Thursday 23 May 2019

Mind Over Ship - David Marusek (2009)

Rating: Admirable

Mind Over Ship is the sequel to Counting Heads (2005), an excellent novel I read before the time of this blog, some eight years or so ago. I bought Mind Over Ship not long after and I now wish that I had read it far sooner due to the fact that it is a direct continuation of the first book and also features many of the same characters. Consequently I struggled to connect with the plot, but I could at least remember most the fascinating details of the future Earth created by Marusek. Many typical science fiction tropes are present, such as AIs, high levels of mechanization, body regeneration, clones, interstellar spacecraft and extreme capitalism; however Marusek's refreshing writing style make these familiar themes into a unique proposition. In Marusek's future world (2135) clones are commodities and his exploration of clone psychology is often both entertaining and disturbing. The novel also teems with countless different kinds of nano-bots that function as everything from annoying swarms of paparazzi 'bees' to spy 'nits' that hide within the folds of the scrotum (yes, the scrotum...).

Despite the novel's obvious charms I did not enjoy it as much as the first book. Although it did take me a while to find my feet memory wise the main problem was that the plot was too diffuse to be compelling, particularly during the middle third when the narrative should really begin to tighten. Mind Over Ship instead read just like a series of things that happened and when there were major plot developments they were lost among the detail. Adding to this problem were the multitude of characters, all with their own particular role to play within the overarching story carried over from the first novel and all jostling for attention. It was difficult to identify with one main protagonist, the closest being the 'Russ' clone - Fred, who was paranoid he was suffering from 'clone fatigue', but his character was ultimately just too prosaic to carry the novel forward to its relatively disappointing endgame. Despite these criticisms if you are curious to read what is ultimately very good science fiction I'd read both books back to back to get the most out of Marusek's immersive world-building.

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