Equations of Life (book, Simon Morden, 2011)
From SFX 208.
Adult work from children’s author fails to wow.
Simon Morden’s a good writer, let’s get that said up front, but this novel is not going to be his big breakout book.
Equations of Life depicts a near-future devastated by nuclear bombs set off by terrorists some time in the story’s past. And this world of refugee cities made of shipping containers and awful weather is a good one, introduced subtly and effectively.
Unfortunately, the characters and story don’t stack up to the scenario. Petrovich is a young Russian scientist with a fatal heart condition who happens, one day, to save the life of a Japanese gangster’s daughter. We’d like to say mayhem ensues, but instead we have rain-sodden traipsing across London as Petrovich gets involved with a detective and a gun-wielding nun.
Although the gun-wielding nun sounds like Tarantino-esque wishful thinking, she’s the better character of the three, and Morden justifies her existence well. But Petrovich is neither believable or engaging, being too ill to do the things he does for starters. He stumbles cynically from life-threatening situation to medical emergency and back again, uncovering the secrets of the universe as he goes, with the mumbly weariness of a new parent. He also swears in Russian all the time. People don’t do that. You swear in the language you are speaking at the moment, especially if you’re insulting someone, or else what’s the point? Having Petrovich rattle off Slavic obscenity harks back to the “Die Englischer Schweinhund!” linguistics of Valiant.
In fact, with its gun-nun, Yakuza and so forth, Equations is all a little comic book, and might well have worked better as a 2000 AD ‘B’-story, if only because brevity may have squeezed some vitality out of our shambling hero.
Did you know?
Although he’s out under a “debut” label, Morden’s had another book published: The Lost Art (2007) a well-received YA techno-fantasy.