Wednesday, 18 May 2011
Mappa Mundi - Justina Robson
Title: Mappa Mundi
Author: Justina Robson
Barnes & Nobel
Mappa Mundi by Justina Robson was a novel I had never heard of before, I read it because it is the May read for Dreams and Speculation's Women of Science Fiction Book Club . After reading the synopsis I hoped that I would like this book, as the premise regarding mind control and government conspiracy did appeal.
The story follows the development of new technology in the near-future that its creators hope will enable them to directly control some aspects of human thought processes and possibly repair various levels of brain damage. However, various governments can see other potential in the technology, which leads to illegal testing and other such nefarious activities as they look to "weaponise" it. The novel takes us through these government activities as well as the attempts of people to uncover the conspiracy going on.
The first thing I noticed when reading the book was that Justina Robson must have put a lot of research into the novel as I could imagine that some of the technologies detailed may really just be around the corner. However, I found that at times it did get quite deep into some of the technicalities and science involved and this felt a little bit to heavy at times. I have to admit that I actually began to skim over some of the psychological and technical speak. I think it all caused the story to move along at quite a slow pace which was a shame as I felt there was an intriguing and thoughtful conspiracy story underneath trying to get out.
I also found that none of the characters within the novel really appealed to me. I know that some of this was due to the characterisation being weak and inconsistent at times, especially in regards to the supporting characters. However, even the characters that were well rounded and consistent couldn't keep me interested in their predicament. I suspect this was because none of the motives on show by these characters were either completely admirable or despicable; all the characters had reached their own conclusions based on individual reasoning. Whilst I actually found this more realistic than some basic good and bad characters, it meant that I didn't really feel like cheering on any of them to try and succeed in their endeavours.
Overall, I have to say that this was not a book I enjoyed hugely. The parts of the book that should have had me on the edge of my seat just didn't work due to both the overall slow pace of the novel and the characterisation. I did finish the book because I was curious to know where the espionage plotline was going, but even that ending left me a bit disappointed, especially when there was a time-travel paradox section thrown in. I suspect some people will really like this book, especially those who would enjoy a deep philosophical dive into psychology, personal freedoms, etc. in the near future but it just wasn't for me.