by Chris Moriarty
Review by Benjamin Wald
Spectra Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780553384949
Date: 30 April 2013 List Price $16.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Ghost Spin is a book I have literally been waiting for for years. Chris Moriary published the first two books in the series, Spin State and Spin Control, in 2003 and 2006 respectively, and I have been eagerly awaiting the next installment ever since. Ghost Spin lives up to my expectations brilliantly.
It has rogue AI's, a kickass cyborg heroine, and even pirates. It also has multilayered characters, smart dialogue, and a deeply imbedded understanding that the future will be neither a utopia nor a dystopia, but that things will change and it will be better in some ways and worse in others, and then everything will change again.
The protagonist of the novel is once again Catherine Li, former UN soldier and war criminal. As the novel begins, she hears that her husband, the emergent artificial intelligence Cohen, has apparently committed suicide while on a distant planet. Refusing to accept this, Catherine investigates Cohen's death to discover what really happened, which drags her into the middle of the deadly ongoing conflict between the UN and the Syndicates, an offshoot of humanity made up of genetically engineered clones, in their new conflict over "the drift", a newly discovered means of FTL travel.
The novel does an excellent job of exploring both the personal and the political. Catherine is a fascinating character, and the novel explores her relationship to Cohen and to herself. Catherine is in many ways a damaged person, and in the course of the novel she comes to a certain hard won self-awareness that is subtly and evocatively captured by Moriarty's prose.
At the same time, Moriarty has a talent for showing the wider picture, expertly working out the implications of the political situation in her future world and demonstrating its effects on the lives of the citizens. None of this slows down the pace of the plot, however, which is part action adventure and part detective mystery. Catherine's investigation soon makes her enemies, and Moriarty kept me turning the pages at breakneck speed.
The novel can be read as a standalone, albeit at the cost of some of the nuances of the story. I haven't read the originals since they came out, and while I forgot an occasional character or two, I had no trouble following the plot. Still, knowing Cohen and Catherine's history together does help the reader appreciate the book, especially the early sections with their emphasis on Catherine's grief over Cohen's death.
To anyone who is a fan of the first two novels in this series, you need to read this book. To anyone who hasn't read the originals, you should find the first two and read them, then read this book. A brilliant mix of space opera, cyberpunk, and just plain great writing, Moriarty's work is some of the most impressive in science fiction today.