Simon Morden’s Metrozone trilogy first caught my attention back in 2011 with its seriously brilliant covers – a quite literally eye-catching style (and stylishness) which the publisher unfortunately abandoned for the trilogy omnibus as well as for this fourth volume of the series in favour of some considerably more conventional (and considerably more boring) SciFi-cover.
Thankfully, that did not affect the content – The Curve of the Earth is just as fast-paced, thrilling and entertaining as the first three novels in the series were – Samuil Petrovitch might have become older (and rather more powerful) but certainly not wiser, which is very much to the benefit of the reader.
The Curve of the Earth starts ten years after events in Degrees of Freedom with the disappearance of Petrovitch’s adopted daughter Lucy from a research station deep in the wilds of Alaska. Of course, Petrovitch will stop at nothing to get her back, even if it means crossing the USA where in this series Southern Baptist Fundamentals have taken over and brainwashed the entire population, turning the US into a nation-wide version of Stepford. And of course (it really is not much of a spoiler telling this) he will succeed in his mission, but take several beatings during the course of it and end up with even fewer parts of his original body intact. The way there is filled with non-stop action – FBI, CIA, NSA, the US military, all seem out to get Petrovitch and to keep him from discovering what Lucy saw before she disappeared, a secret so momentous that the US government are throwing even their few remaining scruples over board to keep it under wraps at any cost.
This is not the kind of Science Fiction that would push the limits of the genre, no mind-boggling quantum physics like Hannu Rajaniemi or mind-blowing literary experimentation like M. John Harrison, but it does not even try to be – this is pure entertainment, and meant to be nothing but fun. Not fun of the mindless variety, however – while Simon Morden does go over the top quite frequently (and with considerable gusto), he does know what he is doing (and what he is writing about – no post about any book of his would be complete without pointing out that in his day job he is an actual, real-life Rocket Scientist). The novel is well written and keeps a constant forward-driving urge, there literally is never a dull moment here – there is something exciting happening on every page if not every paragraph, and if it is not things being blown up or our heroes being shot at, being beaten or otherwise subject to threats, then it’s a surprising plot twist or another gasp-inducing revelation of just how the US have gone the way right-wing nutdom in Metrozone’s version of the future.
One caveat then for anyone considering reading this: if you happen to be a USian patriot, especially of the Republican variety, I really, really recommend giving The Curve of the Earth a wide berth. (And I probably should add that the novel is not satirizing the US per se, indeed his protagonist Samuil Petrovitch has quite a few good things to say about them – about what they used to be, that is. Morden is aiming at what the US have increasingly turned into since Reagan, Bush et al. and just prolongs those tendencies.) Everyone else: go and get this for one of the most entertaining fun rides in recent Science Fiction.
The novel does come to a satisfying conclusion, but leaves several threads unresolved (not to mention several of Petrovich’s original body parts still intact) so there is room for a sequel. And while I’ve read here and there that The Curve of the Earth was supposed to kick off another trilogy, Morden has followed it up with a fat Epic Fantasy novel instead. Which is probably quite good (I do own it, but have not read it yet), but I’m still hoping he’ll regale us with the further adventures of Samuil Petrovitch before too long.