Simon Bisson (sbisson) wrote,
Simon Bisson

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A Monday Morning "Back From The 'Dam" Review : Broken Angels

Richard Morgan's first novel Altered Carbon was an interesting first effort, let down by a failure to follow through on key themes and an obvious reworking of the universe that managed to badly damage Morgan's far future milieu. But there must have been something there, as Broken Angels fell into my Amazon pre-orders as soon as I knew it was due.

Some years on from the events of Altered Carbon, Morgan's body-hopping interstellar agent Takeshi Kovacs is a mercenary, fighting in the corporate-sponsored wars on the colony world of Sanction IV. It's a nasty little war, full of vile weapons and (in a world of digitally replicated minds) the porspect of true death. But Sanction IV hides a big secret, a secret that's possibly worth the death and destruction.

In Morgan's future humanity knows it isn't alone. Archaeologists on Mars found the remnants of an interstellar civilisation, and gave mankind a route to the stars. Relic hunting is now big business, and Sanction IV is a world chock full of relics - including one that just might be the key to revitalising humanity's struggling interstellar civilisation: a working gateway to what appears to be a Martian starship. Stumbling on this secret, Kovacs is contracted to assemble a team of special operations troops to find, open and travel through the gate - with the intention of claiming the ship for one of the companies running the war.

Morgan mixes violence and betrayal in a by the numbers thriller plot. This is a much simpler book than Altered Carbon, closer in tone to one of Peter Hamilton's early SF thrillers, and Morgan manages to keep all his balls in the air, as he juggles his way through the story. There's not much to tax the reader here: the story is computer game chic, owing more to Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones than Aliens.

Kovacs is a simple enough character, and his colleagues are generic templates you'll recognise from scores of pot-boiler space operas and military SF stories - the evil corporate, the stoic non-com and the like. But Morgan manages to assemble the various parts of the story into a coherent whole, giving us a bigger picture, and setting up a springboard for further adventures - and giving us a teaser of Kovac's real motivations.

The final verdict? Not wonderful, but certainly an improvement over Morgan's first novel. But he'll remain one to keep on the watch list - there's definitely some promise here, even if it is of consistent escapist adventure SF. After all, we all need a little adventure every now and then.
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