Super-curvy: review of ‘The Curve of the Earth’ by Simon Morden

One of the many satisfying things about this novel is that the usual everyman point of view character, FBI Agent Joseph Newcomen, as actually more of a nemesis. He’s an all-American jock but the America of the novel is a puritanical, reactionary state whose neo-Victorian values are depressingly easy to believe as a near future prospect. There is even a hint of authorly frustration here, especially in the raging humour about the absurdity of after-the-horse-has-bolted airport security. It is a measure of the hero’s humanity, despite being a cyborg, that he tries to engage this jackass in a kind of buddy-buddy trip. The hero, Doctor Samuil Petrovitch, manages to get inside Newcomen’s head as he does inside ours to the extent that during the reading of this book and for a while afterwards you will find yourself swearing in Russian and rationalising that odd tendency as no bad thing.
The background of the novel is Metrozone, a kind of information free trade area that is the antithesis of the novel’s depiction of America. Petrovitch and Newcomen personify the political and ideological oppositions without this division seeming clumsy, possibly because they are joined on a mission to find Petrovitch’s missing daughter. She is not his biological daughter; over the course of the novel we learn that the enhancements that make Petrovitch so cool have come at a perhaps predictably great cost. However, beneath its technical wizardry the story, like it’s protagonist, is rooted in very humane territory. In much the same way as Petrovitch helps Newcomen even as the latter tries to impede him, the good/not good/ambiguous doctor is ferociously protective of his strange clan.
These characters feel like they are the outcome of a complex backstory and this novel is not the first featuring them, although it is the first one I have read. Sometimes series novels can seem alienating but that’s not the case here. It’s possible to read the book and enjoy the textural density of it without necessarily knowing all the details that led the characters here; you are likely, however, to want to seek out the other novels in the probably justified hope that they are as good as this one.
The novel has a strong thriller element alongside the esoteric science and if that’s not enough there is also a cracking twist. Strongly recommended.

Buy ‘The Curve of the Earth’ by Simon Morden

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