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Customer Review

14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A funny idea for a short story does not a novel make., 24 April 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: Market Forces (GOLLANCZ S.F.) (Paperback)
Richard Morgan created a unique blend of noir mystery and sci-fi action in books such as Altered Carbon and Woken Furies: the hero, Takeshi Kovacs, was a roguish amalgam of Sam Spade and Gully Foyle - a compelling anti-hero who can by turns have you cheering him on, or shaking your head in pure shock at his violent ruthlessness.
In Market Forces, Morgan portrays Chris, the poor kid made good in an amoral future where corporations make their own international law (not the far future, obviously). Chris climbs the greasy pole in the lucrative field of Conflict Investment, where firms fan the fires of low-intensity wars, sell arms to both sides, topple rulers, corrupt revolutions, etc,... well, imagine the CIA run by that well-known purveyor of beefburgers and fries that's top of everyone's list of ethical companies. Advancement, a higher salary, and ever more insulation from the vicious slums of the have-nots depend on boardroom backstabbing and road duels to the death - corporate gladiatorial contests in armoured BMWs and SAABs on the M25!
It sounds daft and it is. What might have been an amusing idea for a satirical short story wears pretty thin over the course of a whole novel. The book is padded out with tedious moral descent of the hero, Chris, though he never for one moment gives the impression he will do anything other than embrace the values he professes to despise. Author Morgan name checks anti-globalisation gurus like Noam Chomsky in a bibliography at the end of the book. You can't help thinking that 'Chris' is Morgan's stricken conscience, having swapped a career in education for a $1 million film rights deal for Altered Carbon.
Something similar happens in the second Kovacs novel, Broken Angels, where the hero loses some of his lustre when he ceases to be the rebellious antagonist of the rich and powerful and simply starts grubbing for his own big break. Morgan can't have it both ways: either the hero is flawed but bascially on the side of the little guy, or he's just a tool of the powerful - mere survival of the fittest isn't a satisfying moral trajectory for a character. It may be a Darwinian universe, but we don't have to like it: Chris, you suspect, likes it just the way it is.
Perhaps Morgan felt he needed to do penance for when Jerry Bruckheimer 're-skins' Takeshi Kovacs, an ethnic Asian, as Tom Cruise. However, either Morgan or his editors should abandon the navel gazing and stick to the grippingly plotted mix of gumshoe investigation and big sci-fi that make the Kovacs stories work so well.
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