RED Book 18: Equations of Life – Simon Morden

Another long gap. Naughty me. Oh well.

Equations of Life was the May book for the Ship of Fools book group. Its author is an SoF regular and I had actually gotten the book a while ago with the intent of reading it at some point, partly because it sounded interesting in its own right, but also because I was curious what he was like as an author[*].

This book is set in an expanded London (“the Metrozone”) of the future, about 20 years after a series of terrorist attacks where nuclear weapons were used.  It follows Samuil Petrovich, a young Russian physics genius with a somewhat dubious past who’s now living and studying in the Metrozone. One day he helps foil a kidnapping attempt and the fallout from this incident sets in chain the events of the rest of the book. And it’s a wild ride, there’s gun-toting nuns, rival urban gangs, virtual reality, AI-controlled giant machines, a zombie-like army of street people and just for good measure, the equations that may well be the basis of a Theory of Everything – and which do, of course, give the book its title.

I definitely enjoyed this book but as usual with me, it’s easier to articulate what I didn’t like. I kept feeling that Samuil was written older than he actually is. He’s also annoying as he’s pretty much universally competent, whether it’s squaring up to gang bosses or solving intractable physics problems. His only real flaw appears to be a physical one, a heart condition, which itself is always conveniently dangerous whilst never actually stopping him from doing anything the plot requires.

Another minor irritation – and this may just be me – was that he swears in Russian. Frequently and in many different ways. At least I think most of it was swearing. I wasn’t going to stop to look it up every time. I know it’s authentic, but it felt like the author constantly reminding me that this character was Russian.

I did like the fact that plot whizzes along and quite a lot of stuff happens, like a good thriller, and a lot of it is inventive and interesting (though be warned some of it is dark and icky). The pictures conjured up in my head of some of the scenes toward the end in particular were very effective.

I also like the romantic sub-plot, mostly because I’m a sucker for that kind of thing.

There’s another two books in the series, soon to be three I understand, and whilst I’m not raring to read them, maybe when my TBR is low enough, or I’m just in the mood for a rompy-scifi-thriller.

7/10 – an inventive, wild ride of book.

[*]Let’s face it – with the availability of so much fiction these days, there has to be something beyond simply “sounds interesting”. It has to be “sounds interesting” and “I like the author”, or “sounds interesting” and “comes recommended from trusted source”



About shuggie

My name is Shuggie, Paul or LatePaul depending on where you know me from. I work in computers (databases) and occasionally write about softw
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