Thirteen (Black Man) by Richard Morgan – A book review

I am a relatively new reader of Richard Morgans work. I read his Altered Carbon series before it became a TV series which has elevated his profile considerably. I enjoyed his hard sci fi approach in that earlier series but found them hard going at times, over complicated in places just for the sake of it.

It wasn’t until recently that I decided to try another of his books after hearing him interviewed on a podcast. He was outlining his latest book Thin Ice about Mars. Thirteen or Black Man is loosely linked to this and set in the same narrative universe so I thought I would give that a go it won the Arthur C Clarke, Philip K Dick and John W Campbell Awards on its release in 2007 after all.

The basic premise is a series of gruesome unconnected murders that is investigated by corporate security, the police and a genetically enhanced soldier called Carl Marsalis. Like all Morgans characters Marsalis whilst the hero of the book is much less than your usual knight in shining armour. He is flawed and nuanced and it is hard sometimes t agree with his motives or actions. Either way this style certainly creates an engaging protagonist f a little frustrating.

The book is filled with fascinating future history with a very different view of the United States and the world that I have ever seen before. I m not sure I believe such a state of geo-political affairs could occur but that is irrelevant in such Sci-fi, either way it makes for an interesting back drop for the story.

Some of my favourite novels such as the Gregg Mandel books by Peter F. Hamilton are futuristic murder mysteries but this one was a little too heavy and slow. The plot was interesting but seemed to only clunk along. Pieces of action were separated by lots of exposition that at times confused matters.

Morgan is obviously a master of his craft and his ideas are excellent but I am getting the feeling that he and I are not on the same wavelength (no bad thing most would say), I will read Thin ice because his glimpses of Mars in the book are tantalising and then I think I will stop with his work. I have had this issue before. I read Stephen Baxter when I was younger and didn’t really understand much of it, I was showing off (like reading Tolstoy to look intelligent) so I stopped and then in the past 5 years I have reread the books and loved every minute if it. Perhaps I just need some more maturity for me to truly get Morgans writing?


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