Takeshi Kovacs is still an arsehole, but somehow manages to be a bit more likeable in this book
|Richard K. Morgan in 2003|
Takeshi Kovacs, cynical, tough, soldier and mercenary is now stuck on a dirtball called Sanction IV, fighting a war he doesn’t believe in and doesn’t care a stuff about. Apart from getting paid. Thirty years after the events of Altered Carbon, he’s wandered and settled into the Carrera’s Wedge mercenary group, fighting for the corporate bigwigs who nominally control humanity. Trouble is, Takeshi has seen enough of war, death and rebirth, and when an opportunity to leave rich and comfortable presents itself, he seizes it.
That opportunity is an archaeology find that could well change the course of human development forever. In the Altered Carbon universe, there are beings called “Martians”, so called because their artifacts and presence can be seen on and just underneath the surface of Mars. They’re not really from the fourth rock from the sun, but that doesn’t stop people giving them that name. Their technology is far advanced compared to the best humanity can offer, and this lost treasure is a warship. Imagine what humanity would do if we got our hands on a super advanced alien spaceship. This, probably.
Actually, that’s what everyone’s thinking, but Kovacs, not caring about who has what guns in the war (or even who wins it) on Sanction IV, decides that he wants out. So he joins Jan Schneider on a quest to obtain the Martian warship for one of the corporations involved in the war, giving them a way off the planet and plenty of money. Sounds like a good idea, until there’s betrayal and insider jockeying for position within the corporation who lends them support. Predictably, with an extremely well trained mercenary on the job, lots of violence ensues.
Having read Altered Carbon, which was insanely good, fast paced, mystifying and a great introduction to a new universe, Broken Angels feels like a book set in a completely different universe. Sure, the character of Takeshi is still pretty much the cynical soldier prone to ultra-violence. Sure, the concept of disposable biological hosts for conciousnesses are still there, but something just feels like it’s changed. Perhaps because this second installment is merely an exercise in lots of violence compared to the original, which at the time felt fresh and inviting. This story feels tired and recycled, probably just like Kovacs does at this point in his life.
Now you may think that Broken Angels contains a bad story. I wouldn’t say that. It’s a decent story, though it takes some time to get started, and there’s no mystery, no crime, or intrigue going on. It’s a straight out story of violence and survival. These are hard stories to make perfect, and the book is filled with a lot of world building, character history, some of which could have been cut out to make it flow better. Still, it is much better than reading a dictionary, because the action is entertaining if nothing else.
Broken Angels feels a lot like a one man Expendables movie set in the future. It’s violent, bloody and set in the backdrop of an even more violent and bloody war. The outcome is mostly predictable, but you sense that the story could have been that much better given just how good Altered Carbon was. Sadly, while this book is still good and fun to read, it lives in the shadow of its predecessor.
A good action story with some missing the mojo that would have made it great.
Should I read this?
If you read Altered Carbon, and you thought it was awesome, then this would be a good book to read. Be warned though, it’s not as good as the original.