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Degrees of Freedom

Metrozone #3

Author: Simon Morden 

Format: galley

Publisher: Orbit

Release Date: 6/1/11

Length: 384 pages

Acquired: Net Galley

[excerpt]

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The blurb:

The Six Degrees of Samuel Petrovitch:

  • Michael is an AI of incalculable complexity trapped under the remains of Oshicora Tower. Petrovitch will free him one day; he just has to trust Michael will still be sane by the time he does.
  • Maddy and Petrovitch have trust issues. But Petrovitch is pretty sure she loves him.
  • Sonja Oshicora loves Petrovitch, too. But she’s playing a complicated game and it’s not clear that she means to save him from what’s coming.
  • The CIA wants to save the world. Well, just America, but they’ll call it what they like.
  • The New Machine Jihad is calling. But Petrovitch killed it. Didn’t he?
  • And the Armageddonists tried to kill pretty much everyone by blowing the world up. Now, they want to do it again.

Once again, all roads lead back to Petrovitch. Everyone wants something from him, but all he wants is to be free …

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My spoiler-riddled thoughts:

I’m a bad book reviewer. Baaaad. I’ve had this book in my ereader since shortly after the release of the first book in the Metrozone trilogy, Equations of Life. I even finished reading it a couple of days after it was released on June 1st. I’ve just been a slacker and have little excuse for not getting this review done and for that, I apologize profusely. Because this book… was awesome.

I think one of my issues with putting off this review (though this is by no means the only review I’ve had pending for weeks!) is that there is SO MUCH information in this book to cover! In all of them, really, and I’m lamenting the fact that I didn’t go back and reread the first two before diving into this one because Mr. Morden packs a ton of information into each book and then refers to it, directly or not, in each subsequent book. So yes, even after a month or two, it’s possible to forget multiple little tidbits that can leave you thinking, “Huh?” as it’s referenced in a later book in the series. At least, it’s possible for me.

So… on to talking about Degrees of Freedom! And spoilers. Be warned. I toss out spoilers like Samuil Petrovitch tosses out curse words in Russian.

This third and final (that I’m aware of) installment of The Metrozone trilogy finds Sam in the Freezone, nearly a year after the Outies nearly overran the Metrozone in a violent invasion that killed tens of thousands. Everything north of the Thames has been isolated and dubbed the Freezone, with Sonja Oshicora as its leader and Sam as its symbol of perseverance and hope. Michael, the AI that’s the remnant of the intelligence Sonja’s father created as part of Virtual Japan which became the New Machine Jihad before Sam took it down, is still buried beneath the ruins of Oshicora Tower since an attempt by America to kill it. Him. Michael is a him and he’s Sam’s friend and Sam is determined to free him.

But the world is watching and the Freezone’s one year of freedom from outside intervention is nearly over. All Sam wants is freedom. For himself, for his wife, for his friends and for Michael. He’s been planning something in secret, planning for a vision he had in Theories of Flight and he’s nearly there when, what else? Everything goes to hell. Sam, who is well on his way to becoming a genius post-apocalyptic bionic man, always seems to get blindsided and have his careful plans stomped into bitter little bits of disappointment and regret. But then again, he’s quick to think around a problem and figure out a solution so he’s well-suited to face whatever comes his way.

Or is he? He’s pretty much estranged from his wife, Maddy… Pif is imprisoned in America and his one hope of freeing her is someone from his past that he’d rather not be involved with… there’s suddenly a nuclear threat in the heart of the Freezone… and the New Machine Jihad has risen again. As if that weren’t enough to be going on with, Sam has been betrayed and he doesn’t know who to suspect so he kind of suspects everyone. All while he’s trying to save Michael while the CIA is trying to stop him from doing so. Yeah, that whole raining/pouring thing.

Of course, as an ardent fan of this new trilogy, I had complete faith in Sam during the shit storm through which he was attempting to navigate his way to freedom. I wasn’t worried at all. Not a bit. Nope.

One of the many things about this story that’s somewhat amazed and delighted me is how quickly I became familiar with -and fond of- the main character, Sam Petrovitch. His brashness and devil may care attitude are endearing and I quickly noticed when he acted out of character or did something that I wouldn’t have expected him to do. One example is his tendency to swear in Russian. A lot.

At one point, he’s discussing the nuclear threat with Cardinal Carillo:

“We’re in Armageddonist territory here, Your fucking Excellency, and if I don’t have some answers soon, it’s going to be too shitting late to do anything about it.”

After that sentence I had a waitjustaminuteSamdoesn’tswearlikethat! moment. And then I read the next sentence and had a good laugh about it, partly because I called the unusual nature of his cursing in English and partly because he wasn’t very good at it:

“I’m not used to swearing in English, but I’m making the effort because you’re a Yank, and it’s important that you understand just how trouser-pissingly scary this all is.”

Being brilliant and having saved the Metrozone from annihilation not once, but twice before, doesn’t keep Sam from getting down in the dumps now and again. He’s only human -mostly- and he gets depressed, too.

‘He knew it wasn’t meant to be this way, and yet there he was, underground, damaged beyond repair, out of battery power, threatened by entombment, nuclear annihilation and a woman scorned. Pizdets.

This story is so fast paced, the plot literally flies by and keeps you holding onto the edge of your seat, or clutching tightly to the edges of your book, rather… wondering if Sam will accomplish all that he’s set out to do… if he’ll manage, once more, to pull it all together and win the day. Or if his plans will fail miserably as the best laid plans are wont to do.

For anyone who has yet to pick up this series, I highly, highly recommend it. Morden has created a world and characters that I would be delighted to visit again. Aside from the re-reads of this trilogy that I’ve got planned and Thy Kingdom Come, Morden’s collection of short stories that preface the events in Equations, that is.

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Fave quotes:

“What if an AI shows signs of independent, creative thought? What if it can empathize? What if it has the capacity for generosity, altruism, compassion?” ~Father John to Sam

“Far be it for me to point out some flaws in your plan, but are you a complete mudak?” ~Sam to Dalton

“I don’t know what to say. I’m supposed to be the king of the futile gesture, and here I am, trumped by some stupid Yankee lawyer.” ~Sam to Dalton

‘Misdirection. It was harder work than mere secrecy.’

‘Everything was temporary. Nothing lasted forever, not things, not people, not love, not time itself.’

“I haven’t got the energy. Find me a power source. Or vodka. Both, preferably.” ~Sam to Valentina

“My voice is permanently stuck between sarcastic and condescending, no matter how hard I try for the dizzying heights of irony.”

“Talking geek at you always made you horny.” ~Sam to Maddy

“We’re dealing with people who are comfortable with nuclear terrorism. Stabby, shooty stuff might be the least of our worries.” ~Sam to Lucy

“How come this is so obvious to me, but not to you bunch of emotionally retarded grown-ups?” ~Lucy

“Old Man Oshicora had a sense of humor, as well as being a cold-hearted murderer. I suppose the two aren’t mutually exclusive.” ~ Sam to Tabletop

“Amongst all the other things I’ve also fucked up, this has to take the crown jewels for the thing I’ve fucked up the most, right?” ~Sam to Tabletop

“Lucy, I’m tired of this. Tired of trying to fix things that shouldn’t be broken in the first place. i want to make something new that doesn’t have to be squeezed into an earlier pattern.” ~Sam

“I wouldn’t want anyone’s burka spontaneously catching fire because of something I’ve said.” ~Sam to Yasmina Surur

“Hi. My name’s Samuil Petrovitch, and I now run this show. If someone wants to own up to being in charge, speak now, because what you say will have a dramatic effect on your life expectancy.”

“I feel some shock and awe coming on.” ~Sam

“It’s as if a whole world of cultural meaning has cried out in terror and been suddenly silenced.” ~Sam

“This is revolution. Where is end? I do not know. All I know, this is beginning and we must be brave.” ~Valentina

“Meh, if I’m going to fail, I may as well fail spectacularly.” ~Sam

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Theories of Flight

The Metrozone Series #2

Author: Simon Morden

Format: galley

Publisher: Orbit Books

Release Date: 4/01/2011

Length: 296 pages

Acquired: from the publisher via NetGalley

Read an excerpt  here.

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Publisher’s summary:

THEOREM: Petrovitch has a lot of secrets.

PROOF: Secrets like how to make anti-gravity for one. For another, he’s keeping a sentient computer program on a secret server farm – the same program that nearly destroyed the Metrozone a few months back.

THEOREM: The city is broken.

PROOF: The people of the OutZone want what the citizens of the Metrozone have. And then to burn it to the ground. Now, with the heart of the city destroyed by the New Machine Jihad, the Outies finally see their chance.

THEOREM: These events are not unconnected.

PROOF: Someone is trying to kill Petrovitch and they’re willing to sink the whole city to do it.


My somewhat spoilerish thoughts:

How does one top a book like Equations of Life, which featured the near destruction of post-Armageddon London when an AI methodically killed hundreds of thousands of people while destroying pretty much… everything? Why, with a book like Theories of Flight of course, in which our good guy, Dr. Samuil Petrovitch not only makes the greatest scientific breakthrough in living memory but is betrayed, avoids assassination at least twice, narrowly escapes the revenge of a pissed-off American woman and then single-handedly takes control of the New Machine Jihad in an attempt to thwart a hostile take-over of the northern Metrozone. And that’s just in the first half of the book!

“A revolution. A whole new way of doing things. No one has to die, no one has to be overthrown. There’ll be no blood or fire–just light. It’s going to be brilliant.” Unfortunately, Sam’s vision as he told it to Sonja Oshicora four months after the events of book 1, dubbed The Long Night (the events, not the book), didn’t come to pass and there is plenty of blood and plenty of fire. Sadly, blood and fire was what was needed to save the Metrozone and Sam stepped up to care of business.

Of course, the whole thing came to pass when he set out to rescue Maddy, to whom he was wed in the four months since the end of Equations of Life. Maddy has joined the newly-formed MEA, the Metrozone Emergency Authority where her prodigious talents have been no doubt put to good use and Sam has also been busy, what with his whole discovery of artificial gravity thing.

But other events overshadow his historic scientific breakthrough: former Detective Harry Chain, who now also works for MEA asks Sam’s assistance on a case involving the CIA, assassins are out to get him, his wife is injured in the line of duty and finally, there is an incursion into the Metrozone by the Outies who, despite sounding like a bunch of people with protruding belly buttons, are actually a massive group of uneducated yet murderous outcasts. And they don’t just want to just invade and take the Metrozone as their own, they want to destroy it and everyone in it. What’s more, they’re fully capable of doing just that. It rather makes the term ‘Outies’ sound less amusing and more foreboding, yes?

Upon learning that Maddy has been called in to assist in the defense of the city, Sam sets out to rescue her from an invading force that appears to be much more formidable than was originally determined. He’s accompanied only by Miyamoto, sent by Sonja to protect him and by the artificial intelligence which is all that’s left of VirtualJapan, the AI that became the New Machine Jihad when Sonja’s father, Oshicora-san was betrayed and murdered.

At first it looks like an in and out job, grab the girl and go… only a whole bunch of other stuff comes up to distract Sam and divert his attention from his single-minded task. The odds are against him reaching Maddy, against the Metrozone surviving the invasion intact, against survival… so Sam is left with no choice but to unleash the New Machine Jihad, which is as powerful as ever but happily, less insane this time around.

Still, despite the horrors that may arise, Sam sets the AI loose to do what it can to help him save what can be saved of the Metrozone which it does. And which, unfortunately might start a war with the United States. So we have a few questions: can Sam survive and save the Metrozone? Again? Can he save the AI from those who would destroy it? And can he do all of this without bringing the wrath of the world’s sole remaining superpower down on all of their heads? As he tells Miyamoto: “What’s the point of being the smartest guy I know if I don’t use those smarts to do something?”

As with book 1, Theories is vividly orchestrated and action-packed, mildly graphic and chock full of grim humor, as evidenced by my extensive ‘fave quote’ section below. We also get a tantalizing peek into Sam’s past in St. Petersburg, Russia which of course, only left me wanting more of the back story… namely of Sam’s history and of Armageddon. I also want to know how the US became the sole super power -a ruthless and utterly amoral super power- in the world? I rather got a kick out of Sam threatening to take the whole country down, super-power or no. Bad-ass much, Dr. Petrovitch? Indeed, he is!

I also need to point out how tickled I was with Sam’s “One Ring” comments in reference to the AI and New Machine Jihad. Being a lifetime fan of Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I particularly enjoyed looking at the AI/NMJ as “one ring to rule them all”. Nicely done, Mr. Morden.

I’ll definitely be checking out Thy Kingdom Come, Morden’s collection of short stories that preface the events in Equations, once I finish with book 3 of the trilogy, Degrees of Freedom. The collection is available as a free PDF download at the link I provided to the author’s site but I highly suggest reading the series before biting into the short stories. Though I know little about what they cover, there’s just something about an agonizing wait that makes the attainment of literary gratification that much more potent.

One last comment. I would love to have these books in audio format so that I could listen to Sam swear in Russian. That would be awesome. That is all.

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Fave quotes and yes, I realize that there are a lot but the awesome quotes in this book are rather like Lay’s potato chips, I think:

“Out of the way. Science coming through.” ~Sam

Yobany stos! I’m trying to conduct an epoch-making experiment which will turn this place into a shrine for future generations. So shut the huy up.” ~Sam

“Everyone’s allowed to make a stupid mistake now and then, and this is your turn.” ~Sam to Andersson

“The CIA are in town, apparently, and not in an ‘if you have a few moments, I’d like to ask you some questions’ sort of way.” ~Sam to Sonja

“We can swear loudly and point guns at each other in a vodka-fueled frenzy: just like old times.” ~Sam to Grigori re: Marchenkho

“I have to catch a plane at stupid-o’clock in the morning.” ~Pif to Sam

“You idiot. You genius-level idiot.” ~Pif to Sam

Miyamoto: “What are you doing?”  Sam: “I’m being awesome Don’t interrupt.”

“I’m reluctant to threaten the only person in a position to help me. But I have a gun in my pocket that I’m very tempted to use on you.” ~Sam to Dr. Stephanopolis

[There is no logic behind your statement. Simply wishing for something to be so does not make it so.] ~AI, Michael to Sam

‘He had not been quite this angry for a very long time… Days, at least.’

“When I first met you, you were incapable of talking to a woman without insulting her. Now you have a harem.” ~Sonja to Sam

Sam: “Are you familiar with Schrödinger’s Cat?”  CIA assassin: “No.”  Sam: “And another metaphor dies whimpering on the altar of ignorance.”

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Would you like to win the entire Metrozone series? Of course, you would! Visit Deranged Book Lovers’ blog and enter the contest!

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Equations of Life

The Metrozone Series #1 (aka The Petrovitch Series)

Author: Simon Morden

Format: galley

Publisher: Orbit Books

Release Date: 4/01/2011

Length: 296 pages (Amazon states length of paperback to be 400 pages)

Acquired: from the publisher via NetGalley

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NetGalley’s summary:

SAMUIL PETROVITCH = A SURVIVOR. He survived the nuclear fallout in St. Petersburg and hid in the London Metrozone – the last city in England. He’s lived this long because he’s a man of rules and logic. For example, getting involved = a bad idea.

But when he stumbles into a kidnapping in progress, he acts without even thinking. Before he can stop himself, he’s saved the daughter of the most dangerous man in London. And clearly: SAVING THE GIRL = GETTING INVOLVED.

Now, the equation of Petrovitch’s life is looking increasingly complex: RUSSIAN MOBSTERS + YAKUZA + SOMETHING CALLED THE NEW MACHINE JIHAD = ONE DEAD PETROVITCH.

But Petrovitch has a plan. He always has a plan. He’s just not sure it’s a good one.


My thoughts, which might be considered somewhat spoilerish by some:

A quick blurb from Publisher’s Weekly before I get on with it:

In a dark near future, the U.S. has become a theocracy, Japan has been destroyed, and the U.K. has devolved into near-anarchy. Ph.D. student and Russian expatriate Samuil Petrovitch, living in the decaying London Metrozone, foils an attempt to kidnap a mysterious woman called Sonja and finds himself caught up in a war between Russian mobsters and a ruthless tycoon. As things escalate, Harry Chain, an enigmatic cop, and Madeleine, a sexy, violent nun, are also caught up in the war. Morden occasionally gets too cute and there are a few moments that border on deus ex machina, but Samuil’s mix of action and research makes him a fresh and engaging character, and the escalating scale of danger and violence moves the plot along briskly. Though pitched as the start of a trilogy, the book stands nicely alone.

I agree that it stands alone nicely. Wait… except for that whole cliffhanger at the end of the book thing! I had a couple of other upcoming releases in my reading queue that I intend to read before book 2 in this series, ‘Theories of Flight’ (which is due for a May 1 release), and I had to talk myself out of starting Theories as soon as I’d finished Equations. I restrained myself, however… mainly because I didn’t want any impressions of the beginning of book 2 to cloud my review of book 1. Which I am getting around to discussing, I promise. Still, I very much look forward to continuing Petrovitch’s story in the next book, which I have waiting for me on my e-reader. Calling my name… taunting me.

The covers of the books in this trilogy really caught my eye, and nearly gave me a headache. It’s just really hard not to stare at the covers, you know? All joking aside, the cover art combined with the story description were what prompted me to request the galleys of these books from Orbit. The publisher’s site has an interesting little article regarding the covers of the books in the trilogy and the cool factor helps with the headache-inducing factor. ;o)

And so we meet Samuil Petrovitch, twenty years after Armageddon. 22 year old Samuil is a refugee from Russia, living in the London Metrozone, the last city in post-Armageddon England. Young Sam is somewhat brilliant and is a post-grad working on some heavy-duty science, and doing it quite well. He generally keeps to himself though he has a certain air about him… he’s hiding from something and so he keeps his head low and minds his own business.

Until, that is, he foils a kidnapping and nearly dies in the process. Why would he risk himself, his health and his work to save a stranger? Especially when doing so not only put his health at risk but indebted him to a crime lord and placed him smack dab in the cross hairs of the Russian mafia! Neither situation is one that Sam wanted to find himself in and to complicate matters, the police are now hounding him.

Everybody wants to know why he saved the would-be kidnap victim and everyone thinks he has ulterior motives. So rather than sinking back into comfortable obscurity, Sam finds himself at the center of attention. When treachery strikes and the entire Metrozone is in danger of obliteration, Sam realizes that he’s the only one who can stop it, with the help of a seriously ass-kicking nun who may be the only person Sam can trust. Madeline saved Sam’s life when he rescued Sonja and ended up nearly dying in her church. Now they share a connection that will cause her to drop everything to help him save the girl once more, save his incredibly important work and hopefully, save the entire Metrozone. But will they be on time?

The whole concept of Armageddon and the world moving on afterward is fascinating to me. I enjoy apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic books though they admittedly depress me from time to time. This book was in no way depressing and kept me interested straight through to the end where my first thought was, “What? That’s the end?! NOOO!!!” And then I remembered that  I have book 2 waiting for me and I stopped whimpering.

Morden sucked me right into the world of the Metrozone and kept dangling the carrot representing the story of Armageddon before my nose without letting me have more than a nibble at a time. So while the story and the way it played out were in themselves satisfying, I was definitely left wanting more and wanting it now. Probably more than Samuil’s fate, as I can make assumptions regarding that, I’m anxious for more back story. What happened to start Armageddon? What happened to Samuil in St. Petersburg that caused him to recreate himself as a refugee in the Metrozone? Will we get more of the history of this fascinating post-apocalyptic world? I certainly hope so. I’m definitely in for the whole series and will discuss the next books here as I read them.

 

Fave quotes:

“I’ve walked into someone’s private crusade. So what did they do to you? Kill your rookie partner, blow up your car, boil your pet rabbit?” ~Petrovitch to Detective Inspector Chain

‘He decided to put a brave face on the situation. It might be his last few minutes on the plant, but he was determined to go out with his middle finger extended in salute.’

“Good morning, this is Samuil Petrovitch. You might remember me from such incidents as hunted like a dog through the streets’ and ‘kissed by the boss’s daughter’.” ~Sam

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