Friday, June 18, 2010

Spin State

by Chirs Moriarty, 597 pages

Intriguing and ultimately enjoyable book. A bit padded and the central plot lagged a little, but it benefits from strong characterization, full-fledged worldbuilding and the occasional quirky little detail on both the setting and the people that help give the story force. Reading the book was a process of first being rather hesitant due to length and it being an unfamiliar author, then getting effectively drawn in and particularly for the second half rushing to gulp it down. Part of the book’s main appeal is it’s ability to make extensive technical exposition and all the trimmings of a hard science fiction esiponage/military story compelling and energetic. The basic setup appears somewhat like Catherine Asaro’s Skolian Imperliate books, and there’s a sense with this like Asaro in her prime, where the universe feels fresh and well developed.

At points the future environment feels a little over-familiar, somewhat of a yesterday’s future with its heavy exploration of quantum technology, focus on genetic engineering and runaway corporate/AI processes. Still, it’s well developed enough that this type of issue doesn’t really come up while the story is being read, which by all measures should be the primary criteria. Looked at with a distance it’s not the most totally innovative set of genre tropes around, but then few things are, and being conventional isn’t in itself a problem. Particularly, Moriarty’s work offers a commitment to storytelling that delivers an overall believable and well developed environment, and that’s something to celebrate. As well, the small details on daily life and subtle humor help bring a larger context behind the story. My first Moriarty but not, I suspect, my last.

Better than: Araminta Station by Jack Vance
Worse than: Vacuum Diagrams by Stephen Baxter

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