Broken Angels – Richard Morgan (2003)
‘Sleeved in a damaged combat body, Takeshi Kovacs is serving as a mercenary in a brutal little Protectorate-sponsored war to put down the revolution on Sanction IV.
Taking the chance to join a covert team trying to secure an archaeological prize, Takeshi is dropped into a maelstrom of betrayal that makes the front-line a happy memory. For this is a prize whose value is limitless and whose dangers are endless. It’s a prize that the corporations will kill for.
A prize which will take mankind to the brink.
BROKEN ANGELS rips apart the 26th century to lay bare the violence, the follies and the naked greed that leave man so ill-prepared for the legacy he has been given: the stars.
Blurb from the 2003 Gollancz paperback edition
Morgan returns us to the life of his sardonic Noir Nouveau mercenary, Takeshi Kovacs, at a point where he is engaged as sergeant of a wedge platoon in a messy uprising on Sanction IV.
Whilst recovering in Virtual Reality awaiting re-sleeving (which involves inserting ‘the stack’ containing his digitised consciousness into a newly-cloned body) Kovacs is offered a side-assignment; to investigate the alleged discovery of a Martian farcaster portal, leading to an intact Martian ship.
We discover in this novel that the race known as The Martians (they left ruins on Mars but it was not their original home) left stellar maps by which humanity was able to discover Earth-type worlds, most with Martian ruins, but deserted.
After a bit of a ponderous start to the novel, which involves Kovacs having to bring on board Mr Hand of the Mandrake Corporation to provide investment for a mission, the novel picks up. Having had to work in the affected area of a nuclear strike and dealing with some nasty nanotechnology Kovacs and his depleted team (Kovacs friends, colleagues and lovers often die) then manage to unlock the Martian stargate and reach the abandoned ship.
There are of course traitors amongst them and Kovacs has to battle against the odds – with his current body being raddled with radiation poisoning – to claim the prize.
Morgan’s style is Raymond Chandler meets 2000 AD. The action is intense, exciting, colourful and gripping, set against a dystopian background of corruption and Corporate greed.
There are some nice ‘wee thinky bits’ such as the military nanovirus which evolves to deal with every weapon sent against it, and the Martian songspires (which we encountered briefly in ‘Altered Carbon’); strange, coral-like growths which create seemingly random music.
The Martians themselves only appear as ancient mummified bodies, but were tall bat-like creatures who communicated via a luminous throat-gland.
Although a polished sequel to ‘Altered Carbon’ it doesn’t quite match the creative flavour of its predecessor and is the latest in a long line of novels in which a vanished Elder Race has left mysterious artefacts behind for humans to try and make sense of.