the golden witch.'s Reviews > Degrees of Freedom

Degrees of Freedom by Simon Morden
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Jul 21, 11

bookshelves: 2011, arc-galley, cyberpunk, ebook, dystopia, net-galley, reviewed
Read from July 20 to 21, 2011

This review is one for all three books. Just a warning.

I totally did NOT expect to get sucked into this series as much as I did, and the fact that it’s only a trilogy makes me profoundly sad. This is an awesome, awful alternate present/future that Morden has created, and I’m sad to see it go. But let’s take a look at what makes it so great, shall we?

This world is split off from ours at 2000, says Morden in an interview in the back of the first book. However, he doesn’t say how far in the future the Metrozone exists in – presumably at least 25-30 years down the line, as they have things like implantable/replaceable body parts and the like. Japan is gone, sunk under the sea, and the US is run by a “reconstructionist” religious party (not so far from today, it sounds like?).

I love books that consider alternate histories. It’s the Schrodinger’s Cat idea that gets me the most – instead of choosing A, what if I’d chosen B? What if I’d said no instead of yes? What are the possibilities of those choices? I know Doctor Who did a whole bunch of episodes about that in season 4 (some of the best of that season, and that season was pretty awesome). Morden’s alternate history of what might have happened in the year 2000 forward is a wonderful exploration of the darkest parts of the human psyche – our needs, our wants, and our most base animal parts. This is a dark bunch of books – so if you’re not into dystopian, let alone math-related books, bail out now. This just won’t be your cup of tea.

But if you like cyberpunk, math, thrillers, dystopia all in one insane mix, these books are so definitely for you. The math isn’t overwhelming, but there are some confusing points that I had to google to be sure on. Luckily, the rest are made up (the Ekinobi-Petrovitch Theorem, for example), so if you’re math-stupid like me, you’ll be fine.

I think the best part about Sam as a character and Morden is an author is that you really live through Sam’s eyes the entire trilogy. You’re right there with him, right there next to him, inside of his head. This means everything – from his stuttering heart in the first book, to his broken heart over Maddy by the third book. You see, think, feel, smell, touch everything he does. Morden is a master with sensory language and the amount of showing over telling is overwhelmingly, joyously tipped in the “showing” direction – automatically making me love Morden. It’s so hard to do that, and doing that in a sci-fi genre book/series is even harder. I tip my hat in major respect for him being able to do that.

The pace of these books start out slow but once they get going, don’t let up until you’re panting until the very end. But you know what? It’s a great panting, a great sheen of sweat you feel by the end of each book (especially book three). Never have I been so thrilled and on the edge of my seat for a hard sci-fi novel/series – at least not in a long, long while.

And the best part? OUR HERO IS A NERD. GEEK. DORK. But totally brilliant. He’s not big and brawny and gorgeous – he’s scrawny and pale and geeky. Morden makes math sexy with this hero, though, because I’d totally date Petrovitch. In a heartbeat.

I’m keeping this review spoiler free, so all I can say that’s left is to go read these books if you’re even remotely a sci-fi fan. It may be a pretty dark world Petrovitch and his friends are in, but he’s the light that shines within it, even if he doesn’t want to be. I seriously recommend the “Petrovitch” trilogy and any other future books in this world by Morden, should/if they ever come out. A great summer read, for sure!

(posted to shelfari, goodreads, and

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