Broken Angels by Richard K. Morgan

broken angels - richard k morgan.jpgThirty years after the events of Altered Carbon, Takeshi Kovacs has taken sides in a war on Sanction VI working as a lieutenant for the Wedge, an elite and brutal mercenary army. Yet his thin allegiance frays when pilot Jan Schneider bluffs his way onto a highly secure hospital ship and dangles an opportunity Kovacs can’t ignore. An exorbitant payday to secure a Martian ship in deep space, the gateway to which was discovered by archeologue Tanya Wardani. All they need to do is form an alliance with an untrusty corporate executive, operate in an area full of radiation, steer clear of nanotechnology with unlimited evolutionary power, and steer clear of the fighting forces that have made the location of the gateway a key strategic acquisition. With his Envoy training and a new sleeve maximized for war, Kovacs leads the expedition and tries to maintain its safety while they grapple with the ancient puzzle opening the gateway and the mysteries beyond it.

Kovacs is as sardonic as in Book 1, and despite his training often defaults to violence, so it is interesting to watch him navigate the events of the novel. He just can’t keep himself from making bad situations worse, it seems. How can he lose control so often when he is supposed to have so much self-control? More background on Martian society and what Earth colonization owes to it is included in this book, and the setting, Sanction IV, a war-ravaged planet, provides a different perspective on the corporations and the Protectorate, the ruling government.

Though I thought this would be a heist novel, it isn’t, though it does have a captivating story that kept me engaged. Some aspects of the novel were less appealing. Characters like Jan Schneider were thinly developed. Kovacs seemed at times to pine for Detective Kristin Ortega which seems unwarranted given how Altered Carbon ended their relationship. The resolution of one story line came completely out of the blue for me, and it didn’t seem to be an organic development. Finally, Morgan used a device to indicate pauses in character’s speech that was very annoying and overdone, for example, “You seem. Close to her” or “Well, he’s not a. Bad looking. Guy for a. White boy and. Wardani, well. She’d probably. Take whatever. She can get.”

It’s hard not to compare the book to Altered Carbon, though the two are so different, comparisons are almost unfair. In fact, besides the introduction to Kovacs, the Envoys, Quellism, sleeves, and needlecasting, Book 1 has little to do with Book 2. Kovacs is the only returning character. If readers approach Broken Angels expecting a second Altered Carbon, I think they will be disappointed. However, it is a solid read with an unpredictable plot and a charismatic narrator.

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