Marusek's wide-ranging and creative imagination is very much in evidence in this ambitious second novel. In 2007's Counting Heads, a rocket ship crash, apparently sabotage, killed powerful financier Eleanor Starke and left her adult daughter, Ellen, gravely injured. Ellen, whose damaged head has been grafted onto the body of an infant, insists her mother is still alive, an apparent delusion that complicates her efforts to assert control over the family business empire. As clones and artificial intelligences begin to redefine humanity and sentience, powerful executives derail a space colonization plan for their own profit. While newcomers might wish for a short prologue or a glossary, those omissions don't significantly detract. With ambitious narrative scope and small moments of perfect prose, this tale of 22nd-century politics repays the close reading necessary to follow its many interweaving plots. (Jan.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Mind Over Shipby David Marusek
The year is 2135, and the international program to seed the galaxy with human colonies has stalled as greedy, immoral powerbrokers park their starships in Earth's orbit and begin to convert them into space condos. Ellen Starke's head, rescued from the fiery crash that killed her mother, struggles to regrow a new body in time to restore her dead mother's financial
The year is 2135, and the international program to seed the galaxy with human colonies has stalled as greedy, immoral powerbrokers park their starships in Earth's orbit and begin to convert them into space condos. Ellen Starke's head, rescued from the fiery crash that killed her mother, struggles to regrow a new body in time to restore her dead mother's financial empire. And Pre-Singularity AIs conspire to join the human race just as human clones, such as Mary Skarland and her sisters, want nothing more than to leave it.
Welcome to Mind Over Ship, the sequel to Marusek's stunning debut novel, Counting Heads, which Publishers Weekly called "ferociously smart, simultaneously horrific and funny."
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
In the 22nd century, the program to colonize the galaxy has stalled. Heir to a financial empire, Ellen Stark has survived the fiery crash that killed her mother, but as her head strives to grow a new body, her mind ventures down strange pathways, as if deciding all over again what she wants to become. The sequel to Counting Heads proves as deliriously imaginative and fresh as its predecessor. Strong writing and a whimsically cynical vision of the future make this an excellent choice for most sf collections.
“A fully-realized speculative future scenario. If you've ever wanted to mash up Philip Roth with Philip K. Dick and read the results, then David Marusek is your man.” i09
“[Marusek's] speculations are the fruits of a first rate intelligence harnessed to a gonzo imagination. . . . Masterful.” Locus
“It's been a four year wait for David Marusek's second novel. The result is marvelous.” The Denver Post
“Marusek has built a solid world and paces the unfolding of corporate takeover and social mayhem so as to jeep the reader fascinated. And the resolution is elegant and satisfying.” Booklist
“The sequel to Counting Heads proves as deliriously imaginative and fresh as its predecessor. Strong writing and a whimsically cynical vision of the future make this an excellent choice for most sf collections.” Library Journal
“Don't miss a word of this complex, challenging, extraordinary saga.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Marusek's world is a rich blend of corporate intrigue, violence, technological wizardry, and more.” SFRevu.com
“Marusek's wide-ranging and creative imagination is very much in evidence in this ambitious second novel…. With ambitious narrative scope and small moments of perfect prose, this tale of 22nd-century politics repays the close reading necessary to follow its many interweaving plots.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Read an Excerpt
Mind Over Ship
By David Marusek
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2009 David Marusek
All rights reserved.
The Short Commute
It was a short walk from Mary's suite on the north side of the Starke Manse to the library on the south. Along the way she greeted doris maids and russ security men. The main parlor was closed off — fleets of household arbeitors and carpet scuppers were giving it a thorough spring scrubbing — and she detoured through one of the smaller banquet rooms. A solitary jerome sat at the head of the long, empty table going over house accounts on a dataframe.
"Myr Skarland," he said, nodding to her as she went by.
"Myr Walker," she replied with mock formality.
When she reached the library, Mary was surprised to find no one there. "Hello?" she said to the empty room.
Lyra, Ellen Starke's newly made mentar, appeared at once in her latest persona, that of a plain young woman in a featureless blue smock with a slate tucked under one arm. "Good morning, Mary," she said, her voice burbling with cheerfulness. "I trust you slept well."
Mary knew that the mentar knew that she had indeed slept well, since its job was to monitor everything and everyone on the Manse premises, but she said, "Yes, I did, Lyra. Thank you for asking." Then she said no more and only looked around at the empty chairs.
"Oh!" the young mentar said at last. "I should have informed you of the room change. Nurse Eisner moved the care plan meeting to the atrium because of the lovely weather. I'm sorry."
"No need to apologize, Lyra. You're learning very quickly, but, yes, next time inform me of schedule changes."
Mary took a shortcut through Ellen's bedroom to reach the atrium. Both the bed and the hernandez tank next to it were unoccupied. A jenny nurse was wadding up purple-stained towels from the floor and tossing them into the hopper of an arbeitor. She was a new staffer Mary hadn't met. When she noticed Mary, she said, "We're bathing her."
"Actually, I'm just passing through. Don't mind me."
But as Mary went by, the jenny's jaw dropped, and though Mary wore no name badge, the tall woman recognized her all the same. "Mary Skarland?"
"Yes, that's me," Mary said and paused to offer her hand. "Good to meet you" — she glanced at the nurse's name badge — "June."
The nurse clasped Mary's hand, but instead of shaking it, she pulled the smaller woman into a full embrace, which was what jennys often did when they met Mary for the first time. Sometimes they cried a little. To Mary it was odd: not every member of the jenny germline reminded her of Hattie Beckeridge, but some of them did, and then she cried too. Not this time, though, and in a little while she freed herself and said, "Welcome to Starke Manse, June. We're so glad you could join us."
THE ATRIUM COURTYARD roof had been scrolled back, and the morning sun painted the walls with creamy light. The air was fresh and a little chilly. Three night jennys sat on wooden folding chairs alongside Mary's two evangeline sisters, Georgine and Cyndee. Mentar Lyra stood in front of them posing in what appeared to be a period costume of some sort.
Cyndee had sleep lines under her eyes, but she smiled at Mary and patted the empty chair next to her. "What's this?" Mary said. "A fashion show?"
"We told her she had to lose the blue smock," Cyndee explained, "and this is what she's come up with so far. What do you think?"
"Yes, Mary," Lyra echoed, "what do you think?"
In place of the smock, the mentar's persona wore a lavender blouse and short black skirt with a light jacket in dusky plum brocade. On its feet were simple black suede open-toed slip-ons.
"Hmmm," Mary said, looking her up and down. "Understated, elegant, professional. Granted, it's like two hundred years old, but I like it, Lyra, and I give it my unqualified stamp of approval."
The mentar beamed. "Thank you, Mary."
"Wait. Hold on," Mary said. "You're not finished, are you? Where's the hat to go with that outfit?"
"Yes," chorused the jennys. "Show us the hat."
The young mentar said, "I have been studying the history of hat design, and I believe I have fused several popular styles into an original one."
But the mentar hesitated and had to be coaxed into showing its hat to them. When the hat appeared on Lyra's head, the jennys gasped. The mentar's design was a complicated wad of velvet ribbon liberally sprinkled with tiny silver pine cones, rosebuds, and acorns. The brim turned up in the front like the prow of a ship, and from its bowsprit sprang a golden sprig that dangled three freshwater pearls. From the rear of the hat protruded a fantail of pleated felt, like the rear end of a turkey.
"Hmmm," Mary said. "Hmmm."
"Hats are the hardest," Lyra complained.
"Oh, I know it," Mary agreed. "What do you think about your hat?"
Lyra glanced at the jennys. "I like it, but I wouldn't want to appear ridiculous when I wore it."
"I don't blame you. No one wants to appear ridiculous. Maybe our friends can make some suggestions how to fix it?"
"All right," Lyra said.
At once the jennys and Georgine and Cyndee seized Lyra's design and cloned it multiple times in the air, editing it with ideas of their own. They tried their creations on Lyra and on each other and picked apart the results. The mentar delighted in their attention.
Mary said, "Remember, Lyra, in the end it's up to you to decide what you'll wear. That's a cardinal rule of personhood. You may end up liking your original design best of all, and if you do, you should stick with it. How you feel about yourself is much more important than the opinions of others, and with enough chutzpah, you can pull off any hat you like."
Just then, a door opened and Dr. Lamprey came in, followed by June and another jenny from day shift, as well as the head nurse, Eisner. The dozens of hats vanished.
"Oh, good," the doctor said, "you're all here." There were no more seats, and one of the jennys offered him hers, but the doctor said, "Sit, sit. I've got legs too." He paused a moment to gather his thoughts. "Now I know some of you are going off shift, so I'll keep this brief. The reason I asked you here —" He stopped and looked around the atrium. "I don't see Ellen's guardian."
"I notified her," Lyra said. The young mentar continued to wear its period work ensemble, but without the hat.
"Maybe she forgot," the evangeline Cyndee quipped, and the jennys snickered.
Cabinet appeared in front of the doctor, startling him. It wore the persona of an elderly woman. "Yes?" it said.
"We're having a care plan meeting, as I told you not ten minutes ago," said Dr. Lamprey, "and I would appreciate your attention."
"Certainly," said the old mentar, who promptly disappeared.
Dr. Lamprey frowned but continued. "Let me just say that the quality of Ellen's care continues to be excellent, and you are all to be commended. Likewise, Ellen's physical progress remains strong. Her physical growth continues to catch up on her early deficits, and I have no remarks to add along those lines. What I want to concentrate on" — and here his voice deepened — "is her psychological recovery."
The mood in the room changed. The jennys all looked at their hands. "Yes, I see you're aware of what I'm talking about," he continued. "With injuries so grievous, it's a minor miracle she survived at all, and the experience has taken its toll. Ellen lost a significant mass of brain tissue, especially in her motor regions and cerebellum. To compensate, we've ramped up her brain's own neuron-generating process, and new tissue is replacing the lost. It helps that her entire body has been replaced, which has provoked the whole region to rewire itself.
"What I am concerned about is the damage done to her prefrontal cortex. While not extensive, it's not as easily repaired as the motor regions without a permanent effect on her psyche. Not to be too graphic about it, but her head was literally plucked from her body by the force of the impact. Her safety helmet saved her brain, but it could not mitigate the sheer brutality of the experience. It leaves indelible marks.
"That being said, the human mind is a resilient organ, and early signs lead me to believe that Ellen's personality will reemerge essentially the same as before the accident. However, there is always the danger of unexpected complexes developing, and that's what I think we're seeing now. I'm referring specifically to her recent delusion that her mother is still alive."
It was a problem that Mary had, in fact, been the first to report. Oblique references to her mother's many contingency plans led to assertions of her survival. It had been going on for several weeks and was becoming more pronounced.
"We cannot ignore this," the doctor continued, "especially now when new networks are being established. Keep in mind that the neural circuits used most frequently become the strongest. You might say they increase their own bandwidth with usage. If we don't deal with this delusion now, it may become literally engraved in her prefrontal cortex and link up to other neural regions to eventually hijack her entire personality. It's better for us to be proactive."
The doctor paused a moment for the gravity of his words to sink in. "Here's what we're going to do. Last night, I explained the situation to Ellen, and with her permission, I infused the regenerative medium in her hernandez tank with a drug called Protatter. When activated, this drug dampens neural firing. When we dampen a circuit often enough the brain thinks the circuit is unnecessary and prunes it back. So, this drug, in effect, can erase memories. We have to be careful which memories we erase, and we'll proceed in a very conservative manner. Ordinarily, I would rely on a patient's guardian mentar to control the dampening, but" — the doctor looked around the room and shook his head. "Ellen's guardian seems to be having cognitive problems of its own, and her new mentar" — he nodded at Lyra — "may be a little young for such responsibility. Therefore, you, Ellen's nurses and companions, will have to do the job.
"In order to tell Protatter which circuits to dampen, we need to listen very closely to everything Ellen says, and every time she expresses her delusion we tag it. For this I've supplied Nurse Eisner with clicker devices."
The jenny held up a small plastic disk for the others to see, and the doctor continued. "Press the button for as long as she talks about the idea that her mother is still alive, then let it go. Don't press it if she mentions her mother in any other context. We don't want to erase all memory of her mother. Only press it when she expresses a belief that her mother is alive on this Earth. Don't be concerned if she says she's in heaven or otherwise spiritually alive. And don't worry about making a few mistakes along the way because it's the cumulative total of hits that will have the effect and not any individual error."
"She's waiting for you," June, the new jenny, told Mary.
"I'll spell you when you're tired," the evangeline Georgine said.
"Don't forget your clicker," Nurse Eisner said.
Mary waved them all away and gently shut the heavy Map Room doors behind her. Ellen lay in a parallelogram of sunlight on the carpet beneath the window. Mary crossed the room soundlessly and loomed over the drowsing baby/woman. Ellen's body was that of a healthy sixteen-month-old toddler. She was dressed in a plain, pea-green eversuit that left her fat arms and legs bare. She wore pea-green booties. Surrounding her neck was the large, horseshoe-shaped brace that helped support her adult head. Or, rather, that helped the head support its baby body.
It was Ellen's original head, the one she had been born with. A safety helmet had swallowed it moments before a devastating space yacht crash had obliterated the rest of her. It was a head that was a bit rattled still. It was covered with all-new baby skin, smooth and flawless. New button nose, comically small ears.
Mary moved into her light. "Mary?" the adult head said, blinking and yawning.
"Yes, good morning, Ellen. It's me."
The baby raised her arms, and Mary picked her up, mindful to support the ungainly head. She carried her to the huge chairdog that was crouching in the corner, and the window followed them along the wall.
"No, window," Mary scolded. "Go back where you were." The window fled back across the wall, and Mary lowered herself and Ellen into the chair-dog. The chairdog stretched and scooched to balance their weight until they were perfectly comfortable, but then Mary remembered the clicker, and she had to lift Ellen to search her pockets for it. When they were resettled, Mary said, "Sleep well?"
"No, Mary, I did not." Ellen's voice lacked the force of adult lungs. "I kept waking up feeling I was drowning in that fecking tank! I want to sleep in a real bed, but they won't listen to me. Can't you make them listen to me?"
"I'll mention it," Mary said. "But you and I both know what they'll say: the tank is best for gaining weight and growing bigger."
"But they're wrong! I know they are. They listen to you, Mary. Promise me you'll speak to them."
"I promise. Now, what's on the agenda? You told Cyndee you wanted to work today, so what needs to be done?"
"Oh, Mary, there's so much to be done, more than can fit into one lifetime, and it just keeps piling up! I don't know how I'll ever get out from under it all."
Mary gave the baby a little squeeze. "Don't worry so much. Just slow down and take it one thing at a time. What should we tackle first? Lyra, what do you have to get us started? Make it something easy."
The mentar appeared in the room in her new clothes and pulled the slate from under her arm. "Libby from the Department of Justice is standing by with a briefing on their investigation into your mother's death."
Lyra! Mary said silently. Weren't we in the same care plan meeting a few minutes ago?
The young mentar quickly added, "But Clarity wants to speak to you first."
"Well, I don't want to speak to her. Send Libby in."
Mary shot Lyra a look of disapproval and added, "Make it voice only, please."
The official UDJD seal appeared in the center of the Map Room and faded away. The disembodied voice of the government mentar said, "Good morning, myren. Since our last update we have uncovered an important new lead. Forensics has identified a data burst transmission to the Songbird in the moments before its avionics malfunction. While we have poor odds of ever recovering the contents of this burst, the fact of its existence is one more piece of evidence that the avionics subems may have been sabotaged. In other words, evidence that the ship's failure was not accidental."
Ellen was silent for a long moment, and Mary readied the clicker. Ellen said, "I don't understand. Kindly boil it down for me, Libby: Have you found my mother?"
The government mentar paused, and Mary wasn't sure if the statement qualified as delusional. "I'm sorry," Libby said, "found your mother? The whereabouts of your mother's remains were never in doubt. The news I am imparting speaks to the question of whether your mother's death was a homicide or an accident."
Ellen corrected the mentar. "Attempted homicide, don't you mean? How can you have a homicide if you don't have a body?" There it was, the delusion, but when Mary tried to press the clicker, she found that she couldn't do it. Dr. Lamprey's explanation had sounded good, but Mary couldn't get over the image of reaching into Ellen's brain and pinching off a neuron.
"Her body was destroyed in the crash," Libby replied. "The coroner has positively identified bodily residues collected at the crash site as belonging to Eleanor K. Starke. Her death is not in doubt. Do you have evidence to the contrary?"
The baby squirmed in Mary's lap and kicked her legs. "Do you have any evidence besides 'residues' that she's dead? She's alive, I tell you! You should concentrate your efforts on finding her instead of making excuses!"
This time it was unequivocal, and Mary steeled herself and gave the clicker a good solid click. Meanwhile, she began rocking the baby in her arms. "Libby," she said, "please give your report to Lyra and excuse us. Lyra, cut the connection." The government seal reappeared briefly and faded away, and in a moment the chairdog aped Mary's motion and began to rock both her and Ellen.
When Ellen settled down, she said, "I'm sorry, Mary. It's just that I get so angry sometimes."
"Perfectly understandable. No need for apologies."
"No one believes me," the baby went on, "but I know I'm right."
Mary hesitated, then gave the clicker a quick squeeze. She looked imploringly at Lyra, who said, "Ellen, Clarity's been trying to reach you for a week now. Shall I connect her?"
Excerpted from Mind Over Ship by David Marusek. Copyright © 2009 David Marusek. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
David Marusek spins his quirky tales of the future by the glow of the Northern Lights in Fairbanks, Alaska.
David Marusek spins his quirky tales of the future by the glow of the Northern Lights in Fairbanks, Alaska. He is the author of Counting Heads and Mind Over Ship.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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In 2034 the sabotaged rocket crash left financier Eleanor Starke dead while her adopted daughter Ellen¿s life is saved when her preserved cryogenically frozen head was grafted on to the body of an infant (see COUNTING HEADS). Over the next year Ellen insists her mom is alive while everyone scoffs at her.
At the same time she demands control over the Starke business while other executives want her out of the way as the daughter may have been adopted but is a chip off the old block of her late mom with her desire to help those below the Boutique line. Instead her enemies are more interested in the bottom line even devastating a space colonization scheme to improve the life of the masses. Eleanor¿s fanatic husband Sammy Harger, who pushed the failed plan to move some of the fifteen billion off a planet over-populated with clones and AIs too, wants a piece of his daughter¿s head.
This sequel is a timely frightening futuristic science fiction thriller that extrapolates much of what is happening in technology, on Wall St and in DC to paint a dark nightmarish world that makes Malthus¿ prediction look naively understated. Ninety-nine percent of the populace lives in poverty while the avaricious remainder manipulates events to obtain larger portions of the pie. Ellen is terific as she struggles to take control of her mom¿s empire, but her adversaries are diabolical and sleazy as they control the convergence of science, money, and politics at the expense of the many. Though reading the first tale helps the audience understand what COUNTING HEADS is, this second act is a terrific thought provoking thriller that extrapolates the Bush years into the next century.