17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Quantum Romance
Spin State packages itself as a far future military space opera/murder mystery on the rear cover. It fits these sub-genres, but is also a thoughtful romance of quantum theory that tackles cultural identity, bigotry, imperialism, and has a fully developed political universe.
Catherine Li is assigned to investigate a delicate and suspicious accident at a vital...
Published on February 21, 2005 by Ian Mccullough
77 of 88 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing characters and technology never get fleshed out
"Spin State" starts out full of promise for fans of "hard" sci-fi, the sub-genre that loads stories with lots of plausible technology and science. It is a good debut novel. However, after a solid beginning that has the reader's mind racing to keep to pace, the book backs away from its potential, dragging on far too long before concluding in a rather...
Published on April 26, 2004 by M. S. Hillis
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77 of 88 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing characters and technology never get fleshed out,
This review is from: Spin State (Paperback)"Spin State" starts out full of promise for fans of "hard" sci-fi, the sub-genre that loads stories with lots of plausible technology and science. It is a good debut novel. However, after a solid beginning that has the reader's mind racing to keep to pace, the book backs away from its potential, dragging on far too long before concluding in a rather predictable and unsatisfying manner.
It is clear that Moriarty has done her homework on quantum mechanics. This is one of the only sci-fi books I've read that supplies a bibliography of dozens of academic papers and books on the subject. She writes convincingly about a quantum-based communications system that is one step shy of actual teleportation -- even sensations like taste and temperature are conveyed through the magic of quantum entanglement.
Other cool features of Moriarty's far-out future include urbane yet shadowy AIs, hardware enhancements for the body, mind and memory, and people who have had their genetic makeup so radically altered that they aren't legally considered to be human any longer.
Although this theme of genetics is supposed to be central to the development of the main character, I felt the theme was never really fleshed out. Indeed, perhaps the book's greatest flaw is that most of the characters -- with the exception of the AI called Cohen -- come across as two- or even one-dimensional. The main character is a decorated commando running from a murky past. We meet a greedy and corrupt mine boss, a manipulative and ruthless general, a selfish and naive beauty, and a selfless and brilliant scientist. Not many surprises.
There are quite a few similarities between this work and "Altered Carbon" by Richard Morgan. Specifically: 1) both books are set a few hundred years ahead in a future where the UN is the chief political authority 2) the heroes are special UN commandos haunted by brutal past missions who are called on to investigate mysterious deaths 3) in "Spin State", the hero is from a planet called "Compson's World", in "Altered Carbon", the hero is from "Harlan's World" 4) both books feature bionic enhancements ("neurachem" in AC, "ceramsteel in SS") 5) in AC, human consciousness is backed up by a hardware "stack", in SS, memories and knowledge are backed up in hardware. I read these two books very close together, so the similarities really stood out.
Spin State's story revolves around the investigation of a mining disaster that killed society's pre-eminent quantum scientist, who had been conducting secretive experiments that could turn humanity's interstellar order on its head. I had trouble keeping track of the minor characters who disappeared for long stretches only to reappear later with no reference to earlier actions. The story had trouble holding my attention and I found myself slogging through the second half mainly out of obligation to just finish the book.
I give this book serious credit for painting a detailed picture of quantum, genetic and computing technology a few centuries hence. For hard sci-fi buffs that will probably be more than enough to offset the thinly drawn characters and convoluted plot. Moriarty obviously has a lot of skill and ambition, and I hope her future efforts -- hopefully in the Spin State universe -- are able to deliver on the promise of this book.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Quantum Romance,
This review is from: Spin State (Paperback)Spin State packages itself as a far future military space opera/murder mystery on the rear cover. It fits these sub-genres, but is also a thoughtful romance of quantum theory that tackles cultural identity, bigotry, imperialism, and has a fully developed political universe.
Catherine Li is assigned to investigate a delicate and suspicious accident at a vital mine on her homeworld. The mine contains a type of crystal needed for interstellar communication and whoever controls the source of these crystals basically controls known space. Li's presence doesn't settle things down, with military factions, oppressed locals, cut-throat corporate executives, and a genetically modified splinter of humanity jockeying to control and exploit the situation.
Catherine Li is a terrific protagonist. She had a tough background that was honed by experience - or did she? Spin State is a universe where individuals store their memories while traveling cryogenically frozen to avoid decoherence - the bleed of information from the soft tissue. Long term travelers begin to lose their identity unless bolstered by computer backed memories. But if you wanted to hide something, would you remember it? Would it be erased in the next flight? I think this central question of identity hasn't been fully appreciated by other reviewers.
Spin State works on a number of levels. The mystery story element is passable, but not great. The military ops sections are exciting and fluid, but infrequent. The political scene Moriarty creates is rich and fascinating. Moriarty's thoughts on imperialism and worker's rights are neither shallow nor moralizing. But Li's search for herself and her feelings were unusually compelling for a science fiction novel. I like SF, but unconvincing love interests are the norm. I found myself really pulling for Li to get it together. By the end of Spin State so will you.
Much of Spin State revolves around political maneuvering and relationship issues. If you are expecting "Altered Carbon II - Now With a Girl!" you will be sorely (and deservedly) disappointed. To enjoy Spin State you should: A) enjoy the science in science fiction, B) appreciate a detailed political backdrop, and C) like a good romance.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spin State is great,
This review is from: Spin State (Paperback)"Spin State" delivers exactly what is promised in the little blurb printed on the front cover; an interesting and highly original mix of quantum physics, A.I.. FTL, and an enjoyably atypical love story.
The physics revolves around the consequences of the discovery on a distant planet (Compson's World) of a unique material that is a macroscopic Bose-Einstein condensate at room temperature. That means that pieces of this stuff, known as crystal, act as single quantum entitities and taking one piece, (obtained by mining on Compson's World and no where else in the known universe) splitting it in two and separating the two pieces gives an instantaneous method for FTL communication and travel because of stable quantum entanglement.
This is the setting for a murder mystery that also is built around genetically modified humans, clones, superpowerful A.I.s, military mysteries and perhaps most originally, a believable love story between the main character, Catherine Li, and an A.I. named Cohen. Cohen appears in willing hosts who allow him to take control of their bodies for periods of time in exchange for (one supposes) monetary payment.
The story moves quickly, there are red herrings all over the place and unless you are a lot sharper than me, you won't actually figure out why the murder was committed or by whom until very late in the book.
I liked the writing and the ideas, and will certainly give Ms. Moriarty's next book a read.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Impressive effort; falls a little short,
This review is from: Spin State (Paperback)I've given this a book four stars for the sheer scope of it, plus her work with one of the characters. Moriarty has built a complete "world," most of it post-Earth. Her treatment of AIs and their search for acceptance as equals in a system made up of post-humans, constructs, and sometimes fledgling AIs was the most fascinating part of the story for me. I would have love to seen more of it. Cohen, one of the system's most developed and ancient AIs, is in my opinion the best-drawn and most sympathetic character in the book.
There are two problematic areas in the storyline. One is the main character, Catherine Li. Despite a promising backstory, she's one of the most unsympathetic and unlikeable characters I've read: basically, a hard, driving, secretive exterior masks a hard, driving, secretive interior--yippee. The character of Cohen was what kept me reading the book; if it had been all Li, I'd have tempted to throw this book out. Yet, despite Li's unlikeability, at least two of the other characters in the book are seemingly helplessly attracted to her... actually a common situation when an author has fallen in love with a character but his/her readers haven't.
The second problematic area is that the book tends to be (in majority) a straight, contemporary mystery framed in some fancy quantum physics, with a little slightly advanced technology thrown in. Humanity has made it to the stars and is traveling faster-than-light, but it hasn't managed to extract coal from a mine any differently than we do in good old 2004... and other such.
Still, for a first-time novelist, this was a tremendous effort. Had it not been for the character of Li, I would have considered five stars, and I don't give that rating often. I definitely intend to follow Moriarty's career!
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great new SF author,
This review is from: Spin State (Paperback)Spin State is a cornucopia of recent SF themes put togather by first time author Chris Moriarty. She pulls it off like a grizzled veteran. It took me a couple of chapters to get acclimated to her style after which the story flowed by with nary a jarring word.
The story takes place several centuries in the future where FTL travel has been accomplised but not mastered. There are consequences for using the system, mainly memory loss. The main character,Li, has made thirty seven such trips and struggles with the accuracy of her memories. She wonders how many people are using her for their own purposes.
AI's have become sentient and use humans that are equipped with "shunts" to interact with the physical world. Other humans can "use" the shunts too which can become confusing if not paid careful attention to. Li has a love-hate relationship with an AI named Cohen that is the underlying fascinating rollercoaster ride through the pitfalls of human-AI ineractions. The story flip-flops between physical reality and the "spinstream." The spinstream can be a dangerous place for both humans and AI's.
The story also contains a hard science element with forays into geology, quantum teleportation, many worlds theory, entanglment and others, but it is worked in in a manner that is painless. The book contains many other elements that I have not touched on but are done in a most competant way. Spin State is a solid SF book.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous Book.,
This review is from: Spin State (Paperback)I am bleary eyed from staying up late to finish this book but I couldn't put it down until I found out how it ended.
Great mix of technology and storytelling. I struggled a bit with the jargon at the beginning but kept at it and by the time I finished I understood quite a bit through context. Fabulous main characters, especially Cohen the AI.
I wish the author would write another with the same characters. I could see this being a series!!!!
67 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh WOW-- Just, Well-- WOW!,
This review is from: Spin State (Paperback)I know that if I build this book up too much someone is going to read it and be really disappointed. So I'm going to lay down some ground rules.
In order to like this book you:
1. Must like science fiction
It would not hurt if the reader has some knowledge of the history and present state of the coal mining industry but that is not required because the author does a very good job of presenting the troubles of a mining planet, it would just enhance your enjoyment.
Above all the reader should enjoy fast action (C. J. Cherryh & Kristine Smith comes to mind) and one of the more unusual romantic relationships in recent SFF.
Thank you Chris Moriarty, I really needed this.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good hard SF concepts, average crime novel,
This review is from: Spin State (Paperback)This novel starts strongly, by showing us a glimpse of a 'posthuman' world where people backup their memories and where AIs can hijack ("shunt") human beings for a joyride. The protagonist is a strong, tough female, suggesting a welcome change to other SF male leads.
Unfortunately, the novel quickly devolves into a 'whodunnit?' about a scientist murdered in a coal mine. It's a bit sad that such interesting hard SF concepts such as quantum teleportation, 'spinstream' and Emergent AIs are presented through a very ho-hum, run-of-the-mill detective story, and this is what makes 'Spin State' so frustrating to read.
It gets better after roughly half of the novel, but the novel never really exceeds the awesome potential that it seemed to have. Whereby it could have been a gritty 'Snow Crash' set in space, it ends up being a detective story with a space opera backdrop.
If you're looking for a crime novel, skip this because it doesn't offer anything beyond clichés such as characters cryptically helping the protagonist along for convoluted reasons. If you're curious about intriguing new SF concepts, then it's worth to go through this book regardless of the detective story.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good, but falls a little short,
This review is from: Spin State (Paperback)This book had a lot of interesting ideas, settings and characters but ultimately I felt that it fell a little bit short of its true potential. The writing style and characterizations at times reminded me of another new piece of sci-fi, Altered Carbon, a reminder that I felt was unfortunate, since overall this was a much better work. There were some truly novel technologies and concepts that I wish had been described and explored in more detail. The author obviously did his homework, based on the list of textbooks and articles referenced in the endnotes, but perhaps he (or his editor?) was worried about getting too technical and scaring off readers? Its a shame becuase quantum computing and communication are cutting edge topics that I haven't seen addressed in much detail in any other current science fiction (and obviously not older classics). The other frustration was with the pace. So much went on in the middle 300 pages that was ultimately just backfill. And then, the ending felt rushed. But in contrast to another reviewer, I found the last 20-30 pages to be some of the best. And when I finished I found myself thinking for several hours/days afterwards about the revelations. So, like I said, this was good sci-fi, I just wish it had been better. Hopefully the author will return to this setting in future works.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but difficult to follow at times,
This review is from: Spin State (Paperback)This book was an enjoyable read, but it has some difficult in explaining the more technical concepts to the reader. For example, I had a bit of difficulty understanding when the characters were acting in real space, and when they were performing actions in virtual reality (spin space?). Minor characters pop up from time to time and you forget who they are or why they're important. You also have to get used to pretty much every important character in the story being female -- not that it's a problem, but it does become strange after a while. I feel the story's strength is in how it protrays the AI characters, but at the same time the technical details aren't spelled out well enough for you to understand how the AI characters work, or what they really are. I give this book 4 stars for being an original and entertaining story. I would have given it 5 had the technical concepts been explained in more detail.
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Spin State by Chris Moriarty (Paperback - September 30, 2003)
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