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Spin Control
Chris Moriarty
Bantam Spectra, 456 pages

Spin Control
Chris Moriarty
Chris Moriarty was born in 1968 and has lived in the United States, Southeast Asia, Europe, and Mexico. Before falling back on science fiction, Chris worked as a ranch hand, horse trainer, backcountry guide, all-purpose tourist industry flunky, and lawyer. Another novel, Spin State, was a finalist for the Philip K. Dick, John Campbell, Spectrum, and Prometheus Awards.

Chris Moriarty Website
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SF Site Review: Spin Control

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

Arkady seems to be a lamb sent to slaughter. Nothing in his sheltered, heavily socialized upbringing in a deep space creche with hundreds of identical A-series Rostov Syndicate clones has prepared him for being dumped on a dying Earth as a pawn in a cynical and violent espionage game.

He's never been outside Syndicate space before, never mind on the ground in war-ravaged Israel among un-engineered humans. Hell, his scientific specialty is ANTS. And the players are terrifying. There are spies from nation-states (Israelis, Palestinians and Americans), UN operatives and even an AI from the affluent, high tech orbital ring around Earth.

Ostensibly Arkady's mission involves a virus that his survey team found on the planet Novalis. But Arkady already suspects that even his own side hasn't told him what he has really been sent for, and he knows the chances are slim that he will survive, never mind find the lover he came to save.

This is the merest introduction to a very complex novel with a large cast of characters and three distinct story threads. Arkady and his Earth contact, a former Mossad operative named Osnat, move through the tortuous intrigues of the Middle East, intersecting with Major Catherine Li and her partner, Cohen, a several century old AI who shunts through hired human bodies. The action on Earth is interleaved with flashbacks to Arkady's Syndicate survey mission to Novalis -- a mission that went badly wrong from the very start.

All the individual elements of this book are excellent. The characters are strong, the settings are striking -- especially the squalid yet fascinating Middle East -- the science is top-notch, and the intricate plot moves along quickly. Yet, the sheer density of data, though well presented, is daunting.

The complex plot and ideas in this novel have a tendency to overwhelm its affable, rather inept protagonist. And amid all the political maneuvering and violence, it's hard for a reader to find a cause to root for. Arkady is only in the game to rescue his lover, and the other players are all so deeply mired in cynicism and corruption that the stakes -- the future of the human race -- almost get lost. This is arguably realistic, but it's doesn't make for optimal entertainment.

Fans of hard SF will love this book -- Chris Moriarty has thoroughly thought out and researched her future landscape and societies, and the book is stuffed with intelligently presented concepts, many revolving around complexity theory (the study of complex non-linear dynamic systems).

This is not a book for everyone, though -- there's a lot of complicated, unfamiliar material that has to be grasped very quickly. I doubt that Spin Control has the broad appeal to make it a bestseller, but it will certainly reward the discriminating SF reader.

Copyright © 2007 Donna McMahon

Donna McMahon discovered science fiction in high school and fandom in 1977, and never recovered. Dance of Knives, her first novel, was published by Tor in May, 2001, and her book reviews won an Aurora Award the same month. She likes to review books first as a reader (Was this a Good Read? Did I get my money's worth?) and second as a writer (What makes this book succeed/fail as a genre novel?). You can visit her website at

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