Top critical review
3 people found this helpful
on 8 July 2009
I've read all 4 of Richard Morgan's novels now, having just finished the Takeshi Kovacs trilogy, and while I found the books extremely hard to put down, I have finally come up against a wall in this last novel. The depth of the characters has improved with each part of the trilogy and even the far fetched SF concepts are given a life that many, if not most SF would love to create for themselves. The background of an ancient all pervasive alien culture is very well done, being used as both a plot device in the latter two novels and as a texture to the trilogy in general. The final novel paints a very detailed picture of the world his characters are on, which gives one, I think, a feeling of experiencing something lived in, not a sterile SF world, almost, but not quite Gibsonesque in detail.
All three novels are incredibly violent, and Richard Morgan's deep and biting political cynicism shows its head in each one of them, finally coming to the fore in this final novel where the hero gets caught up in a 300 year old revolution with digitally reincarnated revolutionaries, main characters dying with almost predictable regularity, only to be revived and then in some cases killed again. Richard Morgan doesn't take the easy road with his characters and it is a tribute to his skill as a writer that the dysfunctional morals and ethics of the hero, Takeshi Kovacs, and his inability to even remotley come to grips with his past made me feel an active hatred for the character, wishing by the middle of the book that he would finally just die, as all the other characters in the novel seemed to wish for.
While Richard Morgan's hard realism - ugly, violent corrupt people are standard fare - in the last novel I almost found that I was seeing too much of what I call English hard man politics shining through, very similar in its way to Neal Asher's brand of depicting the corrupt abuse of power. It gets tiring, I feel. Similarly, there is a lot of very graphic violence and a lot of very graphic sex. I have to be honest here in that I felt that the author was almost on a kind of mastubatory trip at times, and I couldn't glean any real difference in the women the main character was having sex with, except that he would have done well in hard-core porn and that the women were all "long-limbed" and that almost every woman character in the novel who wasn't lesbian wanted to and ended up also having sex with the hero. I found it somehow gratuitous.
As with his forth novel Black Man or 13 (in the USA), I couldn't escape the feeling in this one, that the author had gotten some of his ideas from other SF authors, in the case his Martian Ascension reminded me somehow very much of Iain M Bank and his subsumed societies having ascended to a higher plain.
All that said, I liked thebook and the series immensely and can recommend it to anyone with an open mind and a strong stomach.