(2005) Richard Morgan, Gollancz, £10.99, trdpbk, 436pp, ISBN 0-575-07326-8
Woken Furies sees the return of Morgan's hero Takeshi Kovacs, ex-UN Envoy (enforcer), sometime detective, sometime alien artifact explorer, now a man on a mission of vengeance. If you remember the set-up from Altered Carbon and Broken Angels, people are stored on 'cortical stacks' and, so long as the stack survives, they can be uploaded into new bodies. But a religious sect on Kovacs' home planet, Harlan's World, has killed his lover, destroying her stack and throwing it into the sea. With nothing better to do, Kovacs is hunting down the members of the sect, excising their stacks, and selling them to an unscrupulous operator who installs them in animal bodies to participate in fights (like dog-fights). Aside from being a horrible fate in its own right, it's also a tremendous insult to their faith. Meanwhile Harlan's World is firmly under the control of the Yakuza and the First Families, neither of whom like rebellions, which are bad for business. But it seems a rebellion is just what they're going to get as rumours circulate that Quellcrist Falconer, hero of the Quellist revolution from centuries before, has been resurrected to start again. Kovacs gets drawn into this budding revolution, almost by accident and this, coupled with his other activities, prompt the First Families to hire an assassin to kill Kovacs. An assassin who is, in fact, an earlier, younger copy of Kovacs himself! But two copies of the same person are not allowed to co-exist and at least one of them must die; and if they can't manage it themselves, then the UN Envoys will...
Morgan is one of the best writers of the new decade/century/millennium and is a delight to read. Aside from the endlessly fascinating situations he dreams up, like the AI-hunting mercenaries Kovacs becomes employed with, tracking mech-animals in the wasteland, he also has a fine ear for dialogue and a facility for sketching characters succinctly yet convincingly. The backdrop to this particular universe is detailed and believable and, without ever straying from the excitement of the plot, Morgan helps the reader to become completely immersed in his world while continually managing to pull out still more new details. His plots don't skimp on action, but are also thoughtful and thought-provoking. He's also a thoroughly nice chap, with a good SF mind (and a liking for Poul Anderson) and was one of the hardest working guests I've ever seen at a convention, as well as one of the most approachable. Needless to say I'm more than happy to recommend this book (and, indeed, all his other books) to all and sundry. If you haven't encountered Richard Morgan yet, I suggest you start from the beginning and catch up with one of the SF firmament's brightest new stars.
See also our review of Market Forces.
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