of shape. But he is a survivor, and this gives him the edge (well, yes, having Madeleine on his side does sway the odds a bit too -- she is fully capable of lifting him over walls, carrying him over her shoulder, and patching up his wounds). Petrovitch starts the story by insulting an acquaintance, and explains "I've got trust issues, so I don't do the people stuff very well."; but he finishes the story with some close friends who would risk their lives for him.
A great, action-filled plot, a novel and interesting setting, and great characters make this book a success. I will be reading the other books in the series. Right away.
It's a book that is certainly not short of action. We are not told what the Armageddon event was, although aspects of it are hinted at. Perhaps that will become explained later in the series. What we do know is that it has wiped out Japan, and one of the first victims of the event in London appears to have been the Congestion Charge as it is now a heaving metropolis with gridlock traffic (although this and the masses of people seem to mysteriously evaporate as the story unfolds).
Petrovitch is an entertaining and endearingly horrible central character. He's brilliant, he's self-centred and he has a nice line in sarcastic put downs. He also has a dodgy heart - so perhaps not the greatest person to pin the hopes of the future on. He also has a rich line in swearing - although this is always in Russian. To start with, this is amusing but soon begins to become a little annoying and a bit childish. In saying that though, it's a book that reads much like the storyboard for an action packed software game rather than a book or a movie and so perhaps that young, probably male, teen to adult market is where this book best fits in and therefore perhaps the toning down of the language is to be admired.
The future London is depicted as in the grip of competing gangs of gangsters - the efficient Japanese, the rather seedier Russians and the urban ghetto poor gang based on the Paradise housing estates. Somewhere in the middle is the almost equally corrupt and morally bankrupt police, represented by the bumbling Harry Chain. When Petrovitch breaks his golden rule of not getting involved by rescuing the daughter of the head of the Japanese syndicate from being kidnapped by the Russian gang, he sets off a chain of rapidly unfolding events that drives the plot of the book. Fortunately Petrovitch benefits from the protection of a two metre tall warrior nun (it's best not to ask, I think).
I'm not going to tell you any more about the plot as that is the essence of the book. And there's no doubt that it rattles along and keeps you turning the pages to see how the plot is going to work itself out and to enjoy more of Petrovitch's cynical put downs.
Ultimately though I found it all a bit lightweight. Fortunes swing this way and that but it all gets a bit repetitive as the action ramps up. There are some genuinely interesting ideas, particularly in a virtual reality world, but I never got the sense that it was in a richly imagined world. The ideas seem more plonked into our world as if some things have advanced but others not and there's a lack of explanation of the underpinning ideas. Perhaps these are explained more in future books. Let's hope so.
I'm not the most easily offended of readers, but there are several aspects of this book that I found, at best, in bad taste and, at worst, somewhat offensive in being used to generate action that isn't particularly central to the plot development. At one point there's a train crash reminiscent of a tragic case in the UK a few years ago, and another 9/11 style drone-flying-into-high-rise-building event. And in a world where there is no mention of Arab or Islamic influence, why is the machine uprising referred to as a Jihad? It struck me as gratuitously sensationalist and in questionable taste.
But for all these issues, I won't deny that Petrovitch is an entertaining central character and it may well appeal to a young adult market keen for a high octant, action-packed, cyberpunk romp.