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The Lost Art Paperback – 3 Jul 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Corgi Childrens (3 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552553573
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552553575
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 764,476 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gateshead-based Dr Simon Morden trained as a planetary geologist, realised he was never going to get into space, and decided to write about it instead. His writing career includes an eclectic mix of short stories, novellas and novels which blend science fiction, fantasy and horror, a five-year stint as an editor for the British Science Fiction Association, a judge for the Arthur C Clarke Awards, and regular speaking engagements at the Greenbelt arts festival.

Simon has written eight novels and novellas. The wonderfully tentacular Another War (2005), was shortlisted for a World Fantasy Award, and 2007 saw the publication of The Lost Art, which was shortlisted for the Catalyst Award. The first three books starring everybody's favourite sweary Russian scientist, Samuil Petrovitch (Equations of Life, Theories of Flight, Degrees of Freedom) were published in three months of each other in 2011, and collectively won the Philip K Dick Award - the fourth Petrovitch, The Curve of the Earth, was published in 2013.

In a departure to the usual high-tech mayhem, 2014 sees the arrival of Arcanum, a massive (and epic) alternate-history fantasy, which not only has flaming letters on the cover, but the story inside is "enthralling", "intelligent", "impeccably rendered" (Kirkus), and "engrossing", "satisfying" and "leaving the reader craving for more (Publishers' Weekly). Which is nice.

Product Description


"Another fat book offering plenty of entertainment" (Independent)

"Morden combines science fiction and fantasy in a novel with a cracking pace that pitches savagery and bigotry against reason" (TES)

"A big book and a big read . . . Action-packed, the plot is revealed gradually, drawing the reader on, with good descriptions of a colourful world" (The School Librarian)

"Highly recommended as a summer read for all sci-fi fans and might inspire the younger ones to ask deeper-probing questions" (

"There is no doubt that this novel is compelling. The various mysteries in the story combine to keep the reader turning the page and the world in which it is set is fascinating" (

Book Description

A stunning slice of future-fiction for the Matrix generation.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By I Read, Therefore I Blog VINE VOICE on 20 Jun. 2010
Format: Hardcover
Centuries in the future, war and human greed have devastated the Earth and reversed its axis. While some fled the ravaged planet in space ships seeking to rebuild civilisation in the stars, many remained to make the best of it. Now Earth is stuck in a perpetual Dark Age. Remnant technology is locked away and viewed with suspicion. Scientific experimentation is discouraged.

Va is a monk and member of a church dedicated to locking away the technological past. When his monastery is sacked, his brothers murdered and a book of forbidden knowledge stolen, he and Elenya (a woman from his past who is hopelessly devoted to him) embark on a quest to get it back. His quest coincides with the arrival of Benzamir Mahmood on the planet who is engaged in a mission of his own. As their quests coincide they discover that power greater than either imagined is about to be unleashed - a power that could devastate the planet again ...

Although Simon Morden's science fiction novel is billed as young adult, there's more here that will appeal to grown up readers. It's a mature tale filled with adult characters (the only teenager is Wahir, a boy who assumes the job of Benzamir's servant) and the storytelling is complex, with key information not really emerging until the final quarter. There's also a certain amount of violence both on and off the page, which may be disturbing to some.

The world-building is convincing and the characters are great. Benzamir is a fascinating character - enthralled by a world he's from but never seen and horrified by the way in which humans have allowed themselves to forget their scientific curiosity.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ed.F TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 22 Sept. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There are some familiar tropes here, the post-apocalyptic setting, the hidden knowledge guarded by orders of Monks, the regression into the pre-rationalist world, the confusion between magic and high technology and the damaged men and women who act to exploit or control the forbidden knowledge. The quality of the writing and the use of an external actor to drive the plot set this aside from other explorations of this familiar tale. The warrior from outside, returning in both wonder at the world and despair for what has been lost and the lack of recovery from disaster makes exploring this irrational world fascinating. As the warrior's capabilities are slowly revealed and the lost knowledge powers its way around the world, corrupting all it touches the narrative never forgets its characters are human, from all levels, and their motivations and desires are all too fallible and recognisable. Highly enjoyable, like all of Simon Morden's writing. Recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Moon Blossom on 19 July 2012
Format: Paperback
I've been wondering where the good sci-fi ideas have gone - it's seems they're in the Young Adult section!

This is the best sci-fi idea I've read for years. Three hundred years in the future, our technology has advanced to a typically futuristic mindboggling level. But then the Earth flips and the sun rises in the west and sets in the east; north is south; technology has gone back into the Dark Ages. What little is known about this lost technology is hidden away by the Church...until a Siberian monastery is slaughtered and the search begins some 700 years later.

The reasons for this slip are never really given and not fully developed by the story doesn't stagnate because of this. It is largely character-driven with intense relationships forming and breaking. Instead of a love triangle, you have a love circle, involving the five main characters. The fifth in the circle is the monk - who loves only God, so the circle is eternal.

Revealing Earth's fantastic past in the 30th century is Benzamir - a character initially so weird and apparently magical that he is almost impossible to fathom. His humour is of the driest sort, making me shout with unexpected laughter. In the end, the future of Earth lies in his and the monk's hands - a monk, by the way, that once lead an army in ferocious battle, leaving him so physically and mentally scarred that forgiveness is impossible.

For the most part, this felt like a mature work to me, though soul-clenching dilemmas are lightly touched upon, never driven home with a stake. It makes a strong point about the4 use of violence to achieve one's aims, not a new idea perhaps, but refreshingly dealt with here by characters you come to love.

I didn't want this book to end and wish there were then more.
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Format: Paperback
This is a really odd, enjoyable but frustrating book. There are things I really liked about it, and other things that annoyed me.

I loved the basic premise, the set up, the history, the world building - all that. It was inventive, fresh, innovative. It felt like something I hadn't read before, and that's rare enough. I liked how it began as a sort of cod-historical fantasy world, but gradually morphed into sci-fi. I liked the protagonist, Benzamir. But the bulk of my issues with the book are with all the other characters.

For a start, it's not apparent that Benzamir *is* the protagonist until several chapters in. We have a strand following Va and Elenya. We have another strand following Akisi. Benzamir is one more story strand - and after a while he becomes the main one. The story begins with Va and Elenya - so I assumed they were the main characters - but then they're not in it again for a long time.

And they are odd. Not in a good way. I didn't find either of them remotely convincing. All of their sections read as though there's a previous book in the series that I haven't read. There is a lot of history between these two, and it is sort of introduced in dribs and drabs, but I didn't feel it was handled very convincingly or satisfyingly. As the book progressed I began to wonder if the author has ever had any relationships with women, or spoken to them at all...

There was a line about half way through which typified this strange attitude. I can't remember the exact phrase, but the sentiment was: she's a princess, and therefore obviously beautiful and desirable. I really tried to look for some context that would make this irony - but I didn't find any.
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