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Second book syndrome
on 10 March 2006
I enjoyed Altered Carbon, even thought the writing was a little uneven. The concept of sleeving was interesting and Kovacs was a great, flawed charachter. The follow up, Broken Angels, is disappointing however.
It once again follows Kovacs on a mission that is littered with bodies, violence and betrayal, this time on Saction IV, a world wracked by civil war.
First, a little niggle. The writing has got a litle smoother but throughout the book, Morgan insists on breaking up. His sentences. With full stops. Initially this is fine as it conveys a sense of how the charaters thoughts are disjointed, but after a while, when everybody is doing it all the time, it gets to be really annoying.
As fo the plot, well that is centred on the discovery of a long-abandonded Martian spaceship. Exciting stuff, but really the ship is little more than a McGuffin, a device for Morgan to hang a standard, military-ation SF story around. Most of the book is descriptions of various soldier-types doing various soldierly things and then regretting violence in a rather unconvicing fashion. And Kovacs keeps escaping because he is an Envoy - a little bit like Superman, with one bound he was free. Consequently, whilst the book is quite exciting, and moves at a good pace, there is no depth to any of it and at the end you feel unsatisfied and disappointed.
In addition, there is a rather bizarre voodoo sub-plot that not only seems out of place, but doesn't actually lead anywhere. That, combined with an odd Martian ghost sequence leaves the reader (or at least this reader) puzzled and confused. Did Morgan intend there to be a supernatural tint or was that just local colour? Were there ghosts or not? How did Kovacs survive the spaceship battle? Distracting.
Further, apart from the sleeving, the sci-fi elements are dull. No cool guns or weapons, standard space suits and ships, no amazing advances or changes. The Martian spaceship is equally disappointing without any great revelations or points of interest. It's advanced but we're told that rather than seeing it.
All in all, a real victim of second-book syndrome.