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Book review: Equations of life by Simon Morden

I remember going to see Usual Suspects at the cinema. I had no idea of what the film was about before I went in. Looking at the poster, it looked like a poor comedy of some description – a police lineup with 5 misfits staring out at the camera. The only saving grace was that Pete Postlewaite was in it. However, the film was amazing and firmly in my top 10 films of all time. Yet I have often wondered how much of the positive feeling was in part due to the low expectations I went in with. Equations of Life by Simon Morden was a similar experience for me.

Equations of Life book cover

Equations of Life

I should confess before I say any more that I know Simon Morden, the author of Metrozone Trilogy. He’s the bloke I talk to when our kids are at the same youth event. We often have a coffee at the back of church on a Sunday morning. In my world he was in a little box marked `teaching assistant` at the school where two of my boys went when they were younger. There was no room in that box for author of science fiction and cyber punk novels. Until now.

With expectations as low as the Saturday night when I went I first asked the question “So who is Keyser Soze?”, I picked up Equations of Life and quickly became a Morden, Metrozone and Petrovitch fan.

Equations of Life is the first in Simon Morden’s Metrozone trilogy. The novel is set in 2025 and the world as we know it is still reeling from an almost Armageddon some 20 years before. We meet Petrovitch as he enters the world of the Metrozone – a city of 25 million that has fence around it that keeps the Outies at bay. Petrovitch has been hiding in the Metrozone for several years since he freed himself from the Russian mafia in St Petersburg. He has a plan and that plan involves keeping his head down.

Like the best of plans things go badly wrong when he rescues the daughter of a Japanese mafia baron from the clutches of his enemies. Suddenly he is no longer anonymous and enters centre stage of the various tribal battles at the heart of the Metrozones illicit economy. He also becomes a person of interest to the Metrozone police force.

The central character Samueil Petrovitch increasingly becomes a lovable, Russian wideboy as the story develops. He is blessed with foul mouth (always in Russian `chyort!`) and an amazing brain (he works as a researcher at a Metrozone university specialising in developing the unified field theory). Around him an array interesting, damaged charachters enter the scene. Each is neatly penned as the story unfolds.

Metrozone image on Orbit Website

Welcome to the Metrozone - the stark reality of what London has become in 2025 - not quite the 2012 legacy everyone is for....

For me there are always three questions that test whether a book was worth reading. Was the narrative believable and compelling as it unfolds? Did I feel empathy for the main protagonists? Did I actually enjoy reading it? Morden does well on all three counts.

The narrative is fast paced and decisive taking the reader on a complex journey through the under belly of Metrozone life. He works in a few film references from The Untouchables and the Italian Job to show he doesn’t take himself too seriously. There are few “leaps of faith” with each step in the plot following logically from the last. The science fiction element of the book is neatly worked in with ideas like “hat-nav” (personal sat-nav for pedestrinians) just crying out for someone to invent right now!

What about empathy with Petrovitch? At first he seems a just another complex, damaged, selfish “end times” hero. All steel and no heart as he cusses his way around the Metrozone and yet we quickly see a vulnerable man with a brain size of a planet. He has a heart (although not in very good working order!) and cannot help but take decisions that actually reveal his humanity. His snap-decision to help Sonya Oshicora shows that his instinct is to help not harm and as the book develops we are drawn into his mission to make the Metrozone a better place.

So did I enjoy it? Wholeheartedly a big yes. So much so that I immediately ordered books two and three of Metrozone trilogy – the third of which was at the time still to be published.


The low down

Title: Equations of Life
Author: Simon Morden
ISBN: 978-1841499482
Publisher: Orbit
Pages: 346
Published: 7 April 2011
Where can I get it? All good book shops including Amazon

Related books:

Theories of Flight (Metrozone) – second book in the Metrozone Trilogy

Degrees of Freedom (Metrozone) third book in the Metrozone Trilogy