By Richard K. Morgan
First Published: 2003
US Cover Illustration: Steve Rawlings and David Stevenson
Review © 2010 by Stephen Roof
Genre: Science Fiction, Military Action, Adventure
Broken Angels is Richard K. Morgan’s second science fiction novel and this is an excellent sophomore effort. It features the same hard boiled anti-hero, Takeshi Kovacs, found in Morgan’s ground breaking first novel, Altered Carbon. However, other than the main character, this novel is quite different. Instead of a murder mystery on Earth, this is an adventure novel on a distant planet where a small team is attempting to locate and claim a potentially invaluable alien relic in the middle of a world war. I think Morgan made a great decision to bring his charismatic protagonist from his first novel into a new venue with a much different mission. This is a very satisfying follow-on novel which succeeds in telling a fresh new story while retaining many of the best characteristics of the first novel.
Broken Angels begins about 30 years after Altered Carbon. Takeshi Kovacs is on a hospital spaceship recovering from serious battle injuries. He has been part of a mercenary force fighting to put down a large rebellion on a planet named Sanction IV. With the war showing no end in site, Kovacs is not exactly eager to re-enter the fray when he meets a pilot who wants help staking a claim to an extremely valuable treasure. The pilot claims to know the location where a small group of archeologists have discovered an interstellar gate made by the ancient Martian civilization. Not only does the gate work, but it leads to a Martian spaceship. If they could place a claim buoy on the first intact Martian spaceship ever discovered, they would be rich and could afford to be transported away from this war to somewhere a bit more relaxing. The only problems are that the gate is in a dangerous war zone, they need to rescue an archeologist from an internment camp to operate the gate, and they’ll need assistance to mount a claim expedition from a greedy corporation who will more than likely try to cut them out of the deal.
In Broken Angels, Kovacs is once again involved with plenty of hard hitting and very graphic violence. If you find extreme violence, graphic sex, or crude language offensive, you should give this novel a wide berth.
Broken Angels has lots of futuristic military action described with gritty realism. This is not a book where only the enemy soldiers die. In this novel, almost every character sustains damage with quite a few being sent to a permanent death in a future where death is not usually permanent. Kovacs is a highly trained veteran of the Special Forces and he gets plenty of chances to demonstrate his skills. Morgan does a terrific job of describing the action scenes and has just enough character development to make the reader care about other members of the expedition.
In my opinion, the first ¾ of this novel was perfect for a science fiction action/thriller novel. The last ¼ wasn’t quite able to maintain this high standard. In particular, there was a late twist based on the actions of one of the major characters that didn’t fit with the character’s personality. There were also a couple of other twists that came out of nowhere. In addition, one of the late action scenes seemed to go on and on with such extreme violence that the effect was numbing. But don’t worry; the ending was satisfying on most levels.
I highly recommend Broken Angels for science fiction fans that enjoy lots of action. If you enjoyed Altered Carbon, this is a must read book. If you haven’t read Altered Carbon, read it first and rest assured that Broken Angels will provide a satisfying sequel.