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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
The Lost Art
Format: Paperback|Change

on 26 October 2017
A great read that engages you from the off and holds you until the end. If you haven't read everything this guy's written I highly recommend that you get on with it - you won't be disappointed
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VINE VOICEon 20 June 2010
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. Va is his complete opposite and (for me) the star of the book - a reformed mercenary who is now committed to his faith and desperate to ensure that a book of forbidden knowledge is locked away again. Equally fascinating is Elenya, a former princess who promised her love to Va, only to lose him when he did as she asked and who has now lost herself as well.

It's a great story that combines politics, imagination and poses interesting questions about what we're doing with the planet. I found it enthralling and can't recommend it highly enough.
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VINE VOICEon 22 September 2012
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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on 28 December 2013
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. Also odd is that this information wasn't given until this far into the story - either that she was a princess or that she was beautiful. But after it had been announced it became her defining traits, and all that anyone commented on! And everyone fell in love with her. Because she was a princess. And therefore beautiful :-/ Nevermind obsessive, deluded, and verging on madness...

So that annoyed me a lot. But even so there was a lot I enjoyed about the story. In short, it's good on ideas, bad on relationships. Approach with caution - but do approach.
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on 19 July 2012
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. Fortunately, the author has since written a trilogy called the Metrozone Series, which I'm looking forward to reading. It recently won the Philip K. Dick Aware for best SF published as a paperback original in the US in 2011. Can't wait!
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on 20 February 2015
Absolute rubbish
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on 29 June 2013
I've been an avid reader of Sci- Fi for the last 55 years. I've read all the greatest and the latest. Whilst on holiday in the USA I tried the first of Simon Mordens Petrovitch novels. I was hooked and continued to read the rest over the next two weeks. When I returned home I got "The lost Art" and could not put it down. This Guy has Talent and will stand up there with the best. I can't wait for his next offerings. A Star is born.
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on 5 October 2015
This is one of my all time favourite books! I love the story, the charcters, the setting. I love how it jumps from one character to another, the author makes it work, it is not disjointed it still flows. Love the interactions between characters, the sometimes awkward moments and the humour.
The story is set in a post apocolyptic future where a lot of science and engineering has been lost and the poles have flipped, so north is now south and south is now north. Some very important books have been stolen and a group of people come together to find them. It is an adventure, a fantasy, a sci fi and a mystery story. Give a go, you won't be disappointed :O)
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VINE VOICEon 13 March 2009
Set on Earth centuries after an apocalypse, 'The Lost Art' tells the tale of several factions searching for technology left behind by the ancients. The world is now a very different place to what we know; the earth having toppled on its axis, North has become South, leaving the most dominant powers as Kenya and the Russian Orthodox church.

Morden's premise is an intriguing one. The church wishes to prevent the hidden knowledge from escaping, keeping the world in the dark ages, and the Kenyans hope to use it to gain supremacy over their neighbours. The third faction is a mysterious and charismatic traveller, whose motives are ambiguous from the start.

'The Lost Art' is a pacey, interesting story and Morden has drawn a credible future history for our planet. The target audience for this novel is 11-15 years old, making it very readable, but I found the characters and themes remained frustratingly unexplored. I felt that considering his target audience, Morden had tried to paint too broad a canvas; his ideas were interesting but tantalisingly sketchy, giving the novel a rushed feel.

Three Stars seems a little stingy, but in a competitive market 'The Lost Art' simply doesn't do enough for me to warrant as many as four. The author deserves credit for including both fantasy and science fiction elements in his story, but this reader can't help feeling he would have been more successful if he'd chosen one over the other.
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on 3 October 2011
I've just finished The Lost Art and found it enthralling.
The characters are very well drawn and there's a lot of dry humour around what is a mostly dark, depressing story. lightened only by the irrepressible tendency of humans to keep on surviving in the most awful circumstances.
I would never have thought this was a YA novel though.
Wish this was a series, but I understand he's written a cycle around post-apocalyptic London so I may have to give that a try.
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