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VINE VOICEon 1 May 2011
Pandering to my weakness for instant gratification and by the magic of Kindle and One-Click, Amazon has already sent me the sequel to 'Equations of Life'.

The story so far: In book one, Petrovic arrives (name probably altered to protect the guilty).
He is a cyberpunk living in a post apocalyptic London from Russia on a student visa. He is a genius, but also verging on the psychopathic. Did I mention that his heart is shot and he suffers periodic cardiac arrests? A single act of kindness results in making enemies of the Yakusa, the Russian Mafia, the police, the Church and the local militia. A thrill-a-minute, page-turning tale follows in which, pausing only to discover the Theory of Everything, he manages to defeat, elude or make friends with his enemies. What more can fate hold?

Book two certainly manages to avoid the usual trouble with trilogies with the pace sagging in the middle. First-something nice happens to Petrovic! He falls in love, marries and gets a new mechanical heart! Now that he doesn't have to collapse so often, he has time to invent antigravity, Artificial Intelligence and a black-hole generator. As before, this is his undoing. England north of Watford Gap revolts and invades the south, trapping his wife. Foreign powers decide he is dangerous and send assassins to kill him and missiles to destroy London. The pace doesn't let up as he finds his better self, attempts to protect London, save his wife and stay alive. With his Amazonian wife and his AI friend, three are stronger than one, but this is still a nail-biter, verging more towards Military SF than before in its intensity.

Excellent read again even if I would prefer a gentler place for my escapism. Don't the next generation ever ease up? In a calmer time HG Wells made a whole book out of just the invention of antigravity ('Cavorite' in 'From the Earth to the Moon'). Great to see Petrovic becoming more human-almost 'Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean' as Raymond Chandler put it. Or on a mercenary angle, Dean Koontz, a very successful US thriller writer said in his book 'How to Write a Bestseller' 'readers like to identify with a hero who brushes his teeth in the morning'.
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on 12 September 2014
This is good. You need to read the books in order. I have read 3 and there appears to be a No 4 which I have not seen yet. There is a "prequel" novella on the author's website which is good background reading as the books throw you straight into a complex plot.
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on 26 September 2015
blah, words about a book.
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on 23 September 2014
Just as enjoyable as the first one in the series (Equations of Life). I like the fast pace.
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on 5 August 2014
Excellent read!
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VINE VOICEon 1 October 2011
*** Note: this is a review of the three volumes of the trilogy: it was first published at sciencefiction.com. ***

Book 1: Equations of Life

It's London, England after Armageddon. Europe has been nuked by Christian fundamentalists, Russia's a criminal kleptocracy, and America is in the hands of the extreme religious right; Japan has copied Atlantis and has sunk beneath the waves. It seems that every last refugee in the world has found their way to London, every park remade as a container-favela while the streets are an impenetrable tide of the dispossessed, desperate, and merely criminal.

Samuil Petrovitch is a Russian doctoral student (high-energy physics) who dwells in the shanty town where Clapham Common used to be. It's just another morning as he shuffles down the stairs, carefully so as not to catch anyone's eye en-route to his desk at Imperial College. He has survived the mafia wars of St. Petersburg by not getting involved but that's about to change. By happenstance he's at the scene of the attempted kidnapping of a young woman. Reacting fast, he helps her escape and is soon being pursued by the Ukrainian mob, the neo-Yakuzas, and Detective Inspector Chain of the Metropolitan Police. Luckily he has help - from an armored, tooled up Catholic nun. And did I mention that Petrovitch has a heart problem - it keeps stopping?

Morden is a writer who delights in turning your expectations upside down: the gun-toting religious sisters; the urbane and sophisticated Japanese crime boss; the quantum computer with nightmares. He writes punchy dialogue too:

"Is there anything I can do?"

He looked up into her big brown eyes properly, now that no one was trying to kill him. His heart stopped again, only for a moment, but he put it down to his arrhythmia. "If you haven't got a scalpel, some bolt-cutters and a set of rib spreaders, no. The defibrillator that's part of my pacemaker seems to have crashed."

As the Metrozone falls apart and with every criminal organization in Greater London chasing him, Petrovitch still finds the time to help his supervisor, Lagos-born Dr Pif Ekanobi, debug her equations for their Theory of Everything, the long-sought Unified Field Theory incorporating Quantum Gravity which will transform the world - if they can only get it out of network-crashed London.

There's a lot to like about Book 1. Petrovitch is a compelling character and the action is non-stop exciting. I only have a few quibbles: all the violence and rushing around is essentially tactical - a more substantive underlying project for the hero would better sustain and structure our interest; plot credibility sags here and there - practically everyone seems so impressed by our hero's extraordinary brightness that they end up doing whatever he suggests after the merest acquaintanceship; finally, this seems a curiously prim, Hays code take on interpersonal attraction: a touch of the hand, a glance brimming with meaning, a stolen, unlooked-for kiss. Hmmm, maybe it's his heart.

Book 2: Theories of Flight

What a difference a few months makes. Petrovitch now has his doctorate, a new wife and a spinning turbine for a heart. He has also demonstrated antigravity in the labs, a practical consequence of the Ekanobi-Petrovitch equations. But the past is about to re-emerge to haunt all the protagonists of Book 1. The night of violence which ended the first volume - the Long Night - was orchestrated by a rogue sentient AI running on that quantum computer. Petrovitch defeated it but has kept the source code and now the CIA is on his trail with a mission to terminate.

The spy cell's machinations are soon on hold with a major `Outie' attack on the Metrozone. We thought the Greater London of the Metrozone was third-world enough, but it now appears that the whole of southern England outside has been abandoned to a feral underclass, and now they're back to loot and burn. How prescient of the author!

Most of this middle volume of the trilogy is given to a long excursion through the combat zone of North London as Petrovitch struggles to save his wife and defeat the Outies. This latter objective might seem a stretch except that through his rebuilt AI pal, Petrovitch can hack into pretty much any network in the world: satellite and CCTV surveillance, European Defense Force command and control, autonomous vehicle systems. Soon Petrovitch is cybernetically running the show while getting increasingly battered in a series of violent fights with knife-wielding Outies.

The grand finale of volume 2 sees Petrovitch in the flat beneath where CIA operatives are holding his wife, about to deploy a singularity bomb while hypersonic stealth missiles barrel in to take him out.

As we've come to expect, the quality of writing is inventive, the dialogue sharp and the action sequences vivid. Petrovitch is developing as a character, becoming more rounded and humane, although he's struggling with himself.

The odd instance of poor writing got through. On p. 161 the author wants to convey that his character is moving forwards through a train tunnel. This is what he says: `The line between light and dark got closer.' No, that's far too opaque for me.

For a novel featuring a successful Unified Field Theory, the TOE is doing remarkably little heavy lifting for the plot. The singularity bomb (p. 306) is impressive when it detonates.

"Floor, ceiling, walls, the air, even light itself: everything was suddenly jerked by an unseen hand and tried for that briefest of instants to fall into a hole in reality. ... The ceiling kept on coming, meeting the rising floor two meters up, while the supporting walls clapped together in the middle."

Too impressive in fact. As a lower bound, let's suppose the bomb created a gravitational field of 1g at a range of one meter (probably 10g would be needed to do that kind of damage). Using Newton's weak-field approximation to Einstein's field equations, the central mass could not have been less than 150 million tons. Not bad for the Ekanobi-Petrovitch theory - conjuring up a fundamental conservation law violation with a funny spherical device and a couple of nine volt batteries!

Nit-picking aside, at the end of this exciting read a temporary, patched-up stability has been achieved but Petrovitch's own future seems as problematic as ever.

Book 3: Degrees of Freedom

Time has rolled on by almost a year in the Metrozone. Rebuilding is in progress and we're only a few weeks away from elections to install the first real government. Petrovitch is working away on his equations, the next goodie to arrive is unlimited power (how does that work again?). It seems like his only real problem is that for the last eleven months, his wife hasn't been talking to him. And then all hell breaks loose.

A nuclear device is found in Regents Park, but is it a fake? Petrovitch is attacked as he investigates and the bomb vanishes. They're saying it's Petrovitch's bomb and soon he and his supporters are on the run. He's being played, and it seems that for once, his antagonist is smarter than he is.

The plot ramps up: soon we're into stealth assassination teams, inner city nuclear detonation, and global nuclear warfare with an American President who actively welcomes Armageddon.

This final volume is the most exciting and compulsively page-turning of the three, quite unputdownable. It's a better book for intercutting the relentless action with quite moving relationship scenes between Petrovitch and his estranged wife. The political maneuverings too are well done and the hero gets to make some stirringly disrespectful speeches to power.

Author Simon Morden has put together an amazing hero in Sam Petrovitch, consistently the smartest guy in the room and the worst-tempered. Endless combat damage is turning him into a half-cyborg, he lives in augmented reality, not ours, yet still finds space to grow and mature. Not all the loose ends are tied up: Petrovitch repeatedly hints at a hundred-year project underpinned by lots of new science. Hopefully we have not heard the last of Petrovitch and his heavily-armed and entirely female posse.
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on 1 May 2012
Not a bad read at all, however, the second and third volume do not fulfill the promise of the fist one, as they are a little bit tedious and lengthy. I felt one slightly larger single volume would have done the trick.
If you like grimwood, ian macdonald, than you won't be disappointed, but it's not a 'wow wtf' experience...
like a well-madde mid-level tv show...
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on 23 April 2012
I'm giving this same review for all three Merozone books, which I read in succession. They're entertaining enough, and the writing is quite competent, but didn't leave me particularly desiring to to read more about these characters and their world. The elements are a mix-and-match from a fair number of earlier books, and the characters just slightly on the comic-book side. But a good waste of time, nonetheless.
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on 26 August 2011
Samuil Petrovich has just invented anti-gravity and should be having one of the best days of his life. He is now married to Maddy the ex-nun and they are both trying to make life better in a newly broken Metrozone, but Petrovich has been keeping secrets from everyone, including Maddy and they are about to blow up in his face when the CIA comes to town determined to find them out whatever the cost.

This book is just as action packed as the first book in the series. However the world focus is now on London because it's frightened the world's lone superpower, the USA into thinking their security is compromised. Petrovich is going to find out that the Long Night of night so long ago is only a preview for the chaos that will erupt when his enemies plans come to fruition and he'll loose more than he ever imagined in the flare up.

I enjoyed this book and got through it remarkably quickly. The Metrozone is an alternate universe that diverges around the year 2000 with multiple terrorist nuclear strikes in Europe destroying much of the infrastructure there. Petrovich is a genius, but a flawed one and a really interesting character. Because these are single point of view books they really bring him into focus and I don't get the feeling that this is a place marker in this series. It has been nice for a change to have a full trilogy available to read in a short space like this and I've already started on the final book in the series Degrees of Freedom (Metrozone) and I know I'll miss Sam's adventures once it is over.
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VINE VOICEon 19 July 2011
The first Metrozone novel Equations of Life introduced the likeable, genius-physicist-cum-action-hero Sam Petrovitch. The novel was a hi-octane romp through a dystopian London, featuring many famous landmarks as you've never imagined them. 'Theories of Flight' runs almost directly on from the events of its predecessor, and is packed with the same fast action and one liners, that made volume one such an entertaining read.

The problem with second novels in this type of series, is that the author has revealed most of his best ideas in book 1. The characters are introduced, the bulk of the world building is done, and the intriguing premise on which the book is based has been spelled out. All this is true of 'ToF', and it does lack the fresh feeling of reading something very different, that so thrilled in 'EoL'. Still, one can't complain about an author sticking to a winning formula. The story is fast and strong; preposterous, yes, but certainly entertaining. Ideas fizz off the page; the amount of technical innovations does occasionally threaten to overwhelm, but Morden manages to hold it all together. By not over-explaining the technology in his novel the author keeps his plot moving fast.

In this volume Morden expands on Petrovitch's very personal moral code. This, combined with musings on the nature of advanced AI, give the novel some substance, without which it would be little more than a schlock gun-fest. 'Theories of Flight' is a worthy successor to 'EoL' and with several tantalising threads left untied volume 3 promises much. I'm sure Morden and Petrovitch will deliver.
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