on July 2, 2007
I'm having a hard time coalescing my thoughts on this one. On the one hand, my first thought midway through the book was that someone ought to get on the job of making "13" tee shirts. On completing the book, I wanted to go get that tee shirt, wear it to the mall and stare down anyone who questioned me - just because. In fact, just as Fight Club spawned imitation clubs around the nation, I thought that there are still Thirteen personality types running about, and they might start to form informal networks to combat the influence of the Cudlips (as incongruous as that might sound). I conclude in some respects, the book is extremely compelling.
In other respects, although a huge fan of Mr. Morgan's earlier work (Altered Carbon is one for the ages) I think Market Forces was kind of a miss, and Thirteen, although a compelling read, didn't quite take it over the edge either. There were several stylistic problems - names too close to each other, different characters referenced by the same name - which didn't appear in his earlier works, and a lot of the promised and implied consideration of race, gender, identity and even species didn't seem fully developed. A lot of the characters have seemingly identical experiences (illegal pregnancy - with a child of a Thirteen; waking up early on the Mars flight) but whether this was deliberate or intended to draw comparisons or contrasts seemed unresolved. Marsalis could have been Kovacs' spiritual great-great grandfather when it comes to choices of weapons and problem-solving techniques, but given those tendencies, the plot developments seemed predictable. There is still an interesting murder-mystery underlying everything, but since the protagonist's approach to investigation is reminiscent of a pinball smacking into various bumpers and being flung about, there is little subtlety.
On balance, Thirteen is worth reading and it will leave you with a bit to think about at the end. I'd recommend it for anyone who hasn't read Altered Carbon already as a sort of primer, but it's a slight step down, hence one star less.
First I have to give credit to writer Richard K. Morgan for his latest novel THIRTEEN; Morgan's latest novel is an ambitious affair tackling a lot of major themes with some of his most complex characters to date. Morgan's latest is very good a lot of the time but some of the subplots don't gel and actually slow down the main narrative without adding much substance to it. Even if THIRTEEN isn't a perfect novel, it demonstrates that Morgan's skills as a writer are continuing to grow.
A summary of the plot follows: (Major Spoilers follow)
When a shuttle between Mars and Earth crash lands in the Pacific Ocean with body partsfrom the passengers strewn throughout the ship, COLONY Executives Sevgi Eretkin and senior partner Tom Norton are called in to investigate and find out which passenger woke up prematurely, used the autosurgeon to cut up and eat all the sleeping passengers. They discover that a Thirteen a genetically enhanced soldier that had been banished to Mars (or to a resettlement area)after they were no longer useful and deemed a threat was behind the murders eating the crew because his sleeping chamber opened prematurely. Now he is on a killing spree and they aren't sure why.
They partner up with Carl Marsalis another Thirteen who makes a living hunting other Thirteens and either bringing them in for resettlement or killing them. Seen as a traitor to his own kind and never accepted by humanity, Marsalis is a bruised outcast who tries to do the right thing while surviving in a world where he's not welcome. When it comes to light that the escaped Thirteen Alan Merrin had help in escaping and that he's part of a far larger plan, Marsalis and Ertekin feel compelled to track him down and find out the larger truth behind his escape.
End of summary:(end of major spoilers)
At over 500 pages Morgan attempts to create a character as compelling as his protagonist Takeshi Kovacs the anti-hero of three of Morgan's five novels. While Carl Marsalis is, indeed, an interesting character equally as flawed as Kovacs, the story that Morgan has here careens out of control at time. The convoluted story takes a little too long to get going and once it does the shifting from one subplot to another isn't as smooth as some of his other novels. Morgan's world here is just as brutal and uncompromising as the world(s)that Kovacs inhabits with its noirish touches. The mystery at the heart of the novel just isn't quite as compelling and the plot strands don't hold together quite as well as his previous books.
THIRTEEN is still an enjoyable novel and worthwhile for those patient enough to follow Morgan's ambitious novel to its conclusion. The main drawback to the novel is that Morgan's many supporting characters aren't quite as compelling as his anti-hero Marsalis and we spent too much time with them. THI1RTE3N is a flawed but very good book that Morgan fans will enjoy. I'd suggest ALTERED CARBON or BROKEN ANGELS as a first read before this. I continue to look forward to Morgan's other efforts. Once he's able to create a cohesive novel with the power of his Kovacs novels (particularly BROKEN ANGELS the best of the series)and with as many plot strands as this novel, we'll be in for a rare, rich treat.
Very exciting premise here - in the not so distant future America has split along conservative and liberal lines into 2 separate countries and genetic experimentation has created a race of "super men" called 13's (genetic variation #13) who have either been locked up or exiled to the Mars colony. These guys are genetic throwbacks to the caveman and serious alpha males that used to run the tribes and groups of stone aged hunters. They were created to fight in wars but afterwards, were killed, locked up, or exiled.
Our protagonist (Carl) is a 13 who is licensed to track down rogue 13's and either capture or kill if need be. He is brought in to hunt down a particularly nasty 13 who escaped from mars, feasting off the frozen bodies off his shipmates on the months long haul from Mars to Earth. Yeah, wow, gritty. Morgan's strength is envisioning a world that is very very derived of our own - showing how technology can and will be abused.
But, then about half way thru the book, it stops cold. And as Carl and crew track down the vile 13, we suffer thru chapter after chapter of political and social rhetoric. I really don't like when authors stop the plot cold and start lecturing to me the details of a made of the social & political structure of a world set in the future. I could literally have skipped the middle 1/3 of the book to no effect. Some editor here was really asleep on the job.
I have read all of Morgan's books and this one just got too far off base. My advice, less preaching and more action and story. If I want to contemplate the social structure of emerging religious & political factions I'll click over to "that" section of Amazon and find something, thanks.
I'll give it a solid 3 as it starts strong & end strong.
on February 2, 2015
This is a great Science Fiction novel. It is gritty, and dramatic, painful, but engaging.
I can honestly say I bought this after reading Altered Carbon without any other expectations.
I love both books! No two readers are the same but for me.....this was a perfect blend of pain, drama, and action.
The cultural and moral comments were both appealing and non-intrusive.
This is a heartrending science fiction drama!
IMHO, Richard K. Morgan is the great talent in scifi in the last 20 years, and his stories will stand the test of time.
on May 19, 2008
I like Richard Morgan's hard bitten, technology heavy style, though I don't think this book (which was released as 'Black Man' in the UK. Sad that a hard core SF author goes PC for his US readers) has the same cohesion in its social commentary as his earlier 'Market Forces'.
The plot is straighforward enough. An apparent bad guy, Carl Marsalis, reluctantly hunts an altogeher much badder guy. During the process our somewhat hero haltingly reveals that he's not such a bad guy after all, just sadly misunderstood. The theme is familiar (does a guy called Rick Deckard from Philip K. Dick's 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?' sound familiar) because it's a theme Morgan explores well in his Takeshi Kovacs novels.
There's loads of plot detail of course; with over 500 pages to fill there is going to need to be. Some of that detail is filler - perhaps stage setting for a future Marsalis novel? - but overall it does not come across as a bloated book.
Bottom line is that if you like your sci-fi loaded with state of the art weapons, fights aplenty, technological extrapolations , drugs, sex and lots of characters dying, Morgan is not going to let you down. If you are looking for something more mellow with depth in the social engineering, go read a recent Iain M Banks novel such as 'Matter'.
on October 14, 2015
Freakin' A! Thirteen is another awesome book by Richard K. Morgan!
Mr. Morgan is one of my top three favorite current authors and I can't rightfully say why I just now finally got around to reading Thirteen but it's more than worth the wait.
Genetically modified humans is nothing new to SCI-FI but I haven't ran across any where the building material came from the savage hunter/killers that had long since been bred out of the human race. Carl Maralis is the product of such genetic engineering called Variant Thirteen.
So what do you do when wolves break their chains and start slaughtering the sheep? You get a wolf to track down his renegade brothers.
If you prefer your SCI-FI in the vein of Blade Runner then you'll dig Thirteen. It's dark, gritty, and brutal, with insights of society and mankind that ring all too true.
Now I'm left trying to decide if I want to fork out the cash and jump into Market Forces, -the last of Morgan's novels I have yet to read- or take a break long enough to catch my breath first.
on April 9, 2013
I've read all that Richard K. Morgan has written in novel form and find Thirteen a great addition following the Kovacs trilogy Altered States (Prequel) and Market Forces. I also enjoyed his jump into "fantasy" with some of the grittiest fantasy I have ever read.
Something about Carl Marsalis, the protagonist of Thirteen, is so compelling that I wish there were a trilogy devoted to him and his species.
Yes, it's a bizarre jump from Kovacs and especially Market Forces, but a refreshing one indeed.
I see that I am in the minority here among the reviewers. So be it. No accounting for tastes and expectations, right? Maybe you are, too. It's worth the ride.
In "Thirteen" acclaimed young British science fiction writer Richard K. Morgan has written one of the finest novels published not only this year, but among the best in recent memory in the realm of science fiction literature. Best known for his cyberpunk space operas devoted to his antihero Takeshi Kovacs in the novels "Altered Carbon", "Broken Angels" and "Woken Furies", Morgan returns once more to explore the nature of individuality and what it truly means to be human in his latest novel, adding to its spellbinding, compelling mix, a heavy dose of the gritty realism seen in his recent novel "Market Forces". Stylistically, Morgan's novel is his closest to those of William Gibson's early "Cyberspace" trilogy, and that is indeed high praise from me, since I have noted before Morgan's frequent expropriation of classic cyberpunk themes in his fiction, but also wondering whether he has used them effectively. In "Thirteen" he has most certainly breathed new life into "post-cyberpunk" literature, in a compelling tale that's as memorable as "Neuromancer" and "Count Zero" - Gibson's first two novels, which are still regarded as among the founding father of cyberpunk's very best. Furthermore he has crafted an antihero whom I regard as far more memorable than Takeshi Kovacs, Carl Marsalis, a soldier of fortune and bounty hunter who belongs to a unique, genetically-modified strain of humanity known as Thirteens. And, best of all, Morgan has written some of best realized, most vivid, descriptive prose, which demonstrates that he is truly a literary talent to be compared favorably alongside fellow British science fiction writer China Mieville, perhaps the finest science fiction writer currently working in Great Britain.
Morgan's "Thirteen" can be viewed as a classic crime noir novel in a futuristic setting, a fast-paced piece of detective fiction in which Marsalis and his partner, Sevgi Ertekin, a young Turkish-American ex-NYPD detective, are hot on the trail of another Thirteen - a genetic variant of humanity designed to become the ultimate warrior - who has escaped from the Pacific Ocean crash landing of an Earth-bound shuttle from Mars, causing wanton death and destruction in his wake. Soon, however, both Marsalis and Ertekin stumble upon a tangled, almost Byzantine, web of political and criminal intrigue that spans the Americas and distant Mars too. Morgan expertly handles the suspense, and then, unexpectedly, introduces new elements of the tale nearly midway through the novel, as though they are billiard balls spinning out of control on a pool table. Marsalis proves he's an excellent detective, as well as bounty hunter, in his own right, tracing fragile leads across North America and the Andes of South America, that will lead inexorably to one final bloody showdown between a Peruvian crime lord and his half-brother, another Thirteen. Along the way Marsalis will question not only his own relationship with Sevgi, but also his sanity, as his obsessive pursuit of the murderous Thirteen from Mars will take him to Turkey, as well as a few memorably violent visits to Peru (Readers familiar with Morgan's literary riffs emphasizing violence and gore may find the body count quite diminished, until the final hundred pages.). I found "Thirteen" impossible to put down, and a compelling piece of science fiction literature that should earn for Morgan not only ample critical and popular acclaim, but also, many of the finest prizes awarded to science fiction literature.
on March 10, 2015
This is a highly credible, extremely well thought out dystopian vision of the future with vast technological progress used by a politically fractures world, more especially a USA that is no more, but is split into Rim States, corporate conglomerates and Jesusland. This is also a love story in a very unusual way, and it raises the issues of what we have bred in and bred out of "civilized" culture. The book is brilliant. I had not read anything by Richard K. Morgan before. I now know I have been deprived. I will be reading more.
on December 7, 2014
Science fiction books about bio-engineered super humans are nothing new, but seldom do we see this factor coupled with the psychology and thought processes of such supermen in such an eloquent way. Morgan really does this well in Thirteen. The bio-engineered soldiers, hunted and exiled to colonies and work camps by fearful "normals", grieve, suffer, love, hate and otherwise have the fully range of emotional senses we all have. Yet, because of the remarkable success humanity had in creating these super-soldiers, they must be exiled or imprisoned. This is the story of a Variant 13 and how he lives. Like he does with his Kovacs character in Altered Carbon and its sequels, Morgan demonstrates again his superior ability to not only tell an interesting tale, but also his mastery of revealing the human side of his characters and creating empathy with his readers.
One of his best. Don't miss it.