Friday, March 10, 2006

WOKEN FURIES by Richard K. Morgan: a review

Another Joe Bob Briggs review completed. A change of pace from the usual thriller/suspense books they send and I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would. It took me a couple of chapters to shake the feeling I was reading a bad BLADE RUNNER ripoff.

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Woken Furies by Richard K. Morgan
Published by Ballantine Books: ISBN: 0345479718

I’m probably the wrong guy to review this novel, expecting as I was to be reading another suspense/thriller. Imagine my surprise and admitted disappointment to find a science fiction novel among the review copies. I have to be honest in saying that I haven’t read more than a dozen SF novels in the past thirty years and several of those were part of Douglas Adams’ Hitch-hiker’s series. Still I’m willing to give it a try since back in high school I was reading little but SF.

Richard K. Morgan won a Philip K. Dick Award for his first novel, Altered Carbon (2003). This book is the third in a series featuring Takeshi Kovacs, a former government operative (called Envoys, although they were more assassins and enforcers) in a distant future where people generally don’t die as we know it. When their life span ends or if they are killed in some fashion their consciousness can be placed in another “sleeve” to continue. These new bodies are either artificially created or clones of the deceased. This depends on money, of course, as well as into which societal class the individual belongs. Kovacs himself has been around for close to three hundred years, inhabiting a number of sleeves depending on his current mission.

Not having read any of the previous books in the series I sometimes found myself a tad confused, as dozens of characters (many of whom have some type of history with Kovacs) keep popping up. Writer Morgan fills in a lot of the background, but it still feels like coming in during the second reel of the film. Discovering that he is being tracked by a younger version of himself while on the run from several other factions, Kovacs finds temporary sanctuary with a band looking to salvage alien technology in abandoned ruins. The brief respite comes to an end when on of the team apparently becomes infected with the consciousness of a long-dead rebel leader, Quellcrist Falconer. The planetary government and possibly his former Envoy team mates are not happy about this situation.

I’d probably have enjoyed the book more if Morgan didn’t stop the plot for several pages of graphic sex every couple of chapters, or to have several of his characters spend another few pages arguing futuristic socialism (or Quellism, as it’s called in the book). Also, I’m always amazed to discover that thousands of years in the future in galaxies far away the underclass loves to drop the “F” bomb (as Jim Rome would put it).

Morgan does a good job bringing solid characterization to a very large and diverse cast. Playing the hard-boiled card can be difficult, especially mixing it up with SF, but Morgan does make it work.

Three stars (Add an additional half star if you’re an SF or Morgan fan already)
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