The Lost Art: Simon Morden
“The world has turned on its axis and a traveller has arrived from beyond the stars, but it’s a secret from earth’s past that could destroy all…”
Simon Morden’s The Lost Art is set in a post apocalyptic world, at a guess, a thousand years ahead of today. Earth has been turned, literally, on its axis and forced mankind back a few hundred years to the mid fifteenth century. The inversion of the world is not really explained, so whether technology itself, or some natural global catastrophe, caused it is unknown. The story is stubborn, it doesn’t even give a hint.
Our world has gone; the Users, who were the old, pre Inversion people, have gone, and has been replaced by population suspicious of technology. Nevertheless, certain people, including the Kenyans have started to use and develop technology once more.
The story starts brutally with the slaying of a monastery of monks in Siberia. Va is the sole survivor, having the fortune to be sent away at the time of the attack. He finds that six ancient, metal covered books were stolen during the attack and, being a mental monk, striving to cleanse himself of his previous sins, he immediately sets out to get them back. The books, whose contents are thought to be dangerous, as they contain the ‘knowledge of mankind’, would bring on the destruction of the World, were locked and hidden deep in the monastery for a reason. Va is continuously followed by a princess whose love has been ignored and thwarted (remember, he’s atoning his sins), but who never gives up helping him.
Benzamir Mahmood mysteriously appears out of the skies on a flying carpet. A descendant of a strange, old race, he returns in pursuit of his enemies. Solomon Akisi is a Kenyan, well versed in the Technology, of which he introduces to people to covertly induce their trust.
Although The Lost Art is, I believe, aimed at children, this is a satisfying adult book. Some of the content even harks at being only adult content, but are toned down and not too graphic. Va is a fascinating character. On the one hand he has sworn himself to the scriptures and God, to deprive himself of wordly pleasures (including women). His internal dialogue shows how he faces up to following God’s word, while being tempted by Princess Elenya. He is also haunted by his past life; the voices of murdered folk. Possibly a bit ‘overacted’, it is an insight into a very troubled mind.
The technology is used superbly, from simple windmills (used for such things as crushing wheat for bread), projectile weapons, to anti-grav tools for the flying carpet. It shows a broad spectrum of uses, including interstellar craft towards the end. This is probably unsuprising as the author is a genuine bona-fide rocket scientist.
Simon raises quite a few questions about the usage of technology in The Lost Art. Is censoring technology a good idea? It examines how technology can be abused, and yet how it can be put to good and useful use.
I found the most exciting part of this book was the inversion, which unfortunately isn’t actually explained, so for me, reading to the end of the novel, with no reason forthcoming, was a bit of an anti-climax. Don’t misunderstand, it is a good read, and if I wasn’t so preoccupied with the whole premise, maybe I would have enjoyed it more.
So, forget the reason for the inversion, and enjoy the great narrative in Simon Morden’s debut novel.