Morden’s Samuil Petrovitch Series Garners Philip K. Dick Award

Simon Morden's Equations of Life (book cover), the first in the Samuil Petrovitch series -- the 2012 Philip K. Dick Award winner.A Gritty Near Future Thriller Series from UK Author Simon Morden Gets A … Er … Dick. Award

One Simon Morden has won this year’s Philip K. Dick Award, which is – and I quote – “presented annually with the support of the Philip K. Dick Trust for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States.”

I’m not familiar with Morden or the Samuil Petrovitch trilogy, Equations of Life, Theories of Flight and Degrees of Freedom, published respectively in April, May and June of last year. But between the blurbs on Morden’s site, and his bio – a house-husband author and father with degrees in geology and planetary geophysics – color me intrigued.

It seems the title character is a Russian refuge who escaped the nuclear destruction of St. Petersburg to the London Metrozone, the last remaining city in the U.K. An apparently amoral man seeking a simple life, Petrovitch’s life gets complicated in what sounds like a Ridley Scott version of future London via Philip K. Dick – I refer, of course, to Blade Runner, which was inspired by Dick’s Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep.

From the blurb of the first book in the series:

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.

Intriguing, the gratuitous abuse of CAPS (which I’ve fixed here) notwithstanding. I’m not too keen on so-called thrillers, per se; all too often the cornerstones of good literature are lacking and the resulting structure is subsequently buttressed with ACTION and SEX and other standard genre cliches. Now this is fine, if the author is good enough to pull it off, but that’s a rare thing; typically we end up with a rickety shell that lacks solid foundations.

And I’m quite pleased with this building metaphor, if I do say so myself – and I do, I do. But I digress.

With the Dick Award behind it, I might have to give Morden’s trilogy a read, or at least the first book. Incidentally, the Publisher’s Weekly review says that the first book stands alone, even though it serves as the first of a trilogy. I perused the first chapter Equations of Life, which is available on Morden’s site, and while it may have won the Dick award, my first impression is that it owes more to William Gibson – and every thriller ever written, unfortunately – than anything else. To those familiar with Gibson’s first three novels, Petrovitch’s character certainly would not feel out of place in the Sprawl or Chiba City.

So I figure anything that that wins the Philip K. Dick Award and wears its Gibson influence on its sleeve must be tolerable, at the very least.

Incidentally, as Morden posts on his blog, he was off at something called Eastercon during the presentation of the award last week. His wife watched the live broadcast stream to ascertain he’d won and then called at 4 a.m. to let him know, playing the stream of his acceptance speech, as read by his stand-in.

Somehow, that all seems apropos in a Gibsonesque, post-modern way. …

 Buy Simon Morden’s Equations of Life at Amazon