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Market Forces (GOLLANCZ S.F.) Paperback – 4 Sep 2008
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With his third novel Market Forces, Richard Morgan moves from the far-future SF violence of Altered Carbon and Broken Angels to almost equally extreme corporate violence in the mid-21st century. The hero, or antihero, Chris Faulkner is a rising executive in a Britain where the gap between suits and the underclass is huger than ever. Both promotion and competitive tendering in the cut-throat world of Conflict Investment (arms dealing) are settled by duels to the death: "Road-raging is here to stay."
The action happens in the nearly derelict arena of our motorway system--an executive playground--since the lower orders can no longer afford petrol. Individual drivers or teams manoeuvre to run the opposition permanently off the road in a Mad Max frenzy, no mercy asked or given. At first, Faulkner has a black mark for taking a defeated opponent to hospital instead of finishing the kill. He won't make that mistake again. After all, the latest management status symbol is the exclusive Nemesis-10 handgun.
International business decisions are tough ("Regime change is our worst-case scenario"), and there's no longer any safe distance between boardroom decisions and blood on the streets. As a big deal with revolutionary South American factions goes badly wrong, both careers and lives are on the line. This deadly game still has some rules of conduct, but getting to the top means pushing the envelope. Faulkner pushes hard enough to make you wince.
With terminal stress on his marriage, his battered conscience, and his few friendships, our man seems doomed to become either a monster or a mutilated corpse. Company backstabbing intensifies; the stakes are higher with each new challenge. One chancy way out of the rat race is offered, but maybe it's possible to get addicted to living on the edge?
An ultra-black, ultra-violent and intensely depressing vision of 2049's amoral Masters of the World. Compulsive reading for the un-squeamish; you can almost hear Michael Moore saying "I told you so". --David Langford
His writing and dialogue are still as sharp as flick-knives... this is a real fast-forward thriller from a major talent. (John Jarrold SFX)
It's a bleak, violent portrait of a world which is only a few heartbeats and regime changes from our own. Imagine Michael Moore, George Orwell and Philip K Dick collaborating on a novel and you're halfway to realising what a mind-blowing book this is. (George Walkley Ink Magazine)
Morgan's depictions of road battles are truly stunning -- I challenge you to fold the page and put the book down in the middle of one -- you simply can't do it.
Another "Certificate 18" killer read that you'd be a fool to miss! (Stuart Carter Infinity Plus)
This near future thriller starts with a bang and immediately we know that we are once more in the company of the UK¿s freshest and hardest hitting of the new wave genre writers.
Morgan¿s writing is as explosive and energized as one could hope for. This is an accessible and intensely exciting work.
By far the sharpest book I¿ve read in the last year, Market Forces is highly recommended. (John Berlyne SFRevu)
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This book, I feel , is largely underrated because of its Chomsky-ish overtones, and people tend to get bogged down in politics. That is why I'm not going to go through that here. Instead, I found the real message of this book to be about relationships.
Morgan has a style rarely seen that details relationships very subtly, and doesn't get too involved. All the same I found myself caring more and more about what happened to the other characters in the book rather than the anti-hero Chris Faulkner. His wife, while caring and worrying, dealt nobly and realistically with the hate coming from Chris. I could also feel an affinity for Mike Bryant, Chris's immediate superior and friend, even though a cold killer.
Anyway, for my tuppence worth, I liked this book. It was dark, depressing, and in a Global Corporation/Republican regime, it was scarily possible (apart from the car duels).
As oil prices rise and work is the new religion, money is becoming the new god. I'm not religious. I'm just worried. As we spend more time away from our loved ones, into the arms of our jobs, who do we love?
I scared that all we may be left with is money and hand-wringing from the ones who care.
As usual Morgan's writing and characterisation is gritty and in-your-face. Our (anti-) hero elicits limited sympathy from the reader as he ruthlessly and sefishly battles up the corporate ladder. British society has virtually collapsed into a semi-anarchic state where a corporate elite pretty much writes its own rules. Competion in business is literally cut-throat with 'road raging' being the preferred method of negotiation: to the survivors the spoils.
This isn't an intellectually challenging book but I found it emotionally satisfying at a number of levels. I think most fans of the cyber-punk genre will find it so too.
I do however have many issues with this book and don't think it was as well written, as it should have been. The first is that although this book is not set many centuries in the future, the lead character - Chris Faulkner - is in a very similar mould to the author's previous lead and the environment he writes in is just as desperate!
The second issue I have with this book is the confusion of ideas, I found the concept of the corporations investing in wars to be quite intriguing (although I did find this over played) but I did find the "Mad Max" style road wars to be completely superfluous to the tone of the book, and in all honesty made a bit of a mockery of it.
The last issue I had with the book was that is seemed to base its lead concept on the premise that the majority of current business men, or at most those one generation away, can all be turned into cold hearted killers. This I really struggled with and the author never offered me a reason as to why, or how this had happened, more he alluded that this kind of drive and ambition already exists at the heart of all business and just needed an outlet. Now I am sure we all agree this may exist in part in SOME businesses but to allude to the majority would soon be acting like this needed more explanation.
In summary I found this an interesting concept but I believe the author may have let gone a little too far with some anti-capitalist beliefs without enough explanation. Well worth a read but the author has written better.
As with Morgan's other works, it contains dark humour, some well-depicted scenes of ultra-violence, and a wealth of ideas about the direction of future society. It also has something to say about business ethics; the unconverted could find this objectionable and the converted could find it unnecessary, but take it as a novelised version of Naomi Klein's No Logo and you should be just fine.
Richard Morgan quite clearly takes several ideas from William Gibson and runs with them - in this case mostly from Count Zero, one of the very best Gibson novels. (Identifying these is left as an exercise for the reader.) Morgan writes with the same outstanding clarity and precision and that is itself, to this reviewer, more than enough to make him truly Gibson's heir.
Possibly the whole book was sparked off by the geekly use of the expression 'road warrior' meaning a laptop-equipped corporate executive.
Some other potential inspirations:
Stand on Zanzibar (1969) by John Brunner
Gladiator-At-Law (1955) by Frederik Pohl and CM Kornbluth
Mindstar Rising (1993) by Peter Hamilton
Snow Crash (1992) by Neil Stephenson
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