December 22nd 2016
Just a quickie before Christmas – there’s a giveaway, organised by Gollancz, of both Down Station and The White City. Link is here.
February 12th 2016
You can’t get off at Down Station, of course, merely glimpse it as you rush by between Green Park and Hyde Park Corner on the Piccadilly Line. But you can visit the outside of it. It’s on Down Street (unsurprisingly), third road on the left as you walk along Piccadilly from Hyde Park. This is what you’ll see:
Which is unprepossessing, but that door with the blue sign is precisely the door through which our beleaguered travellers find Down. And this is my invitation for you to find Down, too.
There’ve been some more reviews in the last week:
Down Station is filled with choices that mirror well into the real world, the sense that we are never too far away from chaos, and it’s the decisions we make that define our future. 9/10, A ‘must read now’. (SciFiNow)
…a balanced, nuanced, story with no absolute heroes and villains, but plenty of muddled, baffled people trying to do the right thing, to make their own history. (Blue Book Balloon)
This book was really good! Exciting, imaginative and unexpected. It felt different and creative and had a good story. The world was fascinating, the characters diverse and the plot was very intriguing. (How to Become a Heroine)
All of which are good signs. There are over 250 hoping to win a copy over at Goodreads (draw still open at time of posting). And the first three chapters are now online, in lovely audio (not read by Cathy Tyson, who had to pull out at the last minute due to family commitments, but by Thomas Judd, who does a very fine job indeed).
The book itself is out on Thursday, but I’m signing copies (along with Tricia Sullivan, who’s going to be there with Occupy Me) at Forbidden Planet in Shaftsbury Avenue, London, on the 20th of Feb, 1pm-2pm. It’d be brilliant to see you there. I’m also supposed to be at the Super Relaxed Fantasy Club on the 23rd – I’m a little unclear as to where that’s actually being held, but hopefully I can snag a native guide to help me find it.
What else can I say about Down Station? If you want a story of ordinary people finding themselves in extraordinary situations, which have morally complex and not always noble solutions, where secrets can kill and lies are mandatory, then Down Station is what you’ve been waiting for. Even if it’s not, I’ve had more than one reviewer comment, “I didn’t expect to enjoy this quite as much as I did.”
Open the door. Step through. Find Down in all its terrible glory.
January 20th 2016
Gollancz are lovely and know that you want to get your hands on a copy of Down Station. So they’re giving a massive 15 copies away on Goodreads. The draw is open now, and closes on February 15th. Follow this link for the right page.
January 5th 2014
Okay, this one is pretty straightforward: if you can answer yes to the following three questions, you can win a free copy of Arcanum:
1) Do you live in the US?
2) Are you a member of Goodreads?
3) Do you want a free copy of Arcanum?
Even if you can only answer yes to 1) and 3), you can probably fix 2) reasonably straightforwardly. There are probably easier was to get a copy of the book than fixing 1). If you can’t say yes to 3), then – I guess that’s pretty easily sorted, too, because hey, FREE STUFF!
Click the link here and press the ‘Enter to Win’ button. Which is a bit of a misnomer, for surely it should be ‘Enter to stand a chance (currently slightly less than 1 in 20) to Win’. That’s probably enough pedantry for one evening…
June 14th 2011
A recent comment on Goodreads has sent my usually chaotic thought-processes into an even more ragged whirl: I always consider this a bonus, because it means I read even more eclectically than I usually do in an attempt to justify what I’ve already done. “Of course I’m right, and if you give me half an hour, I can provide a dozen well-researched sources proving that!”
Okay. The charge is that Degrees of Freedom (and the whole Metrozone project) descends into “a politically correct thriller” that “barely deserves the sf label”. I’ll take the last one first, because “SF is what I say it is when I point to it and say ‘that’s SF’.” But also, Degrees of Freedom is (hopefully) clearly a story that wouldn’t exist without science, and has a scientific solution – which, to my mind and probably more importantly, my publishers, makes it SF.
The charge of ‘political correctness’ is more interesting, because the phrase itself is code. In and of itself, ‘political correctness’ (which I’m going to abbreviate to PC from now on, to save pixels) doesn’t actually mean anything that’s associated with either the P-part, or the C-part. Put them together, though, and what you have is a meta-contextual value-judgement favoured by those on the political Right to dismiss, without argument, something they disagree with. Labelling something as PC is not an argument. It’s not a knock-down blow. It’s code, and it’s complex. It’s meant to be an insult, but there are much more imaginative and accurate ways to be insulting. To whit: it’s lazy.
The chief exponents of PC-as-insult in these domains are parts of the British tabloid press. “PC gone mad!” is the reaction when a council bans parents from taking photographs of their kids in a Nativity play. And whilst you appreciate the child protection issues involved, it does seem more than a little stupid. It seems very stupid, in fact, and an error that is compounded by conflating such displays of wilful ignorance with either the Human Rights Act, or the Health and Safety at Work Act. But a lot of PCness boils down to basic decency. We don’t refer to blacks as niggers or coons, or people from Pakistan as pakis, Italians as wops, the Spanish as dagos, folk in wheelchairs as crips, those with physical disabilities as flids – because they don’t like it. Hell, I don’t like it. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we ought. We shouldn’t go out of our way to offend. Making public buildings accessible to all is not PC. Insisting that women are paid the same as men for doing the same job is not PC. Suggesting that airbrushing black people out of your publicity material is wrong is not PC.
I don’t think Degrees of Freedom is guilty of that, however. Using my secret decoder ring, I’m taking a stab at the real reason for calling it PC is because religious Americans are the bad guys.
And actually, that is such an unnuanced statement, I’m going to qualify it: Reconstruction America, as portrayed in the Metrozone series, produces a mindset that inevitably leads to a set of motives and actions that are internally consistent and logical, but which appear to the protagonists as ‘the Americans are the bad guys’.
Reconstruction is, by the time the Metrozone series starts, a two decades-long experiment in social and economic engineering. It is extremely socially conservative, highly capitalist, and religiously patriotic. It takes seriously American Exceptionalism, is isolationist, and brutally Romantic, in that it holds up a Platonic ideal of America that everyone must strive for. It’s a binary ‘for us or against us’ view. It’s a reaction to the previous sixty years of expansionism and social change, and also to Armageddon. And while it’s clear to me that some people in the real USA would not only want the kind of society I describe but are actively campaigning for it, I know and thank God for the fact that it’s never going to happen. There’s the constitution and the amendments, there’s the Supreme Court, the elected representatives, the people. It’s a what-if. It’s not even an original what-if. American writers have used the right-wing quasi-fascistic government card so often, it’s almost a trope.
Religion is inextricably linked to that trope. There’s something iconic and eminently writable about the unholy marriage between American patriotism and protestant Christianity. Not all patriots are religious, not all Christians are ‘my country right or wrong’ patriots. But, yes, iconic and writable, and very visible. I actually get to hear speakers like Jim Wallis and Tom Sine – good evangelical Christians – who are of the left, so I know there are many flavours and textures to the religious landscape in the USA: all the same, the stereotype is the right-wing Christian, and you can’t be an evangelical without being on the right.
So this is the America I’m painting as ‘the bad guys’. Are they actually bad? That depends on your point of view, and the American government in the book doesn’t do anything that they don’t do either in real-life, or haven’t been portrayed as doing in other films and novels, written by Americans. Once you’ve taken Reconstruction as a given, the rest follows like night follows day. The US administration’s actions are entirely in line with the prevailing philosophical and religious outlook, and that’s as it should be. They don’t see themselves as bad. They’re not rubbing their hands like a cartoon villain. They’re doing what they need to do in order to further the interests of the United States of America. Which is again, entirely right and proper.
Am I being taken to task then, for showing the actions of a fictitious future government of a named country? Quite likely, yes. The rub, of course, is that the protagonists are an alliance of unstable hackers, traitors, and ne’erdowells who, if they profess any political allegiance would most likely tick the box marked Anarchist. If it’s unconscionable that a fictional USA is bested by this fictional gallery of rogues, can I suggest the problem might not lie within the book?
But I can’t know any of this for sure – because the charge of PC is, as I’ve already said, lazy. If you’re going to be critical, be specific, and be smarter.
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. “
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