Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Morgan's angels

Richard Morgan's Broken Angels is a neat (sometimes very messy) adventure story set against a sweeping backdrop of dirty politics, revolutionaries, corporate loyalties, and military action, and on this foundation it begins to construct a Martian mythology.

This is the same world we were introduced to in Altered Carbon, further fleshed out and featuring the same but freshly sleeved hero, Takeshi Kovacs. Whereas Altered Carbon was a detective story driven by individuals, Broken Angels is a kind of treasure hunt, where personalities are secondary to the vast corporate and other forces that direct them. The noir is gone, but the darkness remains in this more traditional and militaristic sci-fi story.

The characters, though secondary, are fully three-dimensional with consistent behaviour. When bodies are so easily replaced, identity by personality is very important, and Morgan is a master at this. Takeshi Kovacs remains complex, a product of his slum-ridden childhood, his special-ops training, and bio-engineering, including a wolf gene splice.

The language and the violence are still pretty hard-boiled.

But. The punctuation. Was driving me. Nuts. Periods are intended to mark the end of a full sentence or, at the very least, a complete thought. Here, they are used to mark. Both unnatural. And natural pauses. Dashes and ellipses are better suited to this purpose — showing... how we... slow down to... collect our thoughts, or when our — speech — is — externally — interrupted. Fire that copyeditor.

The broken angels of the title are the vanished Martian civilization. I hope the archeologists of Richard Morgan's world will continue to pick away at their remains and piece together their culture in the third Kovacs novel, Woken Furies.

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