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Spin State Mass Market Paperback – November 23, 2004
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In her debut novel, the terrific thriller Spin State, Chris Moriarty melds cutting-edge science with post-cyberpunk fiction and neo-noir suspense to create a complex, believable future inhabited by one of the most intriguing characters in modern science fiction.
Major Catherine Li is a veteran United Nations Peacekeeper in a future of world-nations. Humanity has spread across interstellar space by "jumping": teleportation enabled by quantum physics and a bizarre crystal found only on Compson's World. The jumps destroy memory, so jumpers back up their memories on computer. Despite this precaution, frequent jumpers still lose some memories, a fact that poses a far greater problem for Catherine Li than it does for other Peacekeepers. For Li has a dangerous, potentially deadly secret: she's an illegal clone.
When a UN mission goes awry, Li finds herself shipped on solo duty to Compson's World--her home world, to which she'd vowed never to return. Her mission initially seems simple: to determine if the death of brilliant physicist Hannah Sharifi was a crystal-mining accident or cold-blooded murder. Like Li, Sharifi is a clone--in fact, she's Li's genetic twin. Li swiftly finds herself enmeshed in the intertangled politics of the UN, the multiplanetary corporations, the miners, and the human-created Artificial Intelligences, who have enigmatic agendas of their own. --Cynthia Ward --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Despite incorporating nearly every well-worn SF theme, Moriarty still manages fresh insights into humanity-and posthumanity-in this highly atmospheric debut, a hefty far-future exploration of AI, human cloning, class conflict and plain old-fashioned murder. Major Catherine Li and her fellow UN Peacekeepers battle hive-minded Syndicate genetic constructs for domination of planets settled through FTL (faster than light) migrations enabled by mysterious crystals, quantum-level anomalies of unimagined substance mined only on Compson's World. Resembling the Victorian British empire, the UN's vast interstellar commercial empire runs on the blood and sweat of a few thousand pitifully exploited miners like Li's father, who died so she could remake herself and escape the miners' fate. Now wired into "streamspace" with an AI lover who interacts with her through both male and female hosts, Li is tapped to investigate the murder of physicist Hannah Sharifi, her cloned twin who hoped to share the crystals' power. Based on the short, dangerous life of miners as well as the heady scientific stuff of quantum physics, the book can be heavy slogging for the uninitiated. Moriarty effectively postulates the Faustian price of enhancing humanity with silicon, of playing God through genetic manipulation. Beneath this complex tale ominously simmers Orwell's question: If all animals are to be equal, what can prevent some from making themselves more equal than the others?
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
I might have expected this from a moonlighting physicist (of which there have been many in science-fiction) but from a self described "horse trainer, ranch hand, tourism industry employee, guide and environmental lawyer" is what really astounds me. And after reviewing the science bibliography at the end of the book there is no question that she has done her homework. I look forward to reading the remaining books in the series. BTW, her treatment of Artificial Intelligence in the future is also intriguing and expected to become more so as the series continues.
Owing much to the cyberpunk tradition of William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, as well as the pre-cyberpunk tradition of Philip K. Dick, Alfred Bester and the like, this is nonetheless a fairly original blend of classic SF ideas remixed with post-cyberpunk speculations on the future possibilities of cutting-edge physics and bleeding-edge information science. Anyone who enjoys a raw thriller rooted in the popular science so much a part of the 21st century - whether you tackle differential geometry in your sleep or just prefer reading Scientific American to Entertainment Weekly - this is your kind of story. Be warned, however, it is not without some flaws that could use ironing out.
I concur with reviewer M.S. Hills that the secondary characters were poorly fleshed out, particularly in light of the lengthy descriptions given to details like mineshaft headframes and so forth. Oddly though, the two primary characters, the protagonist and main love-interest/AI were, I thought, filled out exceptionally well. The AI in particular was one of the neatest "alien" characterizations I've run across, particularly toward the end when we see some of the inner workings of a Sky-Net-esque (in terms of structure, not motivations) mind. With the General I can understand the lack of depth since the reader is clearly supposed to apprehend her as a shadowy Machiavellian force behind the players stage front and center. And since we never really meet the idealistic scientist first-hand, I can excuse that as well, though I would have liked to know more about her simply because the tidbits the reader gets are fairly fascinating. But the mine boss, union bosses, pit priest, station security and others could certainly have used a bit more depth.
A greater economy of exposition, especially in scenery descriptions, would have severed the author well in keeping the plot moving. Moriarty is not the worst offender in this regard, but an editor as ruthless as her General could have boosted this to a gripping page-turner. I personally didn't find the plot all that convoluted, just slow to develop. It does pay dividends by the last fifty pages, provided you're patient.
All that said, for a debut novel I'm still reasonably impressed and will certainly be giving the sequel a spin. The aforementioned reviewer compared the plot elements to Richard K. Morgan's Altered Carbon, but I actually liked this somewhat better. Morgan's a very talented writer, but a bit too sanctimonious at times, which isn't really to my tastes as much as a story that leaves the reader to make their own judgments of the characters and their motives (YMMV). In fact, a story that I can't help but think Moriarty must have been inspired by is Crystal Singer by Anne McCaffrey. I read the two many years apart, but the parallels are still striking.
For purists of hard science fiction, this book has everything. The author did a great job of blending futuristic concepts and technology into a world readers can imagine. The technology and quantum concepts are great. The tough female protagonist is awesome and characterized very well. The writing itself is very good and easy to read. A great debut novel.
For readers who avoid hard SF like the plague, this isn't a book for you. Many of the esoteric concepts introduced early on never get an explanation. I'm no slouch, but I felt the author could've done a better job with this because if I'd been borrowing the book (instead of owning it), I would've stopped reading after the first chapter or two. Too confusing at the beginning.
The plot itself is nothing new. The murder mystery drags on for longer than it needs to. A few times one of the minor characters in the book will tell the protagonist to stop farting around and get back to work. And I agreed! With the exception of Cohen, the secondary characters were one dimensional and predictable.
I'd actually give this book 3.5 stars and will check out the next book in this series.
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