March 2, 2012


by Simon Morden
346pages, Cyberpunk Orbit Books

Review by Marc Nash

I bought this on the strength of the title and what turned out to be a misleading product description blurb on Amazon which led me to believe this was a physics/maths version of Luke Rehinhart's "The Dice Man", where solving equations replaces rolling a dice for taking decisions or maybe forecasting outcomes. But for all that, it's still a reasonably fair cyber romp, even though this isn't my normal sort of thing.

The title does allude to unified force theory in physics, and indeed this is just one of many, many ideas the author throws into this melting pot, not of all of which sticks. The writing style is unremarkable in terms of its language, but it does keep the action bubbling along through Morden's neat trick not to dwell or bask in his own fecundity of ideas. And this quantum duality, of good thing twinned with reciprocal lesser aspect pervades the whole novel, I feel.

For example, the main character Petrovitch is a delicious construct of cynicism, secrecy, vulnerability (as he is paralysed by the various women drawn to him), and he swears a lot in Russian. All very engaging. He also has a heart condition and suffers several attacks which should actually close him down for good during various deeds that are themselves death-defying in the extremes of physical exertion demanded. So all the psychological good work is undone by this huge slice of incredulity.

Some of the language is really flat and lifeless, "The American had entered his very own Heart of Darkness", which is a shame because some of the apocalyptic descriptions of a city undergoing calamity is really rather good. The plot has some neat creative surges and the dystopia is established with great economy. Post nuclear Armageddon, in which countries like Japan and coastal Britain have disappeared under floodwaters, the remaining cities have themselves become melting pots with refugees. London is one such, now called the Metrozone. Petrovitch is himself a refugee from an irradiated Russia and has created a whole new identity for himself to hide behind. But Metrozone is being fought over by immigrant organised crime lords from Japan and Russia, while America revisits its post-Civil War Reconstructionist ethos and seeks to remodel what's left of the world in its own image. Morden has clearly done his history reading and knows enough about science, having been an actual rocket scientist in real life. But again there is an element of throwing everything on to the page and seeing what sticks. And Petrovitch seems to be too much of a deus ex machina in his own right. He just seems in possession of too much knowledge at times, including making a significant contribution to unifying the forces and solving the equation of life.

I enjoyed Equations of Life, but would I pursue the others in the series? I doubt it. Although the teaser for book 2 in the back of this edition made me wobble. Watch this space?

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