Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Review: Spin Control

The nice thing about discovering Chris Moriarty so late was that I got to read Spin Control (Kindle edition) immediately after Spin State, while the characters and the Universe were still fresh in my mind.

Rather than the single protagonist featured in Spin State, Spin Control features multiple protagonists, starting with a construct from one of the Syndicates, Arkady. Since all constructs created by a syndicate effectively have the same DNA, it is surprises Arkady when he discovers that his cohort on a terraforming mission turns out to be a bit of a maverick, having stretched the limits of normalcy for his gene-line. He even takes on an individual name: Arkasha, which is not at all normal for a Syndicate construct. We learn a bit more about background behind Syndicate constructs, including the brutal nature of their upbringing --- where creches are regularly culled to eliminate abnormality.

Catherine Li and her AI lover Cohen returns in this novel, which is set 3 years or so after the events in Spin State. Moriarty wisely avoids the happily-ever-after syndrome for this couple, and it is quite clear that she herself is far from attached to this character, as we see them from Arkady's point of view.

What happened was that during a routine terra-forming run, Arkasha's team discover what they think is a bio-terror weapon of interest to Earth's political entities, including at this point, the Palestinian and Israeli authorities (that the two factions are still at war in the year 5700 or so indicates Moriarty's fundamental pessimism about the nature of the politics in place). Cohen has ties to Israel, and is brought in to assist with the bidding between the factions (the fundamentalist American government also gets involved).

The science fiction themes this time include terraforming, entomology and complexity theory. The genre themes include espionage and tradecraft, the perpetual war between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and the role of increasing automation in war. There's also a reference to Ender's Game, in naming an army of AI-shunted soldiers Enderbots.

While the plot makes more sense this time, the story is a lot less compelling, largely because the major viewpoint character, Arkady, is so innocent that any increased knowledge overwhelms any character development in place for him. In fact, even as he learns who to trust and who not to trust, it seems as though his realizations always come a little too late. Other characters such as Catherine Li and Cohen, unfortunately come across this novel as cardboard cut outs. Not quitefleshed out. Compared to its predecessor, Spin Control is definitely the lesser novel. Nevertheless, it was a good, compelling read --- I shall look forward to Moriarty's next novel, Ghost Spin.
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