Monday, 22 August 2011

Thoughts on Equations of Life

A few months ago someone said to me (and I’m paraphrasing) ‘I’m not really sure it’s your sort of thing’, with regards to Douglas Huilick’s Among Thieves. As it turns out, that was a fair assumption. However, it got me to thinking ‘Well, what is my ‘thing’?

I’m have what marketers would call brand loyalty; I find an author I like and I stick with them, often fanatically. David Eddings, James Herbert and Terry Brooks were my ‘go-to guys’ when I was young. Whereas more recently, authors like Iain M. Banks, Steph Swainston, Richard Morgan, Neil Gaiman, Chris Wooding, Joe Abercrombie, Jon Courtenay Grimwood and China Miéville all appear frequently on my Amazon Wishlist. However, you’ll notice the second list doesn't have a strong thematic theme. So, what is my thing?

Recently I met James Long from Orbit Books for lunch. Like any good Geeks with a Friday afternoon to kill, we found ourselves in Forbidden Planet. That’s when James suggested Simon Morden’s Equations of Life, which is very much ‘my thing’.

As a massive fan of Richard Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs novels and as someone who routinely suggests Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s Ashraf Bey novels to anyone that will listen; it would seem to follow that I like Neo-Noir tales, or flat out Cyberpunk stories.

Equations of Life is a fun, fast and slick read. Morden carefully sets his protagonist, Petrovitch, on something of a redemption kick early on in the novel. This is just as well, as Petrovitch goes out of his way to be anything from frosty to outright hostile to just about everyone he encounters. It’s this redemption arc that leads Petrovitch not just into doing the right thing in the short term; but leading him to be a very unlikely hero in a sprawling sequence of events.

Petrovitch’s world is the London Metrozone, which exists in the shadow of a post-Nuclear war world. It’s a dark world, bitterly poor, often bleak but not without the signs of re-building and certain amount of status quo being maintained. Petrovitch himself is a physics student, albeit one with a past that is painstakingly concealed.

The inclusion of Russian mobsters and Yakuza feels a little lazy at first. However these are quickly fleshed out and add to the twisting plot that turns the pages of Equations of Life quickly. Morden also drops in more than a few film nods and quotes, this can date a book to my mind, but seeing as the films he references are geek classics he gets away with it. With two more Petrovitch novels already on bookshelves, and likelihood of a fourth; there’s plenty of material here for the Simon Morden convert.
Which I am.

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