November 17th 2013
Kirkus have reviewed Arcanum*. They like it enough to give it a starred review. They also said:
“…Morden, against a gritty, utterly convincing backdrop, anticipates every consequence and wrings out surprise after surprise. An enthralling read for aficionados of intelligent, impeccably rendered fantasy.”
Which was very kind of them.
Also, the interview I did for Publishers’ Weekly has emerged from behind the pay-wall. In it, I am witty and self-deprecating.
*here be slight spoilers. If you want to avoid them, don’t click through.
October 5th 2013
Publishers’ Weekly have (behind the paywall) a review – nay, the first ever review – of Arcanum.
I’m not equivocal about reviews, and I don’t think any author is, no matter what self-deprecating noises we make: we either ‘bleed in public or bleed in private’, and especially when I’ve spent something like eighteen months of my life working on the manuscript, whether or not anyone genuinely likes it outside of the people who either wrote it (me), had to read it (editors, proof readers), or read it out of familial duty (wife), assumes an importance that can be a little unnerving.
Even more so that I when I was interviewed over Skype (I have Skype now – fear me, mortals!) for PW, I was listening very intently for any hint that the interviewer hated the book, and moreover hated me for writing it and wasting rather a lot of her time. I have warned you this is a BIG book, haven’t I? Fortunately, she’d liked it, asked me lots of smart questions about the setting and the characters, and about my somewhat original writing process (‘sit down and just write the damn thing’ may or may not have been one of my answers).
So, to the review (very helpfully sent to me by Patrick Heffernan of Mysterious Galaxy Bookshop, purveyor of all your genre needs.)
Starred Review: Science fiction author Morden (the Petrovitch Trilogy) makes a masterful foray into an alternate universe where, a thousand years after the fall of Rome, Europe is divided into numerous petty kingdoms and magic is a tool and a weapon. The cunning Order of hexmasters—whose enchantments create bridges, power cities, underpin commerce, and annihilate entire armies—is the ruthless power behind the throne in the German palatinate of Carinthia. When the magic abruptly stops, enemies amass armies at Carinthia’s borders and mobs take over its streets. Under-librarian Frederik Thaler and illiterate huntmaster Peter Büber are both certain that the library holds the kingdom’s salvation. Capricious adept Nikoleta Agana may be the last remaining hexmaster. Twelve-year-old prince Felix is thrust onto the throne after his father’s death in battle. Willful, shamefully unmarried Sophia Morgenstern is determined to protect her fellow Jews from terror-fueled pogroms. An engrossing rollercoaster of a plot winds up with a solidly satisfying climax that leaves the reader craving more. Agent: Anthony Harwood, Anthony Harwood Literary Agency. (Jan.)
‘Masterful’? Check. ‘Engrossing’? Check. ‘Satisfying’? Check. ‘Craving more’? Yeah, okay. We’re good to go with this.
April 7th 2013
“The Curve of the Earth successfully opens a whole new chapter for Petrovitch in the best possible way by exploring whole host of new avenues, hopefully leading to many more adventures.”
“Morden peppers the swiftly moving story with high energy action scenes, some of which are impressively original. To the extent that The Curve of the Earth feels like an extended set-up for the next novel in the series, it at least whets my appetite for whatever might be coming next.”
“Great dialogue, great characters, great settings – this takes post-apocalyptic worlds to a new height, with sensational results. Absolutely riveting!”
“I just slammed through it, and it’s a blast.”
July 23rd 2011
It’s about time I rounded up the non-Amazon reviews (though I would direct your attention to a couple of the more recent ones on the .co.uk site…)
Two reviewers have read all three and reviewed all three in the same blog post, which indeed makes sense. Considering the books in the round, does the series make sense? Is there a story arc that travels throughout? Does all the swearing and explosions get a bit samey after a while? Is there a law of diminishing returns?
Not according to Usagi, who not only loves the Petrovitch (“I’d totally date Petrovitch. In a heartbeat.”) but, after some (possibly accurate) criticism of my writing style from other reviewers – no, I don’t want you to have to reach for the dictionary every other sentence, and no, I’m not a great prose stylist like m’friend Chaz Brenchley (who I love – both him and his books) – says this:
“I think the best part about Sam as a character and Morden as an author is that you really live through Sam’s eyes the entire trilogy. You’re right there with him, right there next to him, inside of his head. This means everything – from his stuttering heart in the first book, to his broken heart over Maddy by the third book. You see, think, feel, smell, touch everything he does. Morden is a master with sensory language and the amount of showing over telling is overwhelmingly, joyously tipped in the “showing” direction – automatically making me love Morden. It’s so hard to do that, and doing that in a sci-fi genre book/series is even harder. I tip my hat in major respect for him being able to do that.”
That’s really quite lovely. And to continue the theme, Holly at Books for One has other nice things to say. She spots that I’ve actually written a character-driven SF series. SF is not renowned for its production of full-rounded characters, and yes, it often eschews character development for gadget-strewn, plot-heavy shininess (which I do enjoy, but sometimes it’d be nice to have people I care about in all the shenanigans). She finds Petrovitch’s determination “endearing” and is completely on-side the whole time, despite his anti-hero tendencies.
It has been pointed out that there are a lot of strong female characters. I didn’t consciously mean it to turn out that way, but that’s what organically evolved. Here’s what Holly says about some of them:
“There’s Valentina, a true Soviet communist to her red core and demolitions expert. Lucy, the schoolgirl found hiding in a bathtub from the outies who saves his life more than once. And of course Madeleine, the amazonian, Catholic trained bodyguard who does things to Petrovitch’s synthetic heart that has nothing to do with the fact it’s constantly malfunctioning. I adored all of these guys, they were all useful fully realised people, no extra bits of skirt who are only good for the hero to perv over in these stories…”
She concludes: “If you’re looking for something clever, fast paced and exhilarating then you can’t do much better than these three books. In Communist Russia book reads you.” Happy author is happy.
June 9th 2011
Posted by: Simon Morden in: From the Author, Metrozone, Reviews
Tags: Alternative Worlds | Amazon | Blue Gargantua | Degrees of Freedom | Equations of Life | Goodreads | Metrozone | reviews | Sffmeta | SFRevu | Theories of Flight | Tzer Island
Colour me confused. Now, I’m fully cognisant of the concept of ‘not owning your books once you’ve published them’, but I’m not going to pretend that I’m not keeping a watchful eye over proceedings.
Which is why I’m baffled at some of the contradictory responses to the words what I wrote…
I’m not sure I’ve mentioned either the Amazon or Goodreads reviews here before: ‘my’ Goodreads page is here, and by clicking on each individual book, you get a breakdown of readers’ responses. There are comments, too, and some of the reviews I’ve mentioned elsewhere also pop up here. All well and good – it’s a bit of fun, sharing your response to a book with others. And I’m gratified to see, I get some 5s, loads of 4s, some 3s… and so on. And no, I don’t expect everyone to love the books – they’ll appeal to a certain section of the audience, while leaving others meh.
The Amazon responses are a bit more, well, serious. It’s a market place. It’s where people come to buy books, not just swap opinions about them. I’m not going to poke holes in individual reviews, but yes. Contradictory about sums it up.
So – Equations of Life: Blue Gargantua calls Equations “hands down, some of the best cyberpunk I’ve read in quite awhile”.
SFRevu has it’s third review of Equations (some sort of record?) by Liz de Jager: “Equations of Life is a great opener to this trilogy by Simon Morden. Petrovitch’s character shines brightly and Morden has given us a new kind of anti-hero, one who is likeable for all his unlikeability, and that is no mean feat.”
I’ve also stumbled on SFFMeta, which is a sort of review agglomerater. But rather than just take all reviews, it takes them from “trusted online sources”. Since publication Equations of Life has sat quite happily in the “Last 90 days high scores” table, and since reprinting, the “Last 90 days high scores – reprints” table, with a respectable 73 – which puts me in some very respectable company. And now the score has gone up to 75. Take that, rubbishy Amazon reviewers!
Reviews of Theories of Flight are still thin on the ground, but the first Degrees of Freedom ones have started appearing. There’s the usual (possibly slightly incoherent) one from Harriet Klausner. It means 4 stars on Amazon.
Best of all is TChris’ – now, he’s been reading the series through, and has had criticisms to make of both Equations and of Theories. I’ve won him over with Degrees, though! It’s a long quote, but it’s worth printing in full.
“It’s not that often I come to admire a fictional character, but Petrovich is a truly admirable creation: a self-sacrificing hero, an idealist who refuses to be seduced by power and fame. Petrovich is the kind of unwilling leader we wish for in the real world: someone with the wisdom to exercise power nobly for the betterment of society before standing aside to let everyone else do their part. He’s a character of sufficient complexity to experience guilt about the consequences of his actions without feeling remorse for doing the right thing. He gives a speech toward the novel’s end about how he’s changed because of the events described in the trilogy, how he’s learned to be unselfish, to value his friends and to be a reliable friend to them, but it’s clear that Petrovich had integrity from the start, and it’s his integrity, his consistent refusal to take the easy path when he doesn’t feel it’s morally correct, that makes him so interesting. “
May 3rd 2011
Posted by: Simon Morden in: From the Author, Metrozone, Reviews
Tags: Deranged Book Lovers | LEC Book Reviews | Metrozone | reviews | Stomping on Yeti | Theories of Flight | Tzer Island | Writing about Reading
With reviews for Equations of Life starting to slow down (though it’s popping up in some interesting places, which I’ll link to later), the first few reviews for Theories of Flight are starting to trickle in. Obviously, while I’m pathetically grateful that anyone would actually bother to write a review of anything I’ve written, I’m still hoping for good reviews – not necessarily ones that heap praise on me (not that I mind that…), but ones that actually take time to analyse the book, and say what it made them think and feel.
Lynossa has a review up on Deranged Book Lovers. Three and a half stars, and “Only one word to describe this book: crazy! Yes, that’s right, if you think the first book is crazy enough, wait until you read this book. Blood spilled, gun trotted, bodies were piled up everywhere. The pace was even faster that the first book and I just can’t stop reading it.”
Harriet Klausner (who must be one of the most prolific reader/reviewers in the blogosphere) has posted hers on Genre Go Round and other places – including Amazon where she gives it 5 fat stars. We like that.
TChris’ review on Tzer Island (and Amazon – 3 stars): “If you enjoyed Equations, I think you’ll like Theories, even if it lacks some of the first novel’s virtues. Theories starts well, the middle is action-filled but light on substance, and the ending carries enough promise that I’m looking forward to reading the trilogy’s conclusion.” Fair enough.
Paige over on Writing about Reading gives Theories 4 stars: the review is self-confessedly a little spoilerish, but she does very much like “Bad-ass” Dr Petrovitch, and has pulled out a bunch of her favourite quotes from the book.
Theories has also had some recommendations with (what I believe are called) ‘capsule reviews’: LEC Book Reviews plonk it on top of their list: “This second outing is just as exciting and downright entertaining as the first and is one you too should consider putting on your To-read lists.” Degrees of Freedom pops up on the bottom of the list, too. Which is nice.
Stomping on Yeti has it as one of their April picks: “Theories of Flight delivers a blend of intelligent science fiction and relentless action adventure that Hollywood wishes they capable of.”
I think that’s about it – I try not to obsess too much over these things, but I’m only human. Still.
April 14th 2011
Things are slowing down a bit now on the Equations of Life review front – which is less stressful for me (see here) – but it’s only two weeks until Theories of Flight hits the streets… reactions are still generally positive to very positive, which is nice. I’d like to state on the record that these three books are supposed to be entertaining. I don’t do the didactic thing. I’m not trying to teach anyone anything – except maybe if you’re slightly less of a grumpy bastard for reading them, my work is done. On with the show!
A.V. Club – I get a C+ (which is a pass mark where I come from). “If Morden were shooting for pure, hardboiled pulp, that would be one thing, but he’s also reaching for some deeper points about loss, responsibility, and the role of technology—elements far better juggled by writers like Richard K. Morgan. Still, Equations Of Life is a rollicking read, even it does implicitly beg for a brainy audience and a brainless one at the same time.” Meh.
Fantasy Book Critic – Liviu Suciu has given an excellent and thoughtful review (A/A+) here. He does say I might be fifteen years too late for the cyberpunk party, and if I stick with the same formula for Theories of Flight and Degrees of Freedom, “three same cyberpunk novels (will be) a little too much for me.” I can guarantee you Theories is very different, while still brimming with Petrovitchy goodness.
Out of Ten gives me a 6.0. He seems to have enjoyed it though: “A good old-fashioned post-apocalyptic cyberpunk adventure, despite sometimes trying to be a bit too clever.”
io9 is simply the gift that keeps on giving. May whichever god you believe in bless them and all their endeavours … Equations has made the April books list, with the quote “Theoretical physics plus action equals win”. It does, too. Epic win.
April 7th 2011
It’s the official UK launch day for Equations of Life. Except it’s been out pretty much since Saturday, and the Book Depository seemed to jump the gun by a whole two weeks…
And just to prove that I don’t only link to the good reviews, I shall start with SFX. It’s not online (yet. I assume it will be at some point), but I’ve been told over the phone the outcome. Two stars. I haven’t seen it yet, as it wasn’t in either of the shops I went into today. I am moderately disappointed, as I kind of thought it’d be right up their street, but hey. I pull up my big girl pants and proceed to the sunny uplands of…
The Falcata Times! Gareth gives me 4 stars. It starts “If you like a book where an author creates a memorable character then you really have to try this title by Simon Morden” and ends “a seriously great find from our friends at Orbit and a series that will have a lot to live up to.”
I hadn’t realised I’d made the Stomping on Yeti March picks (being a US-based blog, it came out there on the 29th). “The lovechild of near-future thrillers and theoretical physics”. woot!
I also have not one, but two reviews on SFRevu. Here is Mel Jacob’s, and here is Ernest Lilley’s. Both are good, but the best line of all is Ernest’s last one. “This is a series not to be missed, and as I’ve had a chance to read the other two books, I can promise you that it’s only going to get better.”
April 6th 2011
Another bunch of reviews have appeared. They are, in no particular order:
Bookgeeks. We like Bookgeeks. Not only is it a brilliant name for a book blog, any review that starts “There’s always room in my life for books like Equations of Life” is absolutely fine by me.
io9. I discovered the joys of io9′s (tag line: we come from the future) blend of cool a few months back, and only then realised just how massive its online presence was. First, they loved the Metrozone walls, then they loved Equations of Life. A massive review – detailed and perceptive – and very, very positive.
Warpcore have also picked up on the joy of Petrovitch with this review. 4 stars – “It’s a breathless near-future thriller with an unrealistic body count and a sympathetic central character”. I would question the use of unrealistic, but meh…
Finally for this post – LEC Book Reviews have decided that “This shockingly fun start to the Metrozone Trilogy is brilliant and well-worth the go.” I concur!
April 2nd 2011
A quick round up of reviews for Equations of Life I’ve found, some fresh off the presses, others a little bit older:
Paige Vest has written some very nice things – again, someone who I think gets it. That’s important to an author.
Deranged Book Lovers seem to be under the impression that Equations is a Young Adult book. It’s not. It’s really not. Unless you want your kids swearing in Russian. But they do like it, give it 3.5 stars, and say they’re going to read the next one. Which is plenty good enough for me.
Tzer Island give it a big fat 4 stars, tell me Sebastian Faulks is going to sleep easy in his bed, call it “a satisfying novel”, and also say they’re interested enough to set to on Theories of Flight.
One last one – I can’t link to this, because Lisa Tuttle’s review is behind the Times’ paywall. To quote: “The plot may not bear close inspection but it speeds along with energetic panache, making Equations of Life a very entertaining romp.” There was me thinking the plot was on rails…
*ninja edit* It’s here
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