Curve Of The Earth book review

I’m a little too busy with other projects to post anything new, so here’s a recent book review I wrote for the British Science Fiction Association magazine, VECTOR.

Simon Morden – The Curve Of The Earth

Orbit, 2013

Paperback, 400pp


ISBN 978-0316220064

Genius scientists should swear more, don’t you think?  Shed that nerdy image so they appear a whole lot bigger and cleverer?  Dr Samuil Petrovitch, hero of Simon Morden’s latest Metrozone novel, The Curve of the Earth, could easily teach them how.  He swears in Russian most of the time, but Russian swearing is easy to pick up.  Petrovitch also has cybernetic implants to make both himself and his swearing stronger, faster and better; his best friend is a powerful artificial intelligence called Michael, and, perhaps best of all, he’s the leading light of the Metrozone – a revolutionary techno-punk state recently voted Public Enemy #1 by an increasingly totalitarian United States.

Curve Of The EarthPetrovich is also the adopted father of Lucy, a similarly smart (but better mannered) young lady who has disappeared while in Alaska, undertaking some innocuous study of the aurorae there.  Alaska being a U.S. territory, our hero’s visit to find his daughter is seen by many as a long-awaited opportunity for some payback; after all, this is the man who forced the resignation of the previous US President.  Even Petrovitch’s own people in the Metrozone are concerned about his visit, but no one tells the world-famous inventor of anti-gravity that he can’t take his unique brand of troubleshooting to the world’s last remaining superpower.

So, our hero is granted a diplomatic visa and, as a bonus, gets a former high school football star turned FBI agent to escort him.  Petrovich being Petrovich, the pizdets quickly hits the fan, and Lucy’s disappearance is soon found to be anything but a conventional scientist-lost-in-the-wilderness missing persons’ case.  Why are the American authorities so unwilling to help find Lucy?  What really happened in Alaska?  And why are the Chinese so eager to find out?

Where The Curve of the Earth has the most fun is in showing our nerdy hero’s outsmarting of the strait-laced American mudaks who delight in putting obstacles between the man and his daughter.  Petrovich isn’t the most sympathetic of characters: he bitches, he moans, and sometimes he physically hurts people, but if you’ve read any of Simon Morden’s previous Metrozone books you’ll already know that his (artificial) heart is in the right place, and only those who deserve it get hurt.  And be assured, they will get hurt by our alpha scientist – big and tough enough that he doesn’t have to put up with fools, liars, hypocrites, fundamentalists killers and other huys (this Russian swearing is great – there’s never been so much bad language in a single issue of Vector!)  The good guys here might not be perfect, but thanks to their bad-ass science they get to have a lot more fun than the bad guys.

But issues of bigness and cleverness aside, The Curve of the Earth is a darkly entertaining look at the early days of a better nation, revealing how nerds might slowly but surely inherit the earth, by pitting the brains and equality of the plucky Metrozone against the brawn and intransigence of an America taken over by god and jocks.

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