I remember reading the first of Richard Morgan’s novels, Altered Carbon, and instantly being drawn into his style of writing. It was a Film Noir feel coupled with science fiction, but written in a way that the science was never explained, nor needed to be, it just naturally came through in his writing style.
The character of Kovacs that he created, a hard and embittered elite soldier who has lived for more than most humans could believe through the process of resleeving, is a perfectly flawed character for the book. He’s violent, tough, ruthless, but through the hundreds of years of pain and fighting he’s seen, his human qualities are still holding true. A hope for something better and a belief in the human spirit.
That’s what really pulled me into these novels, the science fiction style Morgan has and the main character. A tough no-nonsense guy, like Dirty Harry or John McLane.
Altered Carbon was a very strong novel, his follow up Broken Angels was equally as good, but quite confusing. This second novel actually seemed to have no real end point, more a plot device and surrounding story. This third novel seems to loose focus at some points and I did find during the latter parts wondering what and why events were happening. I genuinely felt lost and slightly aimless. It takes this story wandering around a central plot device that bit further and I really did wonder why we were being told this story.
Kovacs remains true to his original character throughout, and it’s this that keeps the novel going for me. The action pieces also bring out the best of the writing and of the character and make sure that the pace of the story is kept high.
However, it’s the aim of the novel that seems murky and lost to me. I don’t see the point of the journey, and at what seemed a hugely climactic point of the book giving the author the possibility to expand the story to a much wider level, it falters and becomes almost an entirely different story. Before this point we see Kovacs drawn to an unknown woman who appears to be someone he once knew of and fought for and alongside, protecting her and in a way guiding her to an endgame. After this point the story becomes more about tidying up loose ends and of Kovacs need for revenge, it looses what came before this point.
It’s interesting because I can clearly see that point in my head, I do understand the overall story, what happened, etc. Yet I find it really hard to articulate. I think this is because I am so unsure about why the story went the way it did, and where it was trying to go. By the end of the book I was most definitely left with a feeling that I’d wandered along the story without feeling some conclusion, or a desire to get somewhere.
It is a shame because the other two novels were very good, the first in particular was superb. Also Morgan’s book Market Forces was so good, I had such high hopes.