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Mappa Mundi [Paperback]

Justina Robson
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

12 Oct 2001
An novel of hard SF exploring the nature of identity both inherited and engineered. In the near future, when medical nanotechnology has made it possible to map a model of the living human brain, radical psychologist Natalie Armstrong sees her work suddenly become crucial to a cutting-edge military project for creating comprehensive mind-control. On the other side of the Atlantic, Jude Westhorpe, FBI specialist, is tracking a cold war defector long involved in everything from gene sequencing to mind-mapping. But his investigation has begun to affect matters of national security -- throwing Jude and Natalie together as partners in trouble. Deep trouble from every direction. This fascinating novel explores the nature of humanity in the near future, and how technologies can develop whose power and potential demand that we adapt ourselves to their existence - whatever the price.


Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Tor (12 Oct 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0333754387
  • ISBN-13: 978-0333754382
  • Product Dimensions: 22.4 x 15.2 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,144,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Justina Robson was one of the two first winners of the amazon.co.uk Writer's Bursary in 2000. She has written a variety of Science Fiction and Fantasy novels and has been multiply shortlisted for various international awards including the Arthur C Clarke Award. She has taught creative writing at the Arvon Foundation and will be teaching Clarion West, the SF and Fantasy Masterclass programme in 2013.


Product Description

Amazon Review

Paced like a cheetah and clever as anything, Justina Robson's second novel Mappa Mundi offers us a particularly scary take on the possibilities of technology, on what it is to be, and to remain. Half-Cheyenne FBI man Jude tracks down criminal masterminds who play with genetic perfection; his supposed partner Mary is there to stop him getting too close to those illegal experiments the US government wants to succeed. Disturbed psychologist Natalie is caught up with attempts to re-engineer sanity in human brains, horridly aware of the possibility that this new technology might be misused and anxious about her feckless drug-using flatmate and best friend.

This is a book that endlessly spins off intelligent ideas and keeps its momentum without ever bogging down in dumps of crude information. Justina Robson has a solid sense of where her characters come from, both geographically and emotionally, and even her villainess Mary is credibly motivated in every last shabby thing she does. Mappa Mundi asks some terrifying questions about technology--there are some things that cannot be uninvented, and, invented, are going to be used for good or ill. Justina Robson's first novel Silver Screen demonstrated her skill and intelligence; Mappa Mundi reveals her entire emotional and intellectual maturity. --Roz Kaveney

  • Mappa Mundi is joint winner of the Amazon.co.uk Writers' Bursaries 2000

About the Author

Born and brought up in Leeds, where she still lives, Justina Robson started writing in her teens. Her first novel Silver Screen was published by MacMillan to great critical acclaim.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
The premise of this book - a near-future exploration of the government sponsored development of a technology for mind control - is very promising and I got the sense that the author put a fair amount of research and thought into making it convincing. In the end, though, the author is not entirely successful, either as a gritty, action driven thriller type a la William Gibson (the rather simplistic, somewhat naive ending; convenient deus ex machina abilities for Natalie and Bobby X) or as a more character driven piece (the interestingly ambigious Mary Delany, who we seem to be encouraged to feel some sympathy for as a victim of her own ambition, is summarily converted to a cartoon villain and wiped out; Guskov, the lurking chameleonic menace, in the end does little more than unsuccessfully defend his own ideology and has no noticeable impact on the denouement).

All this is to say that the author chose a huge, complex subject which in the end she was unable to do full justice to: a lot of things are left unresolved, or are not resolved satisfactorily, in spite of the book's length. However, I was much more impressed by this book than some of her more recent novels, which are much lighter in tone and seem to have given up on interesting characters - rare and precious in SF - entirely.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A real treat.... 6 Feb 2006
Format:Paperback
For a second published novel this is a truly exceptional piece of work. The characterisation is hit and miss at times – some seem rounded and relatively consistent, others snapshots with sudden and inexplicable motivations and actions. Where the novel really takes off for me is the beautiful blend of intriguing story-telling combined with intelligent philosophical speculation on a whole range of important and potentially world shattering concepts – from the nature of identity and knowledge to the deepest questions of ontological ’truth’. Of course the science fiction format is perfect for this, but it could be done so much worse than this (and often is). I suppose I have one issue with Justina’s approach (and this applies to other works of hers) – human beings in their fundamental attitudes and activities are somewhat static in her novels – whatever their environment, context, existential condition – they tend to react in the manner of early 21st century Westerners – she does not really touch the question of whether basic characteristics of this era of humanity might not change in very deep ways (something I tend to believe not only likely and possible – but inevitable). Of course an explanation from her on this point could easily be that the characters have to remain broadly recognisable and dealing with the world in familiar ways in order to engage with her work properly – but I still think there’s something missing here. That aside, hers is a much needed blast of femininity in a traditionally male dominated corner of literature. Read more ›
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent thought provoking read 24 Mar 2002
Format:Paperback
Looking for something new to read, I came across Justina Robson's Mappa Mundi. It's intriguing title does not suggest the depth of ideas & concepts she has come up with in this book. I was torn from racing through it, because it's a hard book to put down, and taking my time to savour the story, structure and characters. Here is an author who has the power of her convictions and takes her character (and us) on a journey, which reaches an unexpected, but thought provoking conclusions on the nature of self and identity.
You do get to know Natalie, Jude, Mary and Dan well, all complex, flawed, and very human. Even the secondary characters like Natalie's father and White Horse; Jude's sister are well crafted.
Another aspect I enjoyed about this book was the writing; not too techno heavy, but the writer conveyed the concept of Selfware brilliantly & frighteningly indeed. Although the book is science fiction, the first part of the book it could happily work as just a thriller. There is a level of paranoia that runs nicely through out this book. This mutates into something darker and combined the clever speculative fiction leaves the reader with some profound and disturbing thoughts at the end.
A great read & I look forward to reading her next book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great Sci Fi Book 16 April 2013
Format:Paperback
Have had this kicking around for years, and have finally got around to reading it, and wish I had earlier.

Readly good near future sci fi, looking at a form of mind control, and the battle between the various agencies to control this technology. Has a number of main characters, and various threads that come together in a reasonable dramatic ending, and a good complex plot.
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5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant technothriller 21 Oct 2012
By Liz
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I read this reluctantly - the choice for a reading group I belong to. I love science fiction but am usually bored by cyberpunk so thought I'd hate this. Mean streets and characters with jack plugs in their heads? Not for me.
How wrong I was! This is superb - a thoughtful near future technothriller in which a technique for ultimate mind control is fought for by various state and criminal factions. It's a difficult trick to include a genuinely original SF idea, rounded and engaging characters, a non-stop roller coaster story and a discussion on philosophy of mind but Robson does just that!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Slow Paced and philosophical
The first thing I noticed when reading the book was that Justina Robson must have put a lot of research into the novel as I could imagine that some of the technologies detailed may... Read more
Published on 3 Dec 2011 by Killie
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly Absorbing
Various powers struggle to control a new kind of software that works on the human mind. In the thick of it are two people: Nastasha Armstrong--who has written some of this... Read more
Published on 16 July 2004
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointing
The story takes an emotional tour through two characters lives and then,snaps away at a tangent, with an ending that left this reader feelingblurred. Read more
Published on 27 April 2004
2.0 out of 5 stars The US details in this book just don't stand up
It annoys me when foreigners writing about the US can't get their details right. A quick reading by an American could have picked up on the Anglicisms that slipped into this novel. Read more
Published on 29 Jan 2003
2.0 out of 5 stars The US details in this book just don't stand up
It annoys me when foreigners writing about the US can't get their details right. A quick reading by an American could have picked up on the Anglicisms that slipped into this novel. Read more
Published on 12 Jan 2003
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointing
The story takes an emotional tour through two characters lives and then, snaps away at a tangent, with an ending that left this reader feeling blurred. Read more
Published on 19 Sep 2002 by "prjm"
5.0 out of 5 stars complex, brilliant, and frighteningly possible!
Mappa Mundi is a fascinating read. The characters' lives are rich and tangled. Their relationships with one another sometimes frightening, sometimes heartrending. Read more
Published on 14 Dec 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read with tex that jumps from the page and the future
A futuristic spy book that is a mix of Orwell's 1984 and the paranoid conspiracy theries of the X-files.
Nanotechnology is being used for delicate brain repair. Read more
Published on 21 Nov 2001 by Richard xXx
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