- Author: Richard Morgan
- File Size: 823 KB
- Print Length: 386 pages
- Publisher: Gollancz; New Ed edition (December 9, 2008)
- Publication Date: December 9, 2008
- Language: English
Fifty years after the events of ALTERED CARBON, Takeshi Kovacs is serving as a mercenary in the Procterate-sponsored war to put down Joshuah Kemp’s revolution on the planet Sanction IV. He is offered the chance to join a covert team chasing a prize whose value is limitless — and whose dangers are endless. Here is a novel that takes mankind to the brink.
A breakneck-paced crime thriller, ALTERED CARBON took its readers deep into the universe Morgan had so compellingly realized without ever letting them escape the onward rush of the plot. BROKEN ANGELS melds SF, the war novel and the spy thriller to take the reader below the surface of this future and lay bare the treacheries, betrayals, and follies that leave the man so ill-prepared for the legacy he has been given: the stars. This is SF at its dizzying best: superb, yet subtle, world-building; strong yet sensitive characterization; awesome yet believable technology, thrilling yet profound writing. Richard Morgan is set to join the genre’s worldwide elite.
Critics have compared Richard Morgan’s first novel, Altered Carbon, to the classic hardboiled fiction of Raymond Chandler. The comparison doesn’t accurately describe Morgan’s second novel, Broken Angels. Morgan’s prose never approaches Chandler’s metaphoric excess, and Morgan’s antihero, Takeshi Kovacs, doesn’t wisecrack nearly as often as Chandler’s hero, Philip Marlowe. Also, Kovacs’s far-future universe is considerably darker than Marlowe’s noir world. In Kovacs’s universe, high-tech implants called “stacks” record memory and personality; this means soldiers can be sent to their deaths, have their stacks implanted in new bodies, and be sent to their deaths again, and again, and again. Generals needn’t quibble about wasting lives in massacres or nuclear explosions. The slaughtered soldiers will soon be back in action–unless their stacks aren’t recovered. Then their consciousness will go mad, isolated in an indestructible, inescapable virtual reality. The proper term for the Takeshi Kovacs novels isn’t “hardboiled.” It’s “brutal.”
The Martians disappeared long ago, but they left behind their stargates, which have allowed humanity to spread across the galaxy–and bring warfare to the stars. As Broken Angels opens, Takeshi Kovacs is a lieutenant in humankind’s most feared mercenary company, but rumors of an astonishing archaeological discovery inspire his desertion. Humans have never found a Martian starship until, perhaps, now. If the rumors are true, and the ruthless Kovacs can take possession of the unprecedented relic, he will make his fortune. But if he fails in his quest, he may find himself imprisoned in high-tech hell for eternity.
Despite its slick formulaic structure, Morgan’s SF–hardboiled hybrid, the sequel to the well-received Altered Carbon, bursts with energy and intelligence. Protagonist Takeshi Kovacs is the product of a brutal future in which corporations and politicians fight for supremacy. Humanity has spread to the stars by deciphering charts left behind by the long-extinct Martians. Since people haven’t discovered how the Martians surpassed the speed of light, however, they usually travel through space by broadcasting their digitalized personalities from one planet to another and having them installed in new bodies, a technique that gives virtual immortality to the most unscrupulous individuals. One such is Kovacs, a young sociopath whom the interstellar government transformed into a super warrior before he went freelance.
Kovacs resembles a smarter and deadlier Mike Hammer; part of the pleasure is watching him not only use his skills and conditioning but also struggle past his limitations to develop empathy for other humans. The few people Kovacs gets close to are the team that accompanies him on an expedition to claim the ultimate Martian relic—a functioning FTL starship. Morgan is good at presenting Kovacs’s mastery of high-tech weapons and other gadgets, as well as his reactions to disturbing alien artifacts. The mystery aspect of the story is also well handled, always hovering in the background of the violent action as Kovacs gathers clues. It all adds up to a superior, satisfying cyberpunk noir adventure.
This “sequel” to Altered Carbon is about as good as Science Fiction gets. It’s not truly a sequel…rather a carrying on of the life of the main protagonist, Takeshi Kovacs, a few decades following the end of Altered Carbon. You don’t need to read Altered Carbon before Broken Angeles, at least for the storyline, but you REALLY need to understand the backstory and general setting of this time period (some 500 years or so from now).
While I thoroughly enjoyed Altered Carbon, it was more like a detective novel set in the future (with very cool changes to technology and society).
But Broken Angels is a true sci-fi novel, set light years from Earth and filled with all sorts of great plot twists, alien technology, and humans fighting with each other (as is our habit). It’s a great read (and even better listen using Audible). Highly recommended book.
Where Altered Carbon was a violent crime thriller set in a sci-fi futuristic setting, Broken Angels is more intensely sci-fi that happens to come with satisfying helpings of mystery, surprise, character development, existentialism, and of course, large quantities of brutal and explicit violence. I’ll let others do the deep dive reviews, but I highly recommend this if you’re looking for excellent writing and existential questions about humanity’s place in the universe in your sci-fi. Stay away if violence upsets you.