Review: ‘Equations of Life’ by Simon Morden


Equations of Life

The Metrozone Series #1 (aka The Petrovitch Series)

Author: Simon Morden

Format: galley

Publisher: Orbit Books

Release Date: 4/01/2011

Length: 296 pages (Amazon states length of paperback to be 400 pages)

Acquired: from the publisher via NetGalley


NetGalley’s summary:

SAMUIL PETROVITCH = A SURVIVOR. He survived the nuclear fallout in St. Petersburg and hid in the London Metrozone – the last city in England. He’s lived this long because he’s a man of rules and logic. For example, getting involved = a bad idea.

But when he stumbles into a kidnapping in progress, he acts without even thinking. Before he can stop himself, he’s saved the daughter of the most dangerous man in London. And clearly: SAVING THE GIRL = GETTING INVOLVED.

Now, the equation of Petrovitch’s life is looking increasingly complex: RUSSIAN MOBSTERS + YAKUZA + SOMETHING CALLED THE NEW MACHINE JIHAD = ONE DEAD PETROVITCH.

But Petrovitch has a plan. He always has a plan. He’s just not sure it’s a good one.

My thoughts, which might be considered somewhat spoilerish by some:

A quick blurb from Publisher’s Weekly before I get on with it:

In a dark near future, the U.S. has become a theocracy, Japan has been destroyed, and the U.K. has devolved into near-anarchy. Ph.D. student and Russian expatriate Samuil Petrovitch, living in the decaying London Metrozone, foils an attempt to kidnap a mysterious woman called Sonja and finds himself caught up in a war between Russian mobsters and a ruthless tycoon. As things escalate, Harry Chain, an enigmatic cop, and Madeleine, a sexy, violent nun, are also caught up in the war. Morden occasionally gets too cute and there are a few moments that border on deus ex machina, but Samuil’s mix of action and research makes him a fresh and engaging character, and the escalating scale of danger and violence moves the plot along briskly. Though pitched as the start of a trilogy, the book stands nicely alone.

I agree that it stands alone nicely. Wait… except for that whole cliffhanger at the end of the book thing! I had a couple of other upcoming releases in my reading queue that I intend to read before book 2 in this series, ‘Theories of Flight’ (which is due for a May 1 release), and I had to talk myself out of starting Theories as soon as I’d finished Equations. I restrained myself, however… mainly because I didn’t want any impressions of the beginning of book 2 to cloud my review of book 1. Which I am getting around to discussing, I promise. Still, I very much look forward to continuing Petrovitch’s story in the next book, which I have waiting for me on my e-reader. Calling my name… taunting me.

The covers of the books in this trilogy really caught my eye, and nearly gave me a headache. It’s just really hard not to stare at the covers, you know? All joking aside, the cover art combined with the story description were what prompted me to request the galleys of these books from Orbit. The publisher’s site has an interesting little article regarding the covers of the books in the trilogy and the cool factor helps with the headache-inducing factor. ;o)

And so we meet Samuil Petrovitch, twenty years after Armageddon. 22 year old Samuil is a refugee from Russia, living in the London Metrozone, the last city in post-Armageddon England. Young Sam is somewhat brilliant and is a post-grad working on some heavy-duty science, and doing it quite well. He generally keeps to himself though he has a certain air about him… he’s hiding from something and so he keeps his head low and minds his own business.

Until, that is, he foils a kidnapping and nearly dies in the process. Why would he risk himself, his health and his work to save a stranger? Especially when doing so not only put his health at risk but indebted him to a crime lord and placed him smack dab in the cross hairs of the Russian mafia! Neither situation is one that Sam wanted to find himself in and to complicate matters, the police are now hounding him.

Everybody wants to know why he saved the would-be kidnap victim and everyone thinks he has ulterior motives. So rather than sinking back into comfortable obscurity, Sam finds himself at the center of attention. When treachery strikes and the entire Metrozone is in danger of obliteration, Sam realizes that he’s the only one who can stop it, with the help of a seriously ass-kicking nun who may be the only person Sam can trust. Madeline saved Sam’s life when he rescued Sonja and ended up nearly dying in her church. Now they share a connection that will cause her to drop everything to help him save the girl once more, save his incredibly important work and hopefully, save the entire Metrozone. But will they be on time?

The whole concept of Armageddon and the world moving on afterward is fascinating to me. I enjoy apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic books though they admittedly depress me from time to time. This book was in no way depressing and kept me interested straight through to the end where my first thought was, “What? That’s the end?! NOOO!!!” And then I remembered that  I have book 2 waiting for me and I stopped whimpering.

Morden sucked me right into the world of the Metrozone and kept dangling the carrot representing the story of Armageddon before my nose without letting me have more than a nibble at a time. So while the story and the way it played out were in themselves satisfying, I was definitely left wanting more and wanting it now. Probably more than Samuil’s fate, as I can make assumptions regarding that, I’m anxious for more back story. What happened to start Armageddon? What happened to Samuil in St. Petersburg that caused him to recreate himself as a refugee in the Metrozone? Will we get more of the history of this fascinating post-apocalyptic world? I certainly hope so. I’m definitely in for the whole series and will discuss the next books here as I read them.


Fave quotes:

“I’ve walked into someone’s private crusade. So what did they do to you? Kill your rookie partner, blow up your car, boil your pet rabbit?” ~Petrovitch to Detective Inspector Chain

‘He decided to put a brave face on the situation. It might be his last few minutes on the plant, but he was determined to go out with his middle finger extended in salute.’

“Good morning, this is Samuil Petrovitch. You might remember me from such incidents as hunted like a dog through the streets’ and ‘kissed by the boss’s daughter’.” ~Sam

Review: ‘Death Masks’ by Jim Butcher (audio)

Death Masks

The Dresden Files, Book #5

Author: Jim Butcher

Format: unabridged audio book

Reader: James Marsters

Publisher: Penguin Audiobooks

Length: 11 hrs and 21 mins

Release Date: 10/29/09

(novel released 08/05/2003 by Penguin USA & a 464 page paperback sits on my Dresden shelf)

Acquired: purchased from


Publisher’s Summary:

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only practicing professional wizard, should be happy that business is pretty good for a change. But now he’s getting more than he bargained for.

A duel with the Red Court of Vampires’ champion, who must kill Harry to end the war between vampires and wizards…

Professional hit men using Harry for target practice…

The missing Shroud of Turin…

A handless and headless corpse the Chicago police need identified…

Not to mention the return of Harry’s ex-girlfriend Susan, who’s still struggling with her semivampiric nature. And who seems to have a new man in her life.

Some days, it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed. No matter how much you’re charging.

My thoughts… and beware, I think about spoilers quite a lot:

My thoughts begin with Harry’s thoughts. Rather, a specific thought that Harry has at the end of chapter 7  which sums up the action in the book thus far quite nicely, and sets the scene for the remainder of the book:

‘In this corner: one missing shroud; one impossibly and thoroughly dead corpse; one dedicated and deadly vampire warlord; three Holy Knights; twenty-nine fallen angels; and a partridge in a pear tree. And in the opposite corner: one tired, bruised, underpaid professional wizard, threatened by his allies and about to get dumped by his would-be girlfriend for John Q. Humdrum.’

In this fifth installment in Jim Butcher’s exceedingly popular Dresden Files series, we see not only the return of  Harry’s friend and Knight of the Cross, Michael Carpenter, we also meet Shiro and Sanya, the other two Knights of the Cross and their respective swords, Fidelacchius and Esperacchius. Their introduction is just fantastic as they blend perfectly into the background before rescuing Harry from an attack by one of the Fallen… the Order of the Blackened Denarius.

Yes, ‘Fallen’ as in, ‘fallen angels’. These guys are wicked bad-asses who use coins, the very same coins Judas took as a bribe before hanging himself, mind… to lure mortals into enslavement and/or at best, indentured servitude. And they are exceedingly hard to kill. Oh yes, did I mention that they want Harry? Not to kill him, necessarily, but to join them. And if he won’t join, then yeah, to kill him. Fun times!

Of course, the ass-kicking Knights of the Cross beat down the fallen angel scene wasn’t the first excitement in the book… oh, no! we begin with Harry hanging at the Larry Fowler show where, before wreaking havoc on the set of the TV talk show with his magic, he has chats with some interesting characters including Duke Ortega of the Red Court of vampires who challenges Harry to a duel and Father Vincent, of the Vatican, who hires Harry to find a very, very precious religious artifact that was recently stolen. Stolen from Turin.

Not only is all of that happening, very nearly at once, but Murphy drags Harry to the morgue to meet Dr. Waldo Butters, a quirky,  polka-loving Medical Examiner who’s had a glimpse of the supernatural. Poor Dr. Butters was actually institutionalized for a time after identifying some remains from the burned out estate of Bianca, the Red Court vampire, as something other than human. Butters has a very interesting client in the morgue that Karrin wanted Harry to see… he seems to have died of every disease known to man. All at once. How’s that for the icing on the cake?

So yeah… Butcher starts this book out with a bang, baby! And the punches just… keep… coming! The audio is just 11 hours and 21 minutes long and what an action-packed 11 hours and 21 minutes it is.

Much to Harry’s chagrin, Michael and the other Knights try to get Harry to back off of the case. Back off and leave town. Or we’ll kind of make you back off. Gee, thanks guys! Harry is understandably none too happy about this development and he’s at a loss as to where to find the shroud so he calls an Oracle from the Never Never for a bit of advice.

It turns out that the Knights received part of a prophecy concerning Harry and the search for the shroud. Said prophecy segment stated that if Harry seeks the Shroud, he “will most assuredly perish”. The Knights, however, didn’t get the crucial part of the prophecy, the part which was kept from the Knights by their enemies  in order to restore the balance. So the Oracle divulges the really important bit that concerns the Knights themselves: “If you do not, they all die and this city with them”.

To find the shroud or not find the shroud… whatever will Harry do? No-brainer, this one. What else would he do? He gets a tip on the shroud’s whereabouts and plans to check it out which leads him to the thieves and a handy-dandy little trap. But of course, did we think it would be easy?

Waitjustaminute… did I mention Susan? Ahh, no, it would seem I overlooked that little tidbit earlier. Oopsie! Allow me to take a moment to bonk myself on the forehead and backpedal a wee bit. So yeah, guess what?! Susan’s in town!

Yes, that Susan… Susan Rodriguez. Harry’s former girlfriend who thought she’d crash a vamp party in book #3, Grave Peril and ended up drastically changed by Bianca of the Red Court. If she ever gives into her thirst for blood, which will cause her to kill her victim, she will become a full-fledged, card-carrying vampire of the Red Court. At the end of Grave Peril, she beat it out of Chicago after turning down Harry’s proposal of marriage/promise to find a cure. She left Chicago and broke Harry’s freakin’ heart. But now… she’s baa-aack! Popped into town to quit her job and clear out her personal belongings, says she. Also, maybe to torment Harry with her mere presence and/or break his heart yet again?

I’ve got to say, that Butcher’s portrayal of Harry in the scenes with Susan in this book is just heartwrenchingly beautiful… exquisitely painful… achingly bitter. Of course, I’ve read the series before and as I’ve mentioned, I’m re-listening to it in its entirety in preparation for the July release of book #13, Ghost Story. I mention this tidbit once more to point out that my knowledge of the events of book #12, Changes just makes the Harry/Susan scenes in this book all the more poignant and bittersweet. Those scenes are made all the more emotionally charged by the very nearly perfected reading of James Marsters. He just gets better and better with each book, in my not-so-humble opinion.

So, back to it after that little aberration into the tragedy that is ‘Harry and Susan’… We have Harry trying to find the shroud, Denarians trying to lure him into eternal slavery and/or kill him, a Red Court Vampire hoping to kill him in a fair-and-square duel -right, like a Red Court vampire can be trusted to do anything ‘fair-and-square’?!- and if all of that mess isn’t enough… damn, I guess we’re back to Susan and all of the emotional baggage she drags back into Harry’s life.

In all fairness, she is pretty damn important to Harry, now and in the future of the series. All in all, Butcher has put together some truly magnificent ingredients to create a perfect recipe for yet another edge-of-your-seat ride on the roller coaster that is Harry Dresden’s unusual life.

One last observation… yes, finally! Hey, you’ll be glad I mentioned it as it’s one of my favorite parts of the book! Of course I’m referring to the introduction of the Archive, who is assigned as a mediator in the duel between Harry and Ortega and who is NOT what Harry was expecting. Her character is superbly written… she’s one part little girl sweetness, one part scary powerful and one part sheer bad-assery.

Last, last comment. I promise. Along with Ivy, as Harry dubs her (“Archive. Ive… Ivy.”), we meet Kincaid. In this book, he’s been hired to protect the Archive and while Harry is unsure of him, Ivy says he can be trusted. After all, he’s paid through April. We’ll see more of the mercenary in later books but here he provides a nice counter to Ivy’s innocent wisdom. One last bit about Ivy: her reaction when she sees Mister is. just. priceless! “Thank you for letting me pet your kitty.” Very nice touch, Mr. Butcher.

Fave quotes:

“You don’t look very… Archive-esque.” ~Harry to Kincaid

‘My tongue dropped out of my mouth and flopped onto my shoes.’

“Chew and smile? At the same time? Do I look like Jackie Chan?” ~Harry to Susan

‘That’s what you get for trying to be a hero. You get to eat a 6-pack of 9mm bon bons.’ ~Harry

“Ye ole ‘join up or die’ ultimatum. Gee, no matter how many times I get it, that one never goes out of style.” ~Harry to Nicodemus

‘”I’m a disciple of the Tao of Peter Parker, obviously,” I said. I guess Nicodemus was a DC Comics fan because he didn’t get it.’ ~Harry

Susan: “So help me God, if  you quote Clint Eastwood at me I’m wrapping this car around a telephone pole.”  Harry: “Do you feel lucky, punk?”

Susan: “You’ve really got class, Dresden.”  Harry:“Class oozes out of my  every orifice.”


Check out my other Dresden Files reviews:

#1 – Storm Front

#2 – Fool Moon

#3 – Grave Peril

#4 – Summer Knight

#6 – Blood Rites

#7 – Dead Beat

#8 – Proven Guilty

#9 – White Night

#10 – Small Favor

#11 – Turn Coat

#12 – Changes

#12.5 – Side Jobs

#13 – Ghost Story

Review: ‘The Raising’ by Laura Kasischke


The Raising

Author: Laura Kasischke

Format: galley (available for purchase in paperback)

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Release Date: 3/15/2011

Length: 360 pages (Amazon states length of paperback to be 496 pages)

Acquired: from the publisher via NetGalley



Publisher’s summary:

The accident was tragic, yes. Bloody and horrific and claiming the life of a beautiful young sorority girl. NICOLE was a straight A student from a small town. Sweet-tempered, all-American, a former Girl Scout, and a virgin. But it was an accident. And that was last year. It’s fall again, a new semester, a fresh start.

CRAIG, who has not been charged with murder, is focusing on his classes, and also on avoiding Nicole’s sorority sisters, who seem to blame him for her death even though the police did not.

PERRY, Craig’s roommate, is working through his own grief (he grew up with Nicole, after all, and had known her since kindergarten) by auditing Professor Polson’s sociology class: Death, Dying, and the Undead.

MIRA has been so busy with her babies—two of them, twins, the most perfect boys you could imagine, but still a nearly impossible amount of work even with Clark’s help—that she can barely keep herself together to teach (Death, Dying and the Undead), let alone write the book she’ll need to publish for tenure.

And SHELLY, who was the first person at the scene of the accident, has given up calling the newspapers to tell them that, despite the “lake of blood” in which they keep reporting the victim was found, the girl Shelly saw that night was not bloody, and not dead.

My thoughts:

When I began reading this book, I had a difficult time getting a feel for it. It jumped from the present to the past with no indication as to when a particular section took place. I would sometimes have to read a sentence or three to get my bearings and realize what was going on. It kind of bugged, at first but I eventually got used to it. In fact, the further the story progressed, the more I came to realize that this was the only way Kasischke could have written this story… that the jumping back and forth was the only way for me, as the reader, to get to the big reveal when and how I was supposed to do so.

The story centers around several people at a mid-western university that have been affected, or will come to be affected, by the death of freshman student, Nicole the previous Spring. Her sorority sisters would blame her boyfriend, Craig for her “murder”, spreading the word throughout campus and to the newspapers that he was drunk and therefore solely responsible for her bloody, fiery death inside the car that Craig had been driving.

Craig, however, has absolutely no memory of that night and only knows he wasn’t intoxicated because the blood tests said he wasn’t. He has no idea what happened, other than what he was told: that he walked away from the accident, leaving Nicole to die. Despite the efforts by Nicole’s former sorority to have him either arrested for murder or banned from the university, he returns to campus for the fall term to continue his education. Despite counseling and his friend Perry’s support, Craig has a hard time adjusting. Then he starts having strange dreams, getting odd phone calls and receiving post cards from a dead girl.

Shelly, an older woman who works at the university is frustrated that her statements to the newspaper have gone ignored for months and that nobody seems to care that when she saw Nicole immediately after the accident, the girl was neither bloody, burned, in the car or even dead. She has no idea that her persistence in trying to get the paper to publish the truth has made her a target.

Meanwhile, Perry who was not only Nicole’s childhood friend but was also Craig’s roommate, struggles to cope with Nicole’s death and the reports from a couple of fellow students that they had seen her since she had died. Walking around campus, talking to them, having sex with them. And Perry has a picture of her. A picture taken at Nicole’s former sorority house… during a tree planting intended as a memorial to Nicole.

Wondering if he and the others who have seen her are losing their minds, Perry seeks answers in Professor Mira Polson’s seminar on Death, Dying and the Undead. He then decides to approach her about Nicole and tell the professor the whole unbelievable story. Perhaps she can help him to make sense of what’s been going on. Perhaps she can somehow help.

Mira thinks Perry’s story might just prove to be enough fodder for her next book, which upon being published would secure her tenure at the university. She’s been struggling for some time to attain those related goals while she fears losing her twin boys, just toddlers, as her marriage falls apart.

As we learn of Craig and Nicole’s back story and the events leading up to the night of the car accident, the events of the present begin to progress as information and suspicions are shared and conclusions are drawn. Improbable, horrific conclusions that nobody wants to face, although they have no choice, and which will change the course of all of their lives.

Once I was into this story, I could just not stop reading it. I stayed up late at night, put off chores and meals just to read one more chapter or find a stopping place that didn’t leave me rabid to keep going so I could find out what the hell was going on! I thought about it while I hurriedly showered and with still wet hair, grabbed portable food from the kitchen so that I could return to the couch, grab my laptop and resume reading.

This story captivated me. The characters moved me as they struggled with guilt and grief, confusion and frustration. They also infuriated me with their rash, irresponsible behavior. There’s nothing I wanted to do more as the story came to a close than to grab fistfuls of my favorite character’s shirt and shake him while imploring him not to do the incredibly irrational thing he was doing. Wanting to do so did about as much good as shouting at the stupid woman in the horror movie that you’re watching to not go outside, what are you doing? The bad guy/monster/killer/alien is out there! One of the saddest things in this story, to me, was the immediate and irreversible consequence of that incredibly irrational action. It was heartbreaking and it made me angry.

In fact, a lot about this story made me angry. Not at the author, mind… but at the people in the story who felt they could just play around with other people’s lives like they were all-powerful puppeteers who could make people dance with a twitch of their hand. I have to admit to guessing at the big reveal before it was made though I have a suspicion that it was Kasischke’s intent for this to happen. There was quite a bit of foreshadowing so it wasn’t especially difficult to figure out what had  actually happened that night but the mind instinctively tries to reject the knowledge that people could do such things… that people would do such things.

The end of this book was admittedly, not very satisfying though again, I think that was the author’s intent. There was no happy ending… life just went on. For the most part, anyway. Despite this, I recommend this book to anyone who likes a mystery… especially one tinged with the supernatural and a healthy dose of conspiratorial drama. I’m now interested in Kasischke’s other works!