Broken Angels

Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon is definitely one of the best scifi novels I have read in my life. As a seamless blend of science fiction, hard-boiled crime, and cyberpunk, that book was amazing. The more so when considering that this was the author's debut! Intelligent, intriguing, inventive, exciting; it was everything you want a science fiction novel to be.

Although I own all the Takeshi Kovacs books, for some unfathomable reason I never gave the sequels a shot. Most probably because I'm an idiot. After all, I waited for years before reading Altered Carbon. Now, with all that's being said about the upcoming Altered Carbon Netflix TV series, I knew it was high time to get reacquainted with Kovacs. And I'm sure glad I did, for Broken Angels was nearly as great as its predecessor!

Here's the blurb:

Welcome back to the brash, brutal new world of the twenty-fifth century: where global politics isn’t just for planet Earth anymore; and where death is just a break in the action, thanks to the techno-miracle that can preserve human consciousness and download it into one new body after another.

Cynical, quick-on-the-trigger Takeshi Kovacs, the ex-U.N. envoy turned private eye, has changed careers, and bodies, once more . . . trading sleuthing for soldiering as a warrior-for-hire, and helping a far-flung planet’s government put down a bloody revolution.

But when it comes to taking sides, the only one Kovacs is ever really on is his own. So when a rogue pilot and a sleazy corporate fat cat offer him a lucrative role in a treacherous treasure hunt, he’s only too happy to go AWOL with a band of resurrected soldiers of fortune. All that stands between them and the ancient alien spacecraft they mean to salvage are a massacred city bathed in deadly radiation, unleashed nanotechnolgy with a million ways to kill, and whatever surprises the highly advanced Martian race may have in store. But armed with his genetically engineered instincts, and his trusty twin Kalashnikovs, Takeshi is ready to take on anything—and let the devil take whoever’s left behind.

Having read Altered Carbon eight years ago, I was scared that I'd be completely lost when I sat down to read Broken Angels. Thankfully, though I'm not sure if the same can be said about Market Forces and Woken Furies, the first two novels are mostly stand-alone titles that can be read in whatever order without having read the other. Other than the concept of sleeves, whereby an individual's consciousness and personality can be stored inside a brain and downloaded into another body, and the fact that they feature the same main character, both books are totally different beasts.

Indeed, while Altered Carbon was a science fiction/hard-boiled noir/cyberpunk hybrid, stylistically Broken Angels is more military science fiction and space opera. This sequel is more akin to James S. A. Corey's The Expanse and Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space sequence. And given how much I've enjoyed these two series, it's no wonder I loved Morgan's second Kovacs book as much as I did.

I'm too far removed from Altered Carbon to recall clearly, but I don't remember Martian culture playing any role in that novel. It lies at the heart of the entire worldbuilding of Broken Angels. And the more the author unveils about the Martians and their ancient artifacts, the more fascinating it gets. Although their civilization disappeared millennia ago, leaving behind alien technology scattered across the galaxy, mankind used Martian charts and undeciphered knowledge to reach the stars. Many of those primeval relics are priceless, but a group of archaeologists may have made the biggest discovery in the history of our existence. Trouble is, that prize is now off-limits due to a violent war on Sanction IV. So what began as a bona fide military scifi yarn gradually evolves into a space opera tale as Takeshi Kovacs and his crew attempt to retrieve that treasure. And that's when Broken Angels levels up and becomes impossible to put down. Corporate greed and the tragedy and senselessness of war are themes that are explored throughout the book and give this one its distinctive flavor.

The characterization is once again "top notch." First person narratives can be tricky things, but it's hard not to like Kovacs' no-nonsense style. There is a lot more to this protagonist than meets the eye, and I was pleased that Morgan revealed a lot more about his backstory and his past as an Envoy in this second installment. Though Kovacs ain't the most likeable of characters, it's all but impossible not to root for the guy. Once more in this sequel, Richard Morgan came up with an impressive cast of secondary characters. Matthias Hand made a wonderful greedy corporate executive and I enjoyed the back-and-forth between him and Kovacs. The Soul Market scene was awesome, and the crew of badass mecenaries that accompanies Kovacs on his mission were great. They start off as more or less generic kick-ass soldiers, yet Morgan does a good job fleshing them out and giving them substance. Tanya Wardani and Jan Schneider both play important roles in this one and the story wouldn't have been the same without them. As was the case with Altered Carbon, the author somehow managed to give life and personality to minor characters that don't necessarily play great roles in the bigger scheme of things, yet they feel important in the scenes in which they appear. Have to mention the long and explicit and over-the-top and totally unnecessary sex scenes that Richard Morgan is now renowned for. Yep, there is another one in this book.

The tragedies of war and the lofty and often disingenuous ideals behind such conflicts, corporate avarice and excess, deadly nanotechnology and futuristic military tech, mysterious alien artifacts from an advanced civilization so far ahead of mankind it defies imagination, a quest to lay claim to an ancient starship before dying of radiation sickness, voodoo magic, exciting battle and action sequences, and a bodycount that even GRRM would find imposing; that's Broken Angels in a nutshell.

Deserves the highest possible recommendation! If you have yet to read Altered Carbon and Broken Angels, do yourself a favor and do so ASAP!

The final verdict: 9/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

2 commentaires:

Anonymous said...

"Deserves the highest possible recommendation!" "9/10"
Does not compute.

Anonymous said...

Your rating system is awful.