Review: ‘Degrees of Freedom’ by Simon Morden


Degrees of Freedom

Metrozone #3

Author: Simon Morden 

Format: galley

Publisher: Orbit

Release Date: 6/1/11

Length: 384 pages

Acquired: Net Galley




The blurb:

The Six Degrees of Samuel Petrovitch:

  • Michael is an AI of incalculable complexity trapped under the remains of Oshicora Tower. Petrovitch will free him one day; he just has to trust Michael will still be sane by the time he does.
  • Maddy and Petrovitch have trust issues. But Petrovitch is pretty sure she loves him.
  • Sonja Oshicora loves Petrovitch, too. But she’s playing a complicated game and it’s not clear that she means to save him from what’s coming.
  • The CIA wants to save the world. Well, just America, but they’ll call it what they like.
  • The New Machine Jihad is calling. But Petrovitch killed it. Didn’t he?
  • And the Armageddonists tried to kill pretty much everyone by blowing the world up. Now, they want to do it again.

Once again, all roads lead back to Petrovitch. Everyone wants something from him, but all he wants is to be free …


My spoiler-riddled thoughts:

I’m a bad book reviewer. Baaaad. I’ve had this book in my ereader since shortly after the release of the first book in the Metrozone trilogy, Equations of Life. I even finished reading it a couple of days after it was released on June 1st. I’ve just been a slacker and have little excuse for not getting this review done and for that, I apologize profusely. Because this book… was awesome.

I think one of my issues with putting off this review (though this is by no means the only review I’ve had pending for weeks!) is that there is SO MUCH information in this book to cover! In all of them, really, and I’m lamenting the fact that I didn’t go back and reread the first two before diving into this one because Mr. Morden packs a ton of information into each book and then refers to it, directly or not, in each subsequent book. So yes, even after a month or two, it’s possible to forget multiple little tidbits that can leave you thinking, “Huh?” as it’s referenced in a later book in the series. At least, it’s possible for me.

So… on to talking about Degrees of Freedom! And spoilers. Be warned. I toss out spoilers like Samuil Petrovitch tosses out curse words in Russian.

This third and final (that I’m aware of) installment of The Metrozone trilogy finds Sam in the Freezone, nearly a year after the Outies nearly overran the Metrozone in a violent invasion that killed tens of thousands. Everything north of the Thames has been isolated and dubbed the Freezone, with Sonja Oshicora as its leader and Sam as its symbol of perseverance and hope. Michael, the AI that’s the remnant of the intelligence Sonja’s father created as part of Virtual Japan which became the New Machine Jihad before Sam took it down, is still buried beneath the ruins of Oshicora Tower since an attempt by America to kill it. Him. Michael is a him and he’s Sam’s friend and Sam is determined to free him.

But the world is watching and the Freezone’s one year of freedom from outside intervention is nearly over. All Sam wants is freedom. For himself, for his wife, for his friends and for Michael. He’s been planning something in secret, planning for a vision he had in Theories of Flight and he’s nearly there when, what else? Everything goes to hell. Sam, who is well on his way to becoming a genius post-apocalyptic bionic man, always seems to get blindsided and have his careful plans stomped into bitter little bits of disappointment and regret. But then again, he’s quick to think around a problem and figure out a solution so he’s well-suited to face whatever comes his way.

Or is he? He’s pretty much estranged from his wife, Maddy… Pif is imprisoned in America and his one hope of freeing her is someone from his past that he’d rather not be involved with… there’s suddenly a nuclear threat in the heart of the Freezone… and the New Machine Jihad has risen again. As if that weren’t enough to be going on with, Sam has been betrayed and he doesn’t know who to suspect so he kind of suspects everyone. All while he’s trying to save Michael while the CIA is trying to stop him from doing so. Yeah, that whole raining/pouring thing.

Of course, as an ardent fan of this new trilogy, I had complete faith in Sam during the shit storm through which he was attempting to navigate his way to freedom. I wasn’t worried at all. Not a bit. Nope.

One of the many things about this story that’s somewhat amazed and delighted me is how quickly I became familiar with -and fond of- the main character, Sam Petrovitch. His brashness and devil may care attitude are endearing and I quickly noticed when he acted out of character or did something that I wouldn’t have expected him to do. One example is his tendency to swear in Russian. A lot.

At one point, he’s discussing the nuclear threat with Cardinal Carillo:

“We’re in Armageddonist territory here, Your fucking Excellency, and if I don’t have some answers soon, it’s going to be too shitting late to do anything about it.”

After that sentence I had a waitjustaminuteSamdoesn’tswearlikethat! moment. And then I read the next sentence and had a good laugh about it, partly because I called the unusual nature of his cursing in English and partly because he wasn’t very good at it:

“I’m not used to swearing in English, but I’m making the effort because you’re a Yank, and it’s important that you understand just how trouser-pissingly scary this all is.”

Being brilliant and having saved the Metrozone from annihilation not once, but twice before, doesn’t keep Sam from getting down in the dumps now and again. He’s only human -mostly- and he gets depressed, too.

‘He knew it wasn’t meant to be this way, and yet there he was, underground, damaged beyond repair, out of battery power, threatened by entombment, nuclear annihilation and a woman scorned. Pizdets.

This story is so fast paced, the plot literally flies by and keeps you holding onto the edge of your seat, or clutching tightly to the edges of your book, rather… wondering if Sam will accomplish all that he’s set out to do… if he’ll manage, once more, to pull it all together and win the day. Or if his plans will fail miserably as the best laid plans are wont to do.

For anyone who has yet to pick up this series, I highly, highly recommend it. Morden has created a world and characters that I would be delighted to visit again. Aside from the re-reads of this trilogy that I’ve got planned and Thy Kingdom Come, Morden’s collection of short stories that preface the events in Equations, that is.


Fave quotes:

“What if an AI shows signs of independent, creative thought? What if it can empathize? What if it has the capacity for generosity, altruism, compassion?” ~Father John to Sam

“Far be it for me to point out some flaws in your plan, but are you a complete mudak?” ~Sam to Dalton

“I don’t know what to say. I’m supposed to be the king of the futile gesture, and here I am, trumped by some stupid Yankee lawyer.” ~Sam to Dalton

‘Misdirection. It was harder work than mere secrecy.’

‘Everything was temporary. Nothing lasted forever, not things, not people, not love, not time itself.’

“I haven’t got the energy. Find me a power source. Or vodka. Both, preferably.” ~Sam to Valentina

“My voice is permanently stuck between sarcastic and condescending, no matter how hard I try for the dizzying heights of irony.”

“Talking geek at you always made you horny.” ~Sam to Maddy

“We’re dealing with people who are comfortable with nuclear terrorism. Stabby, shooty stuff might be the least of our worries.” ~Sam to Lucy

“How come this is so obvious to me, but not to you bunch of emotionally retarded grown-ups?” ~Lucy

“Old Man Oshicora had a sense of humor, as well as being a cold-hearted murderer. I suppose the two aren’t mutually exclusive.” ~ Sam to Tabletop

“Amongst all the other things I’ve also fucked up, this has to take the crown jewels for the thing I’ve fucked up the most, right?” ~Sam to Tabletop

“Lucy, I’m tired of this. Tired of trying to fix things that shouldn’t be broken in the first place. i want to make something new that doesn’t have to be squeezed into an earlier pattern.” ~Sam

“I wouldn’t want anyone’s burka spontaneously catching fire because of something I’ve said.” ~Sam to Yasmina Surur

“Hi. My name’s Samuil Petrovitch, and I now run this show. If someone wants to own up to being in charge, speak now, because what you say will have a dramatic effect on your life expectancy.”

“I feel some shock and awe coming on.” ~Sam

“It’s as if a whole world of cultural meaning has cried out in terror and been suddenly silenced.” ~Sam

“This is revolution. Where is end? I do not know. All I know, this is beginning and we must be brave.” ~Valentina

“Meh, if I’m going to fail, I may as well fail spectacularly.” ~Sam


Review: ‘Spirit’ by Graham Masterton



Author: Graham Masterton

Format: galley (also available 4/15/11 on audio book)

Publisher: Unbridled Books (also on Twitter)

Release Date: 11/2001 (first published in the UK in 1995)

Length: 432 pages

Acquired: from the publisher via NetGalley




Publisher’s summary:

Laura and Elizabeth Buchanan’s lives were changed forever when their little sister Peggy was found dead in the icy water of the family’s pool.

But Peggy never left her sisters. As Laura and Elizabeth grow up, a string of inexplicable deaths threatens to shatter their lives. Each corpse shows signs of frostbite–and each victim’s dying moments are tortured by a merciless little girl in a white dress.


My thoughts, which contain spoilers:

As the synopsis states, Laura and Lizzie Buchanan lose their younger sister during the winter of 1940 when she fell through the ice over the family pool and drowns. While this understandably devastates their parents, Laura and Lizzie are quite young when it happens and so, again understandably, aren’t affected as dramatically by Peggy’s death. In fact, a few nights later, they build a snow girl out in the yard and dress her in Peggy’s clothing which unwittingly and perfectly unintentionally, binds her spirit to them.

Only the spirit of young Peggy Buchanan doesn’t manifest as Peggy Buchanan. Rather, she takes the form of a girl from a favorite story which was read to her often by her eldest sister, Lizzie. The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen was a rather scary fairy tale and the lost spirit of Peggy Buchanan not only takes the form of the girl from the story, she is also able to manifest the Snow Queen herself when she takes her revenge and the Snow Queen is a frightening entity.

For some reason, spirit Peggy feels that she needs to protect her older sisters. Forever. And by protect, I mean kill and or maim anyone who does them harm, does them wrong or even just gets too close to them. While it’s expected for lost little Peggy to want to take revenge on someone who has hurt one of her sisters, it didn’t really make sense to me that she would feel the need to harm a person who hadn’t actually done anything but help one of them out… or someone who made one of them very happy later in life.

I had two distinctly different feelings while reading this book. The first was that the story was exciting and properly horrifying at times and I couldn’t wait to see what happened next, when Peggy would  manifest again, what Lizzie and Laura would do about it. The second, drastically different feeling was that kind of feeling you get when you read the same line over and over, your eyes start to glaze over and you thumb ahead to see how many pages you’ll have to suffer through before the end of the chapter.

While the premise of the story was good —very good, mind, else I’d not have requested the book from the publisher– Masterton either didn’t fully develop his characters to understand what was going as the years passed in the story or he just plain dragged the thing out too long. Way too long. Most likely both as I feel that the book was indeed too long and so there were more glazed eyes inducing scenes than there should have been. Also, the characters were just… well, kind of dense.

There were far too many scenes that made me roll my eyes and sigh in frustration as one of the other of the surviving sisters was utterly clueless in regards to what was going on around them when they’ve had multiple experiences over the course of a decade or more. They know of multiple people who have died of extreme cold: one particular person was frozen during the summer, others were nearly instantly frozen solid and even in winter, that’s something that just doesn’t happen. There were multiple occasions in which the water in a pool suddenly froze and it would even get freezing cold in a house filled with blazing fire places. Yet the sisters didn’t immediately deduce that Peggy’s spirit was there? That was just too unbelievable for me.

While I did enjoy parts of this story immensely, my overall impression was that it wasn’t as entertaining as I had hoped and the characters weren’t at all believable. To be honest, I was somewhat relieved when I finally finished and I most likely won’t read another of Masterton’s books, much less recommend this one.


Fave quotes:

“Have a care now, you don’t want to go breaking your ankle. Even a phenomenon ain’t worth that.” ~Dan Phillips to Lizzie Buchanan

“There are three worlds, and there always have been. The world of the living. The world of spirits. And the world of the truly rested, the empty world, which is the world of absolute peace.” ~Eusebio the gardener


Review: ‘You Believers’ by Jane Bradley


You Believers


Author: Jane Bradley

Format: galley (also available in hardcover)

Publisher: Unbridled Books (also on Twitter)

Release Date: 5/03/2011

Length: 416 pages

Acquired: from the publisher via NetGalley




Publisher’s summary:

You Believers is a powerful, cathartic story of casual evil and of how the worst things can be faced so that we might not only survive, but grow. A young woman goes missing, and her mother uproots her life to find her daughter.

But it is not just the heartbreak or the deep mystery of the hunt for lost loved ones that Bradley so convincingly explores. Rather, with the help of an amazingly dedicated searcher, family and friends somehow learn to move past unspeakable horror and celebrate the tenacity of the human spirit.

Offering a vision that is at once ruthless and utterly compassionate, Bradley renders the search for logic, meaning, redemption and even hope in the domino force that is human nature. Part Southern gothic, part crime, part haunting suspense story, You Believers takes us on an infinitely harrowing journey that rewards the reader with insight into how we might endure horrible events with faith, strength, and grace even while it reveals the ripple effects of random violence.


My thoughts, some spoilers included:

Shelby Waters finds the missing. Sometimes she finds them alive. More often… she doesn’t. And so her job isn’t only about organizing searches, traipsing through fields, forests and marshes or questioning friends, loved ones and potential witnesses to the disappearance of the missing, it’s also about preparing those friends and loved ones for the worst, even if they don’t realize precisely what she’s doing. She tries to incite hope in those whose loved one stepped out the front door one day and just never came home, even as she quietly prepares them for the worst, while using every resource at her disposal to find that person, alive or dead.

Shelby knows loss. She knows tragedy. She was once one of those people who lost someone she loved… her sister Darly. From the start of their search for her sister to the tragic end, she experienced the wide range of emotions that one goes through when looking for a missing loved one: fear, hope, grief, horror, hatred, loss, never-ending sorrow. The loss of her sister prompted her to start REV, or Rescue Effort Volunteers, in order to help people bring their loved ones home, one way or another. She’s seen the worst of people and she’s seen the best. It just seems some days that the worst far outweighs the best and it’s hard to remain optimistic in the face of the horrors that human beings can sometimes inflict upon one another.

Not only do we see the story of the disappearance of 30-year-old Katy unfold from Shelby’s point of view, we also see the thoughts and emotions of Billy, Katy’s fiance as well as those of Livy, her mother, as they hope for the best while fearing the worst. Despite Katy’s step-father and local police playing down the disappearance and making assumptions about where Katy may be, both Billy and Livy know that something bad has happened. Despite Katy’s proclivity to party and run off with other men, those closest to her know that’s not what happened. And as the weeks pass and become months, the hope of finding Katy alive sadly turns into the hope of just finding her, putting her to rest and punishing whoever was responsible for taking her from them.

Lastly, we see the points of view of the men responsible for Katy’s disappearance. We see their thoughts and motivations and their fears. At least, the fears of one of them. The other is fearless. He is evil incarnate and he is scary as hell because he can pretty much pass himself off as a nice, normal kid. But he is far from normal. We don’t see how truly despicable he is until he commits his second crime during the course of the book. The crime that will be his undoing… because his victim escapes.

She tells afterward of a voice that spoke to her in her mind and talked her through her ordeal. A voice that kept her from panicking and essentially gave her the means to not only escape but also to garner enough information from her attacker finger him for another crime… the crime against the missing Katy Connor. She swears afterward that Katy was the one who spoke to her and while she’s sad about the implications of her believe, she’s grateful to have had Katy’s voice and her help. She knows that Katy helped her to survive.

This is a powerful story of loss and grief, and how Katy’s loved ones begin to deal with the pain of her loss and look forward to the future. It’s also a cautionary tale, I think… as it warns of potential evil walking around disguised as someone normal, someone like you, that can change your life and the lives of your loved ones in an instant.

Fave quotes:

‘Katy Connor thought she was safe. She was supposed to be safe at three o’clock in the afternoon in the parking lot of a strip mall on one of the busiest streets in town. She did nothing wrong. She bought a bag of clothes and walked to her truck.’

‘There was still the kindness of strangers out there, even at thirty thousand feet above the world.’ ~Livy Baines

‘Some nights I just want my mind clear of all the awful.’ ~Shelby