Saturday, February 8, 2020

Spin Control

Chris Moriarty
Completed 2/8/2020, Reviewed 2/8/2020
4 stars

I liked this book without really understanding what was going on.  Like most books in the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction, the concepts usually lose me.  I guess I just don’t have the mind for them.  It’s kind of like being a luddite while working in the computer industry, which I am, and in which I do.  Still, I really liked reading this book.  The prose was terrific.  It was very readable.  My problem though was that the author threw around a ton of jargon that I only partially comprehended.  This is the second book of a series, though it’s not a direct sequel to the first.  Still, I wonder if I would have understood more if I read the first book, or if I would have simply stopped at the first book if it had the same complexity of this one.  I read this because it is on the Worlds Without End LGBTQ Spec. Fic. Resource, having been nominated for a Gaylactic Spectrum Award in 2007.

The plot is very complicated.  I know I only have just a light grasp of it, but here’s the gist of what I gathered.  In the far future, clones, Ais, and some regular humans live on a Ring around the Earth, where technology continues to advance.  They send clones into space to travel to other planets to terraform.  The people who stayed on Earth are mostly religious fanatics still fighting wars over the same old issues as well as for water, the rarest resource on the planet.  As punishment, the civilization on the Ring has a technology embargo on the Earth, keeping them from advancing technologically. 

Arkady is Syndicate clone who has been on a mission to terraform a planet called Novalis.  There he acquired a genetic weapon that could possibly wipe out humanity.  The Syndicate sends him to Earth and Israel is not trying to buy the weapon, but sell it, and Arkady, to the highest bidder.  This weapon, though, has more far-reaching consequences than anyone ever imagined.  Among the bidders are Catherine Li, a former officer for the Peacekeepers, and her lover, Roland Cohen, the longest-lived AI.  They not only share their lives, but their minds, though their relationship is rather rocky.  There are other bidders, and no one is above manipulation and violence to get their hands on Arkady. 

I have to admit that even though I didn’t get the plot, I applaud Moriarty for its complexity.  Normally, I would have been very frustrated with it.  For some reason, I wasn’t.  I was intrigued, though I never really got all the ins and outs of it.  There were times where I didn’t know what I was reading, but it read well, if that makes sense.  And there were an awful lot of characters who I could never tell whether they were good or bad, which I believe was probably the point.  Moral ambiguity to the max.  The only character I really had an understanding of was Arkady.  Being developed and raised by his Syndicate, he didn’t know much about the ways of regular humans.  Often, he was confused about what was going on around him, which I really identified with. 

The world-building was quite tremendous.  I was amazed at Moriarty’s grasp on her creation, that is, a world so far in the future but still has the same old conflicts, particularly, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, religious fanaticism, the dominance of corporations, and the eroding of the US.  This kind of goes hand in hand with my amazement at her prose.  She so expertly described everything in this world that I really felt a part of it, even when the plot was lost on me. 
The book falls in the LGBTQ category because the clones, like Arkady, only partner with other clones from their same Syndicate.  Normally, the clones from the same tank all have the same name.  But Arkady’s clone-mate is named Arkasha, though they are made from the same genetic material.  We know of their relationship because both were sent on the same mission to the planet Novalis.  The format of the book has the chapters alternating between the plot on Earth and the past mission to Novalis where Arkady acquired the weapon.

I give this book four stars out of five because I realize it is a really good, well-developed, and executed book.  Normally, when the plot is so convoluted that I can’t follow it, I give the book two or three stars.  But this time, I knew I was reading something quite amazing, even though I didn’t get it.  So how would I recommend this book?  I’d suggest it for people who are into cyberpunk and/or espionage novels and aren’t afraid of a lot of characters, acronyms and new jargon. 

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