The cool, densely black and white patterned cover implicitly announces that this is science fiction with a difference and the blurb reinforces that declaration. This near-future dystopian romp has a distinctly urban fantasy feel.
You are now entering the London Metrozone. The time is 7:35, two decades after Armageddon. Mind the gap.
Samuil Petrovitch = a survivor. He survived the nuclear fallout in St. Petersburg and hid in the London Metrozone: the last city in England. He’s lived this long because he’s a man of rules and logic.
For example: getting involved = a bad idea. But when he stumbles into a kidnapping in progress, he acts without even thinking. Before he can stop himself, he’s saved the daughter of the most dangerous man in London. And clearly: saving the girl = getting involved. Now the equation of Petrovitch’s life is looking increasingly complex.
The story hinges around Petrovitch and his adventures after his ill advised intervention during the kidnapping attempt and is told in third person POV. Despite the fact that Petrovitch is a scientist and in the middle of trying to survive the unwanted attentions of a variety of powerful people, he is also nursing a failing heart and trying to produce a world-changing equation. Despite the gritty dystopian cloak, this action-packed tale is not the visceral cyber-nightmare I was sort of expecting.
As for the idea that Simon Morden is the next Richard Morgan – hm, I’m not convinced. Morden might get bleaker as the series progresses, but throughout Equations of Life there is just too much rollicking joie de vivre bouncing through the chaos and destruction for any true Morganesque comparisons. Kovacs is capable of flashes of savage humour – but the breathless pace of Morden’s storytelling, with the constant plot twists corkscrewing off in all sorts of unpredictable directions without a pause for any sort of info-dump, or tastelessly graphic sex scene, gives Morden’s work an original charm all of its own. In fact, I think Petrovitch’s adventures have more in common with the early Harry Dresden stories…
In addition to the strong protagonist, there is an entertaining cast of enjoyable supporting characters, such as a fighting nun, a Machiavellian policeman and an entertainingly eccentric genius, some of whom will, no doubt, make further appearances in the next instalment of Petrovitch’s efforts to keep out of trouble. So, does Morden manage to deliver a suitably climactic ending to this action-packed tale? Yes – and there is also a cliff-hanging twist that has me toppling the stack of books piled beside my bed to get to the second in the series, Theories of Flight – and I don’t risk major injury to get to a book all that often…