Saturday, September 23, 2006

Woken Furies - by Richard Morgan

Woken Furies is Richard Morgan's third novel featuring anti-hero Takeshi Kovacs. In essence it's a sequel to Altered Carbon and Broken Angels but it also casts some light on Kovacs' earlier life, before he became an Envoy.

To give you a bit of the background, Takeshi Kovacs is an ex-Envoy, a retired super-commando and now pretty much a mercenary/hard-ass for hire. He's a ruthless, no-nonsense killing machine with very few morals and not much in the way of a concience but there's a spark of goodness in him, just a spark. Of course, we're in the far distant future. Mankind has spread out to the stars and discovered that many worlds, including Mars, had been occupied by a long extinct race of flying aliens who've left a legacy of mysterious technology and some amazing architecture. Everyone gets fitted with a cortical stack at birth and this is able to store or backup their personality, which can then be transferred to synthetic or clone bodies or transmitted over vast distances to other worlds. To all intents and purposes, immortality is possible . . . if you have enough money. Here's a brief rundown of the plot…

Takeshi Kovacs is back home on Harlan's World, an ocean rich planet where boating, surfing and diving are a part of everyday life. It's just as well as not much takes to the air on Harlan's World and survives very long. The planet is surrounded by a network of orbital platforms, leftover by the Martians, that are programmed to destroy anything of a sufficiently advanced technology flying above a certain altitude. It makes it difficult to get around by anything other than sea travel and it makes physical, off-world travel impossible.

Kovacs is on the run from a group of religious fanatics and also from the planet's high ranking Yakuza criminal elements. He killed a lot of them while saving a woman in a bar and now there's a hefty contract on his head. The woman, Sylvie Oshima, offers him refuge among her troop of mercenaries as they operate out in the unoccupied zone, decommisioning sentient military hardware and no-one goes out there unless they have to.

But Kovacs isn't in for an easy time. The Yakuza have hired the one person he'd never have guessed they'd use to go after him - a younger, fitter version of himself. But they're not really after him at all, the ruling families of Harlan's World have a much older score to settle and he'd just be the icing on the cake.

Another good Takeshi Kovacs story that doesn't let up in the action stakes and with more than one twist in the tail to keep you wondering where it'll go next. If you like fast-paced action stories with a good mix of graphic violence and descriptive sex, then you won't be unhappy with this one. The science-fiction elements are very well thought out - the Envoy conditioning, the cortical stack/sleeve culture and the "Martian" artefacts make it so much better than the average spy/combat novel.

While it follows on chronologically from Broken Angels, Woken Furies could be read on it's own and, while there are quite a few references to Kovacs' earlier adventures, the story doesn't rely on them. I'd definitely recommend reading both earler novels though as they're both pretty good reads. Avoid his other novel, Market Forces, like the plague though.

Genre: Science-Fiction, War
ISBN: 0-575-07652-6
My Rating: 8/10

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