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4.2 out of 5 stars
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4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 12 April 2003
I hate to admit to being shallow but I did only by Richard Morgan's first book because of the shinny cover and here the old cliché turns out to be completely wrong.
I loved Altered Carbon and when I found out that a sequel was on the shelves I ran to the computer and got it. Like the last book this one gets you right from the off and refuses to let go. Set in a future where body swapping is an every day occurrence and you can only truly die if your cortical backup (called a stack, located just under the skull) is destroyed.
Takeshi Kovacs thirty years older since we last saw him, has a new body an is working as a mercenary in a political war on sanction IV. Wounded and in hospital he is offered the chance to get away from the fighting and go on a archaeological dig in the fallout radius of nuclear explosion and for personal reasons he accepts.
From here Morgan goes in to great detail about the lost civilisation found on Mars and how humans spread out in to the universe (something that was glossed over in the first book). It is a different style than Altered Carbon but still written in the first person, less a detective noir and more a political/corporate/military thriller it is never the less intriguing to read about how human civilisation has changed very little in 500 years.
The technology is described extremely proficiently and at no point does anything seem implausible and besides the book is more about the characters than the gadgets. The interactions between the various characters are expertly written (Morgan has a great ear for dialogue), its unsettlingly fascinating to read about them all slowly dying of terminal radiation exposure as they unearth secrets of an alien technology.
The only let down is towards the end of the book the story seems to descend in to extreme violence for little reason but this is salvaged by the excellent final chapter which puts a twist on all of Kovacs’ motivations.
With chapter as gripping as the last, Morgan doesn’t let you stop for breath and its true to say that is I didn’t have to go to work I would have sat there and read the whole thing from cover to cover in one go. I can't wait for a third instalment I need to know what will happen to Takeshi and you will too.
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VINE VOICEon 15 September 2003
The sequel to Altered Carbon is actually a better book in my opinion, but that may have something to do with the genre. Okay, so it's based on the same central character, Takeshi Kovacs, and it's set in the same universe [as such] but, unlike the first novel, which is a detective story set in space, this is just out and out sci-fi, and all the better for it. The usual tenets apply here, very well written, with a good tight style, complex enough to be challenging and strong characterisation, with a nice and dark overtone that suits my preference. This novel concentrates mostly on the artefacts left behind by the Martian civilisation alluded to in Altered Carbon and explores man's place in the universe in relation to the other races that went before. The effect is eerie and mysterious, but Richard Morgan hasn't neglected the shocking capacity for violence that made his central character so appealing and repulsive at once in the previous book. Once again, very highly recommended, but read Altered Carbon first.
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Altered Carbon was an exceptional debut novel, and Broken Angels, which is a stand alone sequel, shows no reduction in quality.
Once again Takeshi Kovacs is the central character. A former 'Envoy' and all round hardcase. This time he is a mercenary on Sanction IV, and the story line is the classic quest for buried treasure.
While Kovacs was on something of a lone crusade in the last book, this time he is part of a group of mercenaries - as another reviewer astutely put it, this is Aliens compared to Alien.
Comparisons to Altered Carbon are unavoidable, and if you have not yet read the earlier book then you should.
Broken Angels does inevitably lack the wow element of its predecessor - set in the same universe and with the same central character, the only real novelty is the martian artifacts that are the subject of the quest.
The rest of the comparison is straight forward - Morgan has written another cracking page-turner, and its a fairly safe bet that if you liked the first book, you will like this one.
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on 6 July 2003
I can't wax enthusiastic enough about Richard Morgan and his first two books. I'd just about given up on trying to find any more good science fiction and again forego attempting to find any worth reading for another ten years or so, when I found Altered Carbon. My faith was restored. There was good, plausible, non-Cyberpunk, SF with a messge being published after all. In addition to giving his characters humanity and fallibility in ways that enhance and make more comprehensible his stories,Morgan also quite simply tells some of the best stories written in the last ten or twenty years,and if he keeps up his output and builds on what he's done so far, I believe he could have much the same impact as a Heinlein or Clarke. Instead of the triumvirate of Heinlein - Clarke - Asimov , maybe Reynolds - Banks - Morgan will establish equivalent new signposts in space-opera.
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on 4 March 2015
I think any author would have a tough time following up an acclaimed title such as Altered Carbon with a second instalment. So many things could have gone wrong. Morgan could have simply rehashed the structure that his début novel utilised so successfully, but that would have been a mistake. He could have tried to go one better than his first book, pushing the limits even further, but he didn't. He could have become stuck in a mindless pattern of ultra violence and explicit sex scenes, but he didn't. He could have attempted to reach too far and failed utterly in bringing Broken Angels to fruition, but he didn't. And I thank all of the non-existent deities that this is so.

What Morgan did do with the plot of the second Takeshi Kovacs novel, was, in many respects, completely different to its predecessor. Altered Carbon is effectively a twisted sci-fi noire detective novel set in Bay City, Earth. Broken Angels is [mostly] set on a planet called Sanction IV, many light years from humanity's birthplace. Sanction IV is struck with a crippling global war, in which Takeshi Kovacs is a hired mercenary in a company called The Wedge. Morgan takes you on a wartime journey through the cut-throat commercial world and deep into the history of an extinct alien race with devastating personal consequences for our cast (and many other unfortunates.) It is impressive and awe-inspiring.

The pace of Broken Angels does not match that of Altered Carbon, and, frankly, I would have been surprised if it had. This novel is a very different creature. The first half is a relatively sedate ride, with lots of hidden going-ons that are mostly well hidden. Once you tip the crest of the wave things become much more turbulent and you are once more dragged kicking and screaming into the dark and brutal inner mind of the sociopathic ex-envoy Takeshi Kovacs.

The familiar behaviours of our protagonist are all in here. His proclivity towards extreme violence and mass murder, his twisted sense of justice through vengeance, general outrage and near-obsessive rejection of authority (particularly daddy-figures) all play their part. There are some explicit sex scenes, but they are reigned in compared to Altered Carbon and justifiably so, given the nature of the storyline.

I keep on comparing Broken Angels to Altered Carbon, and that is perhaps because Altered Carbon was so. Freaking. Excellent. For me, Broken Angels wasn't quite on the same level as its predecessor, but that doesn't mean it isn't a damn fine read. If I hadn't read Altered Carbon, I would be raving about how amazing Broken Angels is. Morgan's ability to explore his characters' personalities and bring them to life so vividly is nothing short of brilliant, and it is what makes his books so good.

I'm rating Broken Angels at 5 stars, simply because I can't physically rate it at 4.5 stars on amazon. I would rather round it up than down. It's going onto my list of all-time favourite sci-fi reads, alongside Donaldson's Gap Sequence and Reynolds' Revelation Space series. And now I'm going to download the third and final Takeshi Kovacs novel, because I can't read anything else knowing that there is one more to go. It's just that sort of series.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 December 2011
As my science fiction odyssey continues, it was only a matter of time before I reacquainted myself with Kovacs, Richard Morgan's cynical, unflinching and displaced protagonist, whom I first met in the remarkable Altered Carbon (GollanczF.). It seems wrong to call Kovacs a `hero' - the universe that Morgan envisages and creates is not a place for heroes.

Broken Angels isn't a novel to read without having read its predecessor, Altered Carbon. From that novel, you'll have learned that this universe is one in which life means less and death means more. That is because one's `soul' can be located in a small metal stack which lies at the base of the skull and can be `resleeved' into the bodies of other humans or into clones. As long as the stack survives, life will continue, even if it has a face you can no longer recognise. When the stack is destroyed then this real death is all the more terrifying for its unusual finality.

In Altered Carbon, we saw the tragic and quite devastating repercussions of this body shifting on earth, when resleeving was predominantly for the rich, with the souls of the poor confined to virtual prisons or even oblivion and their bodies rented out to the wealthy. Broken Angels has a different perspective. Instead of human tragedy and a detective story, we're taken off world to Sanction IV, a planet torn in two by war. Kovacs is now a mercenary fighting for the Wedge against Kemp's rebellion. In this war, soldiers fight endlessly. Their mutilated bodies are rebuilt while, if they're lucky, their minds can recover in a virtual pleasure dome. They are then thrown back into the fray.

Kovacs is distracted from the war by one of those Martian mysteries hinted at in the first novel. A gateway has been discovered that leads directly into space and a Martian starship, abandoned many, many years ago. Control of Martian technology is highly desirable and so Kovacs finds himself part of a team of resurrected soldiers and traumatised archaeologists whose aim is to reopen the gate and claim the ship.

Of course, it's not that symbol. Others, from both sides of the war, want control of the gate and the discovery of bodies at the scene is a reminder that some may be nearer than had been thought.

Alongside the wonder of the Martian enigma and the quite beautiful remains of the vessel, we have the sheer brutality of the situation on Sanction IV. There are moments of horror here, the kind of horror that can send inhabitants of this universe insane. The title of the novel is very clever because there are broken angels everywhere, not just on the Martian ship. Kovacs has demons and the only way that he feels that he can survive here is to act in ways that, more than once, made me try to read the pages with eyes almost shut.

This universe is perfectly realised by Morgan, with it expanded to another dimension from Altered Carbon. It is a world abandoned by Martians, in which an individual has little control, where good has become lost in bad, and where alien technology offers dreams of solution but in reality is not understandable. Thoroughly absorbing science fiction mixes with a probing and disturbing look in to the human condition. Broken Angels is complex, raising questions about the nature of existence, and is both alarming and extremely rewarding. Kovac's third journey is next and this time we'll experience his own home world - Woken Furies (GollanczF.).
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on 14 May 2014
This book is a fairly standard crime/thriller story set in a fairly standard SF universe.

It’s the second of three books by Morgan featuring the mercenary Takeshi Kovacs. Think Jack Reacher in the 26th century.

Humanity has spread out to the stars, following in the footsteps of the (long-departed – or killed off?) Martian civilisation. If you have a ‘stack’ (a black box attached the spine of your neck) then, even if you’re killed, your personality can be loaded into a new body (“sleeve”).

Kovacs is hired by a corporation to be part of a group of crack soldiers (all “re-sleeved” after dying in service in one way or another) whose mission is to investigate a kind of Martian wormhole that’s been found on a planet (Sanction IV). There’s a war on Sanction IV – between the ruling organisation and the revolutionary Joshua Kemp. Though we experience nothing of this war directly. All the action in the book is wholly peripheral to the war.

As you might expect, all is not as it seems. I found the plot interesting enough, and the action exciting enough. To be honest, during the last few pages of exposition, I rather lost track, as Morgan ties up most of the loose ends, but the journey from A to B was enjoyable enough.

If anything, though, Morgan gets a little too tied up in the action and we don’t get enough explanation. If you’re going to set an action story several hundred years in the future, you’ve got to fit the explanations around the plot rather better than has been managed here.

Also, Morgan has adopted in the book the rather. Annoying. Habit. Of using full stops to. Punctuate. Sentences. In an odd. Way.

It’s an enjoyable SF romp, with enough to keep you interested and get you thinking.

8/10
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on 17 August 2007
'Broken Angels' is the second outing for Envoy-trained Takeshi Kovacs and is an absolutely rip-roaring continuation from the original 'Altered Carbon'. The plot unwinds with breath-taking speed; the action comes fast and furious, bolstered by excellent levels of technological details and character descriptions.

Yet Morgan's second outing has met with a fair amount of criticism leveled at under-developed ideas or poor style. Both criticisms are unfair and miss the point of what the novel is trying to achieve. 'Altered Carbon' introduced us to ideas of sleeving, cortical stacks and humans being decanted into either real or virtual worlds. Morgan takes this much further in 'Broken Angels' and asks us to think about what will happen to human beings who live at the interface of technologcal developments, and how that technology will affect both what we are as persons as well as our own sense of who we are. The brilliance of 'Broken Angels' is that he asks us these questions via the characters who are working at and in extreme situations where the rules of who we are are constantly being redrawn all the time. And he does it by using the Martians (the Broken Angels of the title) as a mirror of civilisation so far ahead of us, yet still seemingly sharing the same weaknesses and vices.

This is the clue to the style and why he sometimes writes in very short, staccato sentences. As some reviewers have noted he does. Sometimes write. Like. This. But all you have to do is look closely; he only does it when people are speaking. And usually, he only does it when people are speaking under incredibly stressful circumstances or life and death situations. In these situations, people rarely speak in complete sentences. They speak short, quick-fire and often incomplete sentences. This is what Morgan does here - his writing mirrors the reality of the way we speak when stressed and the characters are much more realistic because of it.

All in all, this book is a welcome return for Kovacs. The character is so much more developed and, for once, we get to see the man's inner thoughts and processes which helps us understand quite how he does what he does and how future genetic conditioning can take human beings in all sorts of unexpected directions. Brilliant, insightful, and highly entertaining. Well worth every penny.
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on 19 February 2015
Great fun read. Hard core, cyber punk, military, space opera, mash up! The characters are well thought out and the world building is very thorough. Loved the first book in this series and as a follow up this book is excellent.
I still like the central idea of immortality through a backup device located in the base of the skull and rebirth into clone bodies know as sleeves. Personality backups can be sent via faster than light "radio" comms to other planets for re-sleeving! Which makes inexpensive travel to other stars a reality. Very clever premise.
The story has enough twists and turns, betrays and intrigue to keep you guessing right up to the last chapter, I particularly enjoyed the end, as everything is NOT tied up in a neat bow ((like Peter F. Hamilton's books - which drive me mad!) A the end of this book, there is a resolution - a very messy one; some character don't make it, plans change, which adds a sense of realism. Just bought the third in the series.
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on 23 October 2014
If you liked his first book in the series "Altered Carbon" with its' easy violence, Japlish culture, strange travel and immortality systems and even stranger aliens, you'll probably like the others too, although I'm giving him a rest for a bit after having just finished all three on the trot.
I'll wait till my squeamishness-quotient sinks back down to full blood-lust level before I tackle his unrelated but similar work " Black Man".
Mr.Morgan writes good books, Buy them.
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