REVIEW SUMMARY: The victim of a poorly timed read.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A UN Peacekeeper tries to solve the murder of a scientist (and her cloned twin) on her home planet in a transhumanist future.
PROS: Cool technology, though little of it lends to any sense of wonder.
CONS: Yet another transhumanism sf novel; slow-moving plot; slow to read.
BOTTOM LINE: I attempted to read this way too soon after other transhumanism sf novels – I overdosed.
To be clear, this is not a bad book. So why the zero-star rating? Well, in the past 6 months, I’ve read 4 sf novels that depicted some form of a transhumanist society (The Golden Age and its sequel The Phoenix Exultant by John C. Wright, Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan and Singularity Sky by Charles Stross – Spin State is most like Altered Carbon since both are murder mysteries). Transhumanism deals with the use of technology to transcend the limits of human biology. So, these books are filled with things like digital memory storage, genetic manipulation, artificial intelligences and the like. Cool ideas, but reading so much about it is like listening to It’s a Small World over and over and over again.
There were other problems. The writing style was a bit stiff and took more concentration than I was willing to devote to YATSFN (Yet Another Transhumanism SF Novel). Some of the aforementioned “neat technology” wasn’t really relevant to what was going on in the story and just seemed to be thrown in. Pacing was a bit slow (at least in the first 150 pages – that’s where I gave up reading). There was also one silly scene where the protagonist, Catherine Li, reunites with the AI who directly caused the death of one of Li’s teammates whom he was controlling (he “shunted” out of her and left her a sitting target). This scene was silly because Li forgives him with no clear reason other than the AI offered her a hard-to-obtain cigarette. Ummm?OK.
Ultimately, though, the biggest problem with this read of Spin State is one of timing. I think if I had read this book before the others (so that each one of them was YATSFN), then I definitely would have enjoyed it. At least that’s true if all the praise this book has received are to be believed (Spin State, along with Altered Carbon, were finalists for the 2004 Philip K. Dick Award – Altered Carbon won). As it stands now, I will need to put much more distance between those books and this if I ever intend to give Spin State a fighting chance.