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Ghost Spin
Chris Moriarty
Spectra, 592 pages

Ghost Spin
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
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Spin Control
SF Site Review: Spin Control

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

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It starts when Catherine Li's lover, the artificial intelligence known as Cohen, commits suicide. Unwilling to believe it, Catherine takes off in pursuit of what she thinks must be the truth, and, when she's willing to admit it, revenge. By the end of her journey, several characters from Chris Moriarty's previous novels, Spin State and Spin Control, have re-appeared, past actions have been explained, confronted, and too often regretted, and the possibility, but just the possibility, of a whole new post-human future has appeared.

Catherine's problem in Ghost Spin is not just a personal one. The newly developing interstellar civilization depends for its survival on a kind of faster than light travel, and the supplies of the Bose-Einstein condensate that makes it possible are dwindling. The future appears to be one of isolated colonies desperately hanging on against newly ennobled pirates, depleted resources, and the increasingly authoritarian UN peacekeepers. The exception is a part of space known as the Drift, where FTL travel works, though no one is totally sure why. It could be that ships are actually navigating back, forth, and through one version of the multiverse to another.

That's the kind of thing that takes a lot of computing power, and all travel in the Drift is dependent on navigation by artificial intelligences. How those AI's are treated, and just what their own concerns might be is the second major theme of Ghost Spin, and ties Catherine's story together with the pirates, her own past with the Peacekeepers, and Ada, an emergent AI who has been abused by the human beings who control her.

Ghost Spin concludes the stories that were begun in Spin State and Spin Control, though each volume is capable of being read on its own. Along the way, in settings ranging from the vastness of the multiverse to the harsh realities of desert warfare in the Middle East, Moriarty has addressed such issues as a post-human future, the nature of the universe and the place of consciousness therein, the economics of colonization, the nature of artificial intelligence, cloning and the benefits and problems of a society based on a model borrowed from bees, and the dangers of authoritarianism in the face of a fearful future. In so doing, the Spin novels deserve a place among the best post-human science fiction of our time. The mathematical discussions of the nature of reality rival anything found in Greg Egan's recent novels, and Moriarty's depiction of the difficulties, abilities, and confusions of an emerging artificial intelligence show us nothing less than the beginnings of what could become the Minds of the late, great Iain M. Banks's Culture.

That's not to say that Ghost Spin and its predecessors should be read mainly as works of scientific speculation and philosophy. It's the characters, human, post-human, and artificial, and their foibles, talents, weaknesses, obsessions, dreams and desires that make the story worthwhile, and whether it's Catherine Li and her forgotten past, the regrets of a pirate named William Llewellyn, a police detective on a mining colony caught up in larger events, the infuriating contradictions of Cohen, or the heartache that is Ada, these novels are filled with memorable characters. In Spin State, Spin Control, and now Ghost Spin, Chris Moriarty has taken her characters, and her readers on a three volume ride through one of the most richly imagined universes in recent science fiction.

Copyright © 2013 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L Johnson is still waiting for that emergent AI to come into his life. Greg's reviews have appeared in publications ranging from The Minneapolis Star-Tribune to the The New York Review of Science Fiction.


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