Saturday, September 05, 2009

Book Review: Mind Over Ship by David Marusek

To say that Marusek’s follow-up novel to Counting Heads is high-concept, complex science fiction would be an understatement. Any attempt to describe the intricacies of his futuristic vision would take at least a dozen blog posts, because one cannot possibly understand how detailed his world is without actually reading the books and being immersed in it. That said, Mind Over Ship is the answer to all those that think science fiction has run out of ideas, because Marusek sure as hell is not short on them at all. Having said that, I am going to use the blurb from the jacket of the book to describe Mind Over Ship, because I can’t describe the book any better without going on for a week: The year is 2135, and the international program to seed the galaxy with human colonies has stalled as greedy immortal power brokers park their starships in Earth’s orbit and begin to convert them into space condos. Ellen Starke’s head, rescued from the fiery crash that killed her mother, struggles to re-grow a new body in time to restore her dead mother’s financial empire. And pre-Singularity AIs conspire to join the human race just as human clones, such as Mary Skarland and her evangeline sisters, want nothing more than to leave it. Marusek has earned his place in my book of amazing science fiction writers with this piece. While Mind Over Ship is not an easy read, once you get past the initial “culture shock” it is truly gorgeous in its design. The story itself is remarkable in how it can be both insanely complex, but yet approachable and fascinating. The characters, each of them with unique plot arcs, all woven together like a fine carpet, are each equally interesting. Many of them are actually clones, a fact that seems to complicate every inch of the story as they deal with issues of “clone fatigue” or “flaws.” The way Marusek weaves all of this together is indicative of his talent as a novelist. Less skilled writers would end up with a garbled mess of jumping POVs and confusing futuristic nonsense. Perhaps the only issue with Mind Over Ship is that for casual science fiction fans it may be too difficult to get into. For seasoned readers, or readers with tastes for complicated and unique universes, Marusek’s novel is a welcome retreat from the perceived death of science fiction as an ideas-genre. Mind Over Ship is what I would call a contemporary answer to Dune. Once you grasp the way Marusek’s world works, it’s not all that hard to follow him to the end of the story. Having said all of the above, I’d recommend this novel to anyone interested in high-concept, complex, far-future science fiction. If you’re looking for amazing ideas and unique perspectives on our future, then you need not go farther than Marusek’s Mind Over Ship. It’s brilliant in its complexities and one of the few novels that does everything that good, serious science fiction is supposed to do. You can take that term “serious” however you like. If you’d like to learn more about Mind Over Ship, check out Tor’s website. You can learn more about David Marusek at his website.


Ben said...

Hmmm. This sounds pretty good. I may have to try "Counting Heads". Have you read any Peter Hamilton? If so, how does it compare? Thanks!

S.M.D. said...

Ben: I haven't read any Hamilton, so I can't make the comparison. I would liken his work to a merger of Philip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov, but still unique enough to be neither.