The 9th Book: Spin Control
Spin Control revolves around the defection of Arkady, a Syndicate-born member of a gene line, into the hands of Earth-bound Israeli forces. The Spin series is set well in the future and the Syndicates are essentially post-humans that promulgate through gene splicing and cloning. Particular gene lines are of one sex, with individual deviance hard to discern and indeed proactively stamped out. Moriarty goes to some length to build an analogy with ant species. The Syndicates are generally banned from the UN sphere of influence, including Earth, that comprises the reach of old humanity. Advanced communication and computing technologies, based on quantum computing concepts developed in Spin State, make an appearance as well.
Arkady claims to have a game changing weapon that could swing the outcome of the still ongoing Israeli/Palestinian conflict. In return, he demands the safety of his gene line lover, Arkasha, who has turned out to be a little too distinctive for his line’s tastes. After landing on Earth, Arkady becomes caught up in a complex web of intrigue. Treachery and double crosses abound, across political, cultural, ethnic, and even racial lines. From Spin State, the characters of Catherine Li, herself a genetically amplified human, and Cohen, an advanced, embodied AI, become central players in the game.
A flashback thread spread throughout the book tells the backstory of a colonization voyage that Arkady was a member of as an ant biology scientist. Having being pushed to the periphery of space, the Syndicates are always on the hunt for livable planets. This arc elegantly develops a deeper understanding of Syndicate life and how it is radically different from our existence. The evolution of Arkady and Arkasha’s romance is also captured here.
Setting the tale in The Middle East is a big gambit, and something that could easily fall flat or be in bad taste. Heck, for all I know it could be in bad taste, given that I’m not from the region or invested in the politics. Still, it was an interesting twist. Otherwise, Spin Control reads mostly like a high tech spy novel. Sometimes you need a scorecard to keep track of the players, or more importantly their motivations, but not stupefyingly so.
Emergent systems, individual autonomy, and the definition of human intelligence are the key scientific themes percolating within Spin Control. This was a welcome change from the quantum computing driven Spin State. The fact that I actually have a working introduction to all of those concepts, and didn’t know a jack about quantum computing when I read Spin State, probably had something to do with it. But not needing a physics background to understand the speculative aspect of the story makes Spin Control more accessible.
All in all, Spin Control is a good read, putting questions of individuality and autonomy into the context of a familiar centuries old conflict, played out as a techno thriller.