Justina Robson

JABberwocky Literary Agency, Inc. / 523 pages / (July 14, 2016)


Once in a great while you stumble upon a book that gets a firm grip on your imagination and just will not let go. Even when you are out — driving, eating in a restaurant, carrying on a conversation — you’re thinking about that book, anxious to get back to find out what happens next. Enter into that restrictive list Mappa Mundi, Justina Robson’s exciting, new novel.

And the topics could hardly be more timely.

Dr. Natalie Armstrong’s dream is to break through the code of the mind. Someday, her work may enable doctors to repair damaged brains and cure the mentally ill. She sees nothing but positive results coming from her discoveries, but she hasn’t reckoned with powers that have been keeping a close eye on her progress. The time is coming when the benefits of her research will be snatched away from her and used in a way she will violently oppose. And she never saw it coming.

FBI Specialist Jude Westhorpe has an inkling of the trouble on the way, but he needs someone to interpret the files he isn’t supposed to have. From the time he runs to England to find Natalie, his life is in danger and so is everyone he makes contact with on his way. Still, it’s a search he refuses to abandon, no matter what the cost — and the cost may be very dear, indeed, before the struggle is over.

What is at stake? Nothing less than the free will and minds of every human being on Earth. Because, with Natalie’s well-intentioned contribution, certain forces finally have the means they have sought to control thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and every aspect of the brain. In the wrong hands, Mappa Mundi can produce a planet of unreasoning slaves, instantly adhering to whatever doctrine the leaders choose. In the right hands, it can bring peace, tolerance, or an army of mindless slaves.

It gets tricky when such power is involved.

Nanotechnology, biotechnology, bioterrorism — the material couldn’t hit any closer to home. It’s plausibility may have some readers squirming, but they still won’t be able to put the book down.

Not only has Robson provided a spellbinding plot, fascinating technology (that is actually comprehensible to us non-scientists), and all too life-like characters to cheer on and to despise, but she has dared to step fully into the forum of issues that never fail to stir up emotions. If Mappa Mundi starts readers thinking and questioning, even disagreeing vehemently, it has done more than 95% of the books published in the last few years.

Justina Robson’s debut novel Silver Screen was nominated for the British Science Fiction and the Arthur C. Clarke awards. Mappa Mundi won the 2000 Bursary Award. Recognition like that is no fluke; Robson is an important and electrifying new voice in science fiction. Don’t miss what she has to say.