The Curve Of The Earth by Simon Morden (book review).

‘The Curve Of The Earth’ by Simon Morden is the fourth Metrozone novel featuring Doctor Samuel Petrovitch, a genius with plenty of Russian swearwords in post-apocalyptic London.

By the start of this novel, Samuel Petrovitch has acquired various cybernetic replacements and a built-in AI, Michael, also known as the ‘New Machine Jihad’. He is part of the Freezone Collective, who are in constant contact with each other. So when his adopted daughter Lucy has been silent for ‘fifty-eight hours and forty-five minutes’ he is more than a little worried. She went off-line while alone at Fairbanks North Slope research station and this is in the middle of winter when there is permanent ice on the ground. Worse, the Reconstructionist American authorities are dragging their feet in trying to find her. Why?

A Freezone net-linked Ad Hoc committee decides to send Petrovitch and demand an FBI agent accompanies him to direct local assets. One slight snag, Petrovitch had deposed a previous President of the USA and is therefore not considered a friend of the country.

When a naïve, vat-grown from idealised American genes FBI agent Joseph Newcomen is sent to London to escort Petrovitch to America, the first thing the Freezone does is kidnap him to put a bomb in his heart. One wrong move or order not followed and Petrovitch will kill him literally with a blink of his eye, but Petrovitch can’t resist trying to convert him into the ways of the world.

On arriving in New York, it becomes obvious the US authorities want Petrovitch to find Lucy. Why? Especially as they have been so slow at searching for her.

Meanwhile, the Freezone mines data worldwide. The evidence points to the Americans shooting down a falling satellite with their SkyShield where Lucy would have seen it happen, just before she went off-line.

Petrovitch follows the clues, frequently changing his ideas about what happened towards the more improbable. Along the way, he and Newcomen see a lot of tense action until the climax of a chase across the ice and the final denouement of really happened.

This is Science Fiction techno-thriller in spades, which has a very satisfying ending. The book’s tension is kept high by being fast-paced, full of action and, like our protagonist, being repeatedly surprised as to where the search for Lucy is going.

Morden is good at getting into the head of the protagonist and the reader quickly ends up rooting for him, even if like me, the reader cannot translate Russian swearwords like ‘chyort’ and ‘yebani’. Although not needed for this novel, it pays to have read the first three books in the Metrozone: there are clearly a lot of references as to what has made Petrovitch and other main characters the way they are.

Even though this novel was published in 2013, it describes a lot of today’s societal issues, like why people refuse to change what they believe even when the facts are published in the press and how caring makes it so difficult to act rationally. Even though this novel is set in the future in a parallel universe, it makes it more relevant to the reader.

This closeness to the main character has one major advantage. The reader can easily make-believe that they are getting away with murder and showing the authorities up for their stupidity.

In summary, The Curve Of The Earth is a fun, relaxing read that allows the reader to feel as if they are escaping the constraints of reality.

Rosie Oliver

November 2020

(pub: Orbit, 2013. 346 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 8.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-356-50182-6)

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