Tuesday, 30 August 2011

'Equations of Life' - Simon Morden

Equations of Life is another book I bought after reading the review by Jared of Pornokitsch. It's the first part in a series of three books all set in the Metrozone, the last city in England. There was an incident with a nuclear bomb, or two. Worth noting about this series, is that they were all published in the scope of three months. I have not even looked at the other two books yet, but part one features Samuil Petrovitch as the hero, a somewhat reluctant one. Against his better judgment he gets involved in a gang war by saving the daughter of one gang leader from the claws of the other. So how can a post graduate student in his early twenties take on gangs and the police? Curious? I know I was and that's why I bought the book to read for my own review.

Petrovitch is a Russian immigrant studying maths in the Metrozone. He wakes up in the morning to the sound of his phone. It's a courier with a package for him, something he has waited for and spent a lot of time and money in acquiring. He meets with the courier in his local greasy-spoon and manages to insult her much to the amusement of the cafe's owner. With his parcel under his arm, he is ejected from the cafe to make space for paying customers. Petrovitch braves the press of bodies on the underground and continues on his way until forced to go on by foot. That’s when he sees her, a woman, no a girl, on her own, cutting boldly through the crowd. She has that look about her that means she should not be alone, but is followed by a retinue of assistants and muscled men wearing shades.

Suddenly he spots the goons coming her way. From experience Petrovitch knows that these men have no friendly intentions. He recognises them too well, kidnappers. He is pushed out of the way and they grab the girl. Then everything goes horribly wrong. Instead of staying down and minding his own business, Petrovitch interferes. Together they flee on foot while the gunmen fire without remorse into the crowd.

This is only the beginning of a roller coaster ride through the Metrozone where Petrovitch is forced to deal with problem after problem. Luckily, he is a lot more resourceful than what you would expect and there is more to him than what first meets the eye. He is a man with secrets.

Equations of Life is a very good example of how to deal with the background information in a story. It's on a need to know basis and then barely that. All we are told is that there was a nuclear strike on the UK 20 years ago by terrorist for whatever misguided reason. London is now called Metrozone and it is still a bustling city with overcrowded public transport. That's pretty much all we need to know. Equations of Life has the least info dumping I've ever come across, which gives Simon Morden plenty of opportunity to move the plot forward at a high speed. Reading this book is like taking a train and watching the scenery through the window, it just flickers past you. There is no time for rest because there is always something going on. Gun fights, speeding trains or nuns with guns.
She was a nun, fully robed, white veil framing her broad, serious face. A silver crucifix dangled around her neck, and a rosary and a holster hung at her waist. She had the biggest automatic pistol Petrovitch had ever seen clasped in her righteous right hand.
Samuil Petrovitch, our protagonist, is a lot of fun as well. A young, intelligent man who like many other young, intelligent men, is quite full of himself. He is arrogant, rude and to make it worse, he is usually right as well. Simon Morden makes his personality work well. While I don’t sympathise with or relate to Petrovitch, he is certainly likeable. He is just too much fun with his grumpy ways. I did, however, find him a little too brilliant to make him fully convincing. He does have it a little to easy at times and people just fall in line behind him. I felt that someone who is much older would not necessarily take orders from a young whipper snapper, no matter how much sense he makes.

One good thing about Petrovitch being as capable as he is, was that Simon Morden could throw challenge after challenge at him. It's not a very predictable story and there was more than one occasion where I had to admit I had no idea what would happen next. There is a lot of stuff going on in Equations of Life, each event more and more remarkable. It's a fine line to balance upon but Simon Morden pulls it off and makes it convincing instead of ridiculous.

This book was pure jet fuel, relentless in its pace and you should strap in tightly before reading. Slick and efficient writing makes it a book well worth reading. Seriously, nuns with guns. If that's not enough to convince you to read it, I'm not sure what will.

Equations of Life weighs in at 400 pages and is published by Orbit Books.

Recommendation: read


  1. "Equations of Life is a very good example of how to deal with the background information in a story. It's on a need to know basis and then barely that." - Yes! Very nicely put... I think the author really nailed world-building through teasing!

  2. Thank you Jared. Have you read the other Metrozone books yet?