Book Review: The Lost Art by Simon Morden

I’ve been wondering where the good sci-fi ideas have gone – it’s seems they’re in the Young Adult section!

This is the best sci-fi idea I’ve read for years.  Three hundred years in the future, our technology has advanced to a typically futuristic mindboggling level.  But then the Earth flips and the sun rises in the west and sets in the east;  north is south;  technology has gone back into the Dark Ages.  What little is known about this lost technology is hidden away by the Church…until a Siberian monastery is slaughtered and the search begins some 700 years later.

The reasons for this slip are never really given and not fully developed by the story doesn’t stagnate because of this.  It is largely character-driven with intense relationships forming and breaking.  Instead of a love triangle, you have a love circle, involving the five main characters.  The fifth in the circle is the monk – who loves only God, so the circle is eternal.

Revealing Earth’s fantastic past in the 30th century is Benzamir – a character initially so weird and apparently magical that he is almost impossible to fathom.  His humour is of the driest sort, making me shout with unexpected laughter.  In the end, the future of Earth lies in his and the monk’s hands – a monk, by the way, that once lead an army in ferocious battle, leaving him so physically and mentally scarred that forgiveness is impossible.

For the most part, this felt like a mature work to me, though soul-clenching dilemmas are lightly touched upon, never driven home with a stake.  It makes a strong point about the4 use of violence to achieve one’s aims, not a new idea perhaps, but refreshingly dealt with here by characters you come to love.

I didn’t want this book to end and wish there were then more.  Fortunately, the author has since written a trilogy called the Metrozone Series, which I’m looking forward to reading.  It recently won the Philip K. Dick Aware for best SF published as a paperback original in the US in 2011.  Can’t wait!


About susannahjbell

I am a writer of science fiction and other strange and surreal works. I mostly write novels and the occasional novelette. My published works include A Doorway into Ultra, the Fleet Quintet and the Exodus Sequence. I live in London in an attic flat but really want to live in a tree. I wanted to be an astrophysicist but would settle for an alien abduction. I write because I don’t know what to read.
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