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Spin State (Spin Trilogy #1)

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  2,063 Ratings  ·  161 Reviews
From a stunning new voice in hard science fiction comes the thrilling story of one woman’s quest to wrest truth from chaos, love from violence, and reality from illusion in a post-human universe of emergent AIs, genetic constructs, and illegal wetware...

Spin State

UN Peacekeeper Major Catherine Li has made thirty-seven faster-than-light jumps in her lifetime—and has probabl
Mass Market Paperback, 642 pages
Published November 23rd 2004 by Bantam Spectra (first published January 1st 2003)
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Brandon Sanderson
(This review is from 2004.)

One Sentence Synopsis: A female soldier assigned as the new security captain for a problematic world has to investigate the death of a famous scientist and recover her lost notes before they fall into the wrong hands.

Genre: Post-cyberpunk murder-mystery with an edge of hard science and a lot of political intrigue.

Continuity: Completely standalone, though there is sequel potential.

Content: This one isn’t for the kiddies. It has references to sexuality—though it never ge
I am so pleased to have discovered this talented writer. In this debut novel from 2003, we get a compelling sci fi detective tale and thriller bound up with a fascinating human-AI (Artificial Intelligence) love story and themes of class struggle projected to a future where the defining characteristics of humanity have become ambiguous.

The beginning of the story drops you right into the middle of action, with the female protagonist Li leading United Nations Peacekeeper soldiers on a raid on an il
Oh my yes. Oh MY yes.

Some years ago, I made a conscious effort to switch my home genre from hard SF to fantasy. Fantasy had more women writing in it, and it seemed to be growing and developing as a genre, while SF stagnated. There seemed to be far fewer fantasy books where women existed only as prizes, as nonsentients, as set dressing, as motivation for the Man to do Manly Things for Manly Reasons. There were fewer (though still many, sadly) fantasy books where queer people and brown people jus
Just wonderful. All of the best elements of classic sci-fi and who-done-its, yet totally new at the same time. I was fascinated on every single page. The way she wove the science and human angles together was perfect. In an odd way, it reminded me of the first Dune book. Not the story in any way other than perhaps the genetics/breeding humans stuff, but because both universes were so fully imagined that they feel absolutely real, from technology to politics to interpersonal relationships, it all ...more
Jun 01, 2009 Brownbetty rated it really liked it
Recommended to me by OddKaren, and upholds the general trend from her of high quality recs. OddKaren is always on the search for "Ladies and spaceships" books, (and who isn't?) and this one exceeds the genre.

Moriarty (I hope this is a pseud, as it would be an awesome one) writes a thickly textured future in which the definition of life is expanding in all directions: AIs, comprised of unstable networks of smaller awarenesses, are fighting for their civil rights, genetic constructs are second-cla
Dec 06, 2010 Brainycat rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of cyberpunk, detective noir and romance
Genre: Science Fiction (post-human, far dark future) / Romance
Brainycat's 5 B's:
boobs: 1 // blood: 3 // bombs: 3 // bondage: 1 // blasphemy: 2
Currently listening to: ESA "The Sea and the Silence"

Sometimes books have a singular aspect that attract their readership despite all the other failings; one thing the author got so right that all the problems with the book seem trite and easily overlooked. What Spin State got right for me was the protagonist. Catherine Li is made of pure win. She's no Tak
Aug 14, 2007 Haengbok92 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone, but especially those with a Hard SF bent
Recommended to Haengbok92 by: a very good friend
Shelves: favorites
It gives me great pleasure to finally be able to write a review on this amazing book. This is one of the best Hard SF books I've read in some time. It combines theories of quantum mechanics and multi-universe theory as well as confronting issues of class, humanity, identity and the nature of love all in a wonderfully creative and gripping way. Genetic constructs and sentient vs. nonsentient AIs, war, intrigue, betrayal, romance--this book has it all. And the main character Catherine Li, as well ...more
Paul Hufton
Mar 04, 2013 Paul Hufton rated it liked it
So. Spin State is a pulp sci-fi novel set largely in a mining town on a distant planet. It’s very much a thriller, with a lot of action and characters that are unsure how much they can trust one another. The author creates a whole universe, and does so quite convincingly, but this does affect the pacing somewhat as the book is quite long and there isn’t that much plot to sustain it. Equally it means that some aspects of the universe are described that just aren’t relevant to the plot or characte ...more
Oct 27, 2009 Shaina rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
In a future where quantum entanglement has enabled FTL transportation and communication, Major Catherine Li is a UN peacekeeper with a shoddy, piecemeal memory, a lot of hardware in her brain, and a secret she's been keeping for her entire professional life. She gets assigned to investigate the death of a prominent gene-engineered scientist

So, right around the time that the pretty lady in white showed up in Li's office, a classic damsel in distress move if I ever saw one, I realized that this wa
Pete Ames
Jan 26, 2013 Pete Ames rated it really liked it
Perhaps I should be upfront, this is not a 4 star book yet I could not bring myself to give it a mere 3 stars for I feel I owe it. Thanks to this book I have had an enjoyable introduction to the world of Hard Science Fiction and I know that could have easily not been the case.

Spin State is, in a way, two books:
1. An inventive extrapolation forwards of human science and human nature to conjure a world which is at once familiar in its motivations but monumentally different in its experiences
2. A m
'spin state' leaps out of the gate as a military mission gone wrong, then shifts into a far more densely complex and thinky mystery, where the whodunnit is far secondary to the world it's wrapped up in. oh, Moriarty (and if that's her real name, +100 awesome points), wow can you craft a future. it's a post-human world full of illegal genetic surgeons, emergent AIs, and travel and communications fueled by quantum mechanics and bose-einstein condensates (yes, this one had me taking a few trips to ...more
Jul 11, 2014 Julie rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
There is nothing wrong with world building, as long as that world is being built in service of the story. (See Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow, Asimov's The Gods Themselves, or nearly any James Tiptree story.) In Spin State, there are piles and piles of endlessly dense and often incomprehensible details about a dystopian world, all in order to tell a straightforward and less than genre-bending murder mystery. Painted in tiny yet muddied strokes (the pointillism of science fiction?) the "mystery ...more
Oct 18, 2010 Sarah rated it really liked it
Spin State sets a blistering pace and trusts the reader to catch on quickly. I had to read at a slower pace than usual or risk missing something important. There's a large cast of characters made larger by the concept of shunts that allow another to inhabit a person's body temporarily. There's murder and quantum physics and politics and artificial intelligence and human enhancement and emotional entanglement and a fine, flawed protagonist in soldier-with-a-secret Catherine Li. I'm not sure I und ...more
Stayed up until the wee hours finishing this one. I must admit that a lot of the explanations of the technology went way above my head, but the story was top-notch. I guess that is reasonable since this book of fiction has several pages of bibliography at the end of it, all relating to quantum physics, if that gives you any idea. BUT, you don't need to be interested in quantum to really enjoy this book...there is something for everybody. Mystery, crime, romance, social commentary, etc. and so fo ...more
Jul 27, 2009 Ron rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
I give Moriarty credit for trying to be hard SF, but found the business about one human shunting into the body of another unconvincing. Yes, the advanced AI's might do it--assuming the human host was specially wired, conditioned, etc., etc.--but not humans.

For all the supposed hard science, the book explores many social and political issues, in the grand tradition of SF.
Sep 13, 2008 Valerie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Rick Coencas
Recommended to Valerie by: free
Shelves: math, fantasy-sf
There is nothing I like better than a good old fashioned "what-if" this book asks some of those questions about quantum physics and entanglement, and asks them in the form of space opera.
Adam Snider
Oct 01, 2011 Adam Snider rated it liked it
An excellent book, with a startlingly new spin on some basic tropes (alien life, the 'space marine' as a character trope, and artificial intelligence especially). After quickly finishing both this book and its sequel, Spin Control, I was disappointed to learn that Moriarty hadn't published any more in the series. The re-read which prompted this review was done in celebration of the fact that she seems to be preparing a third book, Ghost Spin, although the release date has yet to be announced.

Jun 01, 2009 Wealhtheow rated it liked it
Recommended to Wealhtheow by: Brownbetty
In the far future, humans cling to relevance through a combination of money and military. They are dependent on sentient AIs with impenetrable motives and on the Bose-Einstein condensates, which enable them to communicate and travel instantaneously through the universe. But the condensates are only found on Compson's World, and humanity's greatest scientist was just killed in a cave-in there. Catherine Li, a UN peacekeeper with secrets of her own, is sent to investigate Hannah Sharifi's death, a ...more
Lisa Eskra
Mar 27, 2011 Lisa Eskra rated it liked it
I enjoyed this novel but my feelings on it are mixed. What Chris did well was done really well. What she did poorly, on the other hand, fell flat.

For purists of hard science fiction, this book has everything. The author did a great job of blending futuristic concepts and technology into a world readers can imagine. The technology and quantum concepts are great. The tough female protagonist is awesome and characterized very well. The writing itself is very good and easy to read. A great debut nov
Susan Henn
Apr 08, 2010 Susan Henn rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
4/10 - I read scifi for the big ideas. After the first 100 pages of this book, I almost quit reading it. It seemed like just an action/combat book void of big ideas. I persevered and finally the book got interesting with sentient AIs working for freedom from enslavement and an alien species with similarities to Earth's coral beds. I thought the religious element was illogical and I thought the lesbian agenda was too overt. Parts of the book were too 20th century Earth to be included in a futuris ...more
Jan 17, 2015 Marie rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Marie by: thefourthvine
Oh my god. Oh my GOD.

Hard SF - three pages of "recommended reading"-type hard SF - with genetically modified humans and AIs and weird-ass xenobiology AND A MOTHERFUCKING BISEXUAL PROTAGONIST.

This is everything I have ever wanted, EVER. So good, so good, SO GOOD. I think I need to reread to get the science all straight in my head? but, oh my god, seriously, hands down the best hard SF I have read in a long fucking time.

Dec 17, 2015 Ian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are those who believe science fiction is a predominantly pessimistic genre, and certainly many of the futures that sf novels posit can hardly be called utopias. Of course, much of this depends upon your personal politics – a neoliberal fantasy, for instance, would likely appeal to a plutocrat, or to someone so deluded they think they actually stand a chance of becoming one. Yet such futures are common in science fiction, and often the protagonist – ie, the character with whom the reader is ...more
Buzz H.
Oct 11, 2016 Buzz H. rated it liked it
Shelves: f-sf
Spin State is a great piece of cyberpunk/space opera/hard SF. It is a proud, evolved descendant of William Gibson, Pat Cadigan, and a host of classic cyberpunk writers. It grapples with the human/machine space in exceptional ways, and I appreciated Chris Moriarty's really interesting take on artificial intelligence.

The central characters, hominid and AI, were well done and complex. Other reviewers have criticized some of the secondary characters as two-dimensional, and there may be some truth i
Mat Domaradzki
Jan 11, 2017 Mat Domaradzki rated it did not like it
This book attempted to explore interesting concepts but had little of substance to offer - it was everywhere and made little sense. There's a reason this author went on to write young adult books after this trilogy - this book was practically one itself (but worse somehow)!
Tim Chant
Mar 07, 2017 Tim Chant rated it really liked it
Great world building and vision of a potential future, with a fascinating protagonist and unusual relationship at the core of it. Little confusing in places but overall enjoyable.
May 08, 2011 James rated it really liked it
I'm one of those people who re-reads books. I re-read this one a few weeks ago, and it was as good as I remembered. Back around the time this book was new, I'd had my appetite for cyberpunk re-whetted by Richard K. Morgan, and was looking around for other good authors in the genre to read. Moriarty did not disappoint. And all these years later, on rereading? I was still awake half the night just digesting all the /ideas/ Moriarty filled this world with. If you want a book with an astonishing amo ...more
Apr 05, 2015 Nicole rated it really liked it
Don’t let the quantum physics scare you away. Spin State by Chris Moriarty is so much more than a book grounded in high tech mechanics and artificial intelligence. I won’t lie, I was intimidated by the material while reading the first 50 pages or so. As someone who has barely dabbled the world of science fiction, and whose mind is so far away from understanding scientific musings that it is almost shameful, after I delved into this book, I thought that it might be out of my league; over my head. ...more
Bart Everson
Oct 18, 2010 Bart Everson rated it it was ok
Shelves: octavia-sf
It looks like a typical 300-page paperback, but when I actually cracked it open I was surprised to discover it’s twice that long. I had a mere ten days to read it, and I’m a slow reader.

So I tried to read this one more quickly, especially toward the end. I made a point of not letting my eyes drift backward in the text to re-examine the previous sentence, the previous paragraph, the previous page. I discovered I could read much more quickly if I enforced this discipline. Apparently my eyes dart a
Gaston Prereth
Jan 26, 2013 Gaston Prereth rated it liked it
Spin State is a fractured book. It is undoubtedly a Hard SF book, dropping the reader in at the deep end within the first few pages. It introduces vast waves of technology with little explanation and expects the reader to be able to keep up. It is also, undoubtedly, a pulp/noire-esq detective story with shady characters in bars talking over half smoked cigarettes. Unfortunately, the two story lines share little with each other and often the transition between scenes is jarring and uncomfortable. ...more
Roddy Williams
‘From a stunning new voice in hard science fiction comes one of the most thrilling debut novels in years. Welcome to a post-human universe of emergent AIs, genetic constructs, and illegal wetware, where survival can be only a state of mind. Welcome to.


UN Peacekeeper Major Catherine Li has made thirty-seven faster-than-light jumps in her lifetime – and has probably forgotten more than most people remember. But that’s what backup hard drives are for. And Li should know; she’s been hackin
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Play Book Tag: Spin State by Chris Moriarty - 3.75 stars 1 5 Apr 17, 2016 10:16AM  
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I am the author of SF novels SPIN STATE and SPIN CONTROL, and winner of the 2006 Philip K. Dick Award. Upcoming books include GHOST SPIN and THE INQUISITOR'S APPRENTICE, a middle grade fantasy set on New York's Lower East Side, circa 1900. I also have a regular book review column in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
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“The trouble with friends was that you couldn’t get rid of them. There was no way to take back a friendship in the wake of betrayal or disappointment. The friendship, and everything that went with it, stayed. It just became unreliable, like an abandoned house; you still knew where all the rooms were, and which stairs creaked underfoot, but you had to check every floorboard for rot before trusting your weight to it.” 42 likes
“You don’t trust people because they’re a sure bet or even a good risk. You trust them because the risk that you’ll lose them is worse than the risk that they’ll hurt you.” 4 likes
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