Spin State, Chris Moriarity’s debut novel was nominated for the Phillip K Dick award.
In the post-Earth future, emergent AIs and genetic constructs are reality. Soldiers are wired for enhanced speed and power, their memories backed up on hard drives. Catherine Li is a UN peacekeeper who has spent her life passing for human and thanks to her job, has very few memories that weren’t wiped from her mind. Her ‘official’ memories may not even be true.
After leading a raid that goes bad, Li is sent to Compson’s World, the mining colony where she spent her childhood. A famous physicist, Hannah Sharifi, was found dead in one of the tunnels following a fire. No one can tell her exactly what the physicist was working on down there and Li is charged with finding Sharifi’s missing dataset. When Li discovers that Sharifi was murdered for whatever she learned in the mines, she is thrown into the middle of interstellar espionage and must decide whom she can trust: Helen Nguyen, the woman who sent her to Compson’s World; or Cohen, and emergent AI she has known for years.
The beginning of Spin State is full of action and engages the reader. Then comes the science. At times there was more science than fiction and as Cohen says, “Quantum mechanics gives everyone a headache. That’s just how it is.” About halfway through, the novel became more enjoyable. I really enjoyed Cohen and feel he was the best thing in Spin State. Moriarity’s writing is good and I can see she has talent. The problem was not so much the writing as it was the editing. A few of the scenes didn’t seem in line with the characters, were irrelevant or just underdeveloped. For example, while Li is investigating on streamspace she is attacked by an anonymous entity. Who this was or why it attacked was never explained, making it look more like a random attack. The two main characters, Li and Cohen, were well defined, but many of the secondary characters were not. Many times a character would come up and I couldn’t remember who the were. Several characters were members of the miner’s union and they all melded into one character for me. Surprisingly, when Cohen shunted through one of these characters, they became quite distinct with the AIs own personality coming through.
Spin State is a so-so read. Parts tended to drag on, but others are well written. I recommend reading this book to see Moriarity’s amazing characterization of Cohen. Despite a few problems, she has created a fascinating world in Spin State. I would love to read more about the emergent AIs and genetic clones, an interesting theme not developed enough in this novel. Hopefully, her next novel will be even better.
Spin State is available at Amazon.com
I reviewed Spin State from my own personal library