A physicist (on the trail of the Unified Field Theory - but then, who isn't?), an immigrant, and possessed of a knack for not getting involved, Petrovitch has lived on his scholarship funds - working with his companion, Doctor Pif. So, what happens? His knack gives out: he saves Sonja Oshicora from kidnappers, and ends up in a war between the city's two crime organisations. But there's more. Threats of nuclear war, a quantum computer, a very militant nun (Maddy), and something called the New Machine Jihad...
Sometimes huge escalation in conflict scales makes a novel ridiculous. Sometimes, as in Equations, it just makes it fun. It's done with imagination, verve, and careful lampshading - and it works out brilliantly. I mean, a physicist against the world: why not? Petrovitch is a fantastic protagonist. Clever, competent, but also shadier than he looks - and willing to make some tougher decisions. (He's also, on occasion, hilarious). The side characters are also well developed and interesting, especially when confronted with Petrovitch's chaos - and his even more chaotic plans... Although the relationship with Maddy seemed rapid, the brevity of the book as a whole makes this acceptable; while other characters, like Oshicora himself, are wonderful.
This book is impossible to predict: and not in the 'merely very improbable' way. So many new events, objects and characters are introduced later on that developments are entirely unpredictable. This isn't a slow, thoughtful book, though - so it's no deus-ex-machinae for you, especially since the additions rarely help Petrovitch... The ending? Well, it surprised me. Don't come expecting too many familiar tropes, either. While some are played straight - in the beginning - others are subverted, again adding to the novel's unpredictable nature (although I'm not much of a post-apocalyptic reader, so a dedicated fan might see more of the familiar - I don't know).
All things considered, this is a refreshingly fast-paced and unconventional read. If you're looking for something lighter - physically or otherwise - this is likely for you; likewise, if you're a fan of unusual protagonists, or smply want to avoid the passive, this is also a great read. It may be short by the standards of, say, epic fantasy, but this is a great addition to your shelf.
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