Fiction Reviews

Mappa Mundi

(2001) Justina Robson, Macmillan, 9.99, trdpbk, 465pp, ISBN 0-333-75438-7
(2006 edition) Pyr, US$15, trdpbk, 521pp, ISBN 978-1-591-02491-0


Natalie Armstrong is working on the Mappa Mundi project, its ambitious aim to produce a map of the human mind. Hopefully this will enable medical nanotechnology to treat psychoses and other ailments. But her side project is to create Selfware, a way of unlocking the potential for growth and change. However, the danger of the project is that it will allow mind-control on an unprecedented scale and a disasterous, covert test at Deer Ridge implies that someone is already attempting just that. FBI Special Sciences agent Jude Westhorpe suspects the multi-identitied Mikhail Guskov is involved, but it seems Jude's own government is protecting the man.

This is an excellent follow up to Robson's debut novel Silver Screen, with credible characters and a taut suspense/thriller plot alongside convincing SF speculation. At its best it recalls Greg Egan's Quarantine (without in any way being directly connected) and, to some extent, the work of Michael Crichton. Everything rattles along at a nice pace, and Robson displays a deft hand at communicating difficult concepts. She is very much a writer to watch, and I unhesitatingly recommend this fine novel.

Tony Chester

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