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Equations of Life (Samuil Petrovitch) by Simon Morden
Review by Mel Jacob
Orbit Mass Market Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780316125185
Date: 01 April 2011 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Ernest Lilley's review / Show Official Info /

In Equations of Life, a tour de force of a thriller, Samuil Petrovitch, a displaced Russian, is caught in a struggle between the police and two criminal groups trying to kill him. Set in post Armageddon London, Petrovitch saves the daughter of a Japanese crime boss from kidnapping by a rival gang of Russians and ends with a contract on his head.

A brilliant student of physics, he is close to developing a unified theory of the universe and energy sources, and flows others would kill to possess. He knows computer technology and the networks inside and out. Unknown to others, his credentials are false, but his intelligence more than compensates. He also has a bad heart that threatens to cease functioning at the most inconvenient times.

Japan has sunk into the sea and the Japanese crime boss wants to recreate it in his VirtualJapan. He has a quantum computer simulation more powerful than other machines on earth. He also has hired a bent American computer interface whiz to complete certain aspects. His plans for the American involve either discrediting him, killing him, or both. Once Petrovitch informs the man of this, he acts on his own to take over the city and defeat the crime boss.

When the daughter leaves messages for Petrovitch that a rival has killed her father and kidnapped her, he vows to save her. However, the quantum computer has plans of its own and begins a reign of terror as the Machine Jihad. It threatens the Metrozone with a nuclear bomb.

A girl with a samurai sword, a nun, and a London policeman aid Petrovitch in a wild journey through the Metrozone. Surviving, saving the girl, and stopping the Machine Jihad provides thrills and setbacks amid a changing and threatening landscape.

Petrovitch appears naive about women and has no close relationships yet shows shrewd insight into people and the computer systems. While operating on the fly, he usually understands what’s happening and what to do about the unfolding events. His failing heart may slow, but never stops him.

Morden avoids weak female stereotypes and provides a number of strong women. One of the most interesting is the gun-toting nun, Sister Margaret. Belonging to the order of Saint Joan, she is charged with protecting church property and officials including the parish priest to whom she is assigned. Encounters with Petrovitch make her question her faith, and she saves his life several times.

A fluent writer, Morden manages to inject plenty of humor into the narrative. While a few situations are over the top, the story works and readers will want to see more of Petrovitch. Orbit will issue two succeeding volumes featuring Petrovitch over the next several months: Theories of Flight and Degrees of Freedom.

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