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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
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

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Spin Control is Chris Moriarty's second venture into the universe she first crafted in Spin State. But whereas Spin State was high-tech, hard SF set in space and alien environments, Spin Control, as the title implies, is a claustrophobic, intense look at the politics of a near-future earth, and the growing split between what's left of humanity on Earth and its post-human descendants in space.

There are some familiar elements. Catherine Li is here, and finds herself an on-looker this time at events that are mainly being controlled by others. Those others include Israeli and Palestinian intelligence agents, American businessmen, and the artificial intelligence known as Cohen. The intrigue concerns the availability of a virus, possibly a weapon, that has been discovered on a planet named Novalis. That virus is being offered to the powers on Earth in the person of Arkady, a member of the post-human culture known as the Syndicate.

The Syndicate, a society based on cloning, is seeking to expand in space. Arkady is a researcher, a specialist in the study of ants who was involved in the effort to colonize Novalis. That effort is detailed in a series of flashbacks as Arkady is smuggled first onto Earth, and then to Israel, in and out of the Line that separates Israelis and Palestinians.

The Earth Arkady finds himself in is a possibly dying planet, where a climate change and ecological disaster threaten the existence of the human species. The politics and possible outcomes are deadly serious and complicated, and as on outsider, Arkady begins with very little knowledge of who's who and just what anyone's possible motives might be. Moriarty does a good job depicting a character who easily could have come off as too stupid and naive to survive in such an environment. Instead, Arkady learns just fast enough to keep himself alive long enough to wonder if his mission is exactly what he thought it was.

Spin Control is a hard science fiction novel that uses elements of the political thriller to propel a plot that basically revolves around the question of just what Arkady's virus is, and what it does. The politics are a good set of projections from the present situation mixed with the starkness of realpolitik, and an understanding that behind the maneuvers, deceptions, and power-plays are real people, whose decisions have consequences that can haunt them for the remainder of their lives. Spin Control grows as a novel in tandem with Arkady's growth both as an individual and in his understanding of the world around him. That helps to make Spin Control a bit of a rarity, a no-doubt-about-it science fiction novel in which politics feel as real and down-to-earth as next year's election.

Copyright © 2006 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L Johnson has been wondering lately why science fiction writers, with their inclination to look for long-term consequences of current decisions, are so seldom included in the political discourse. His reviews also appear in the The New York Review of Science Fiction.


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