3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Underwhelming Bloated Thriller,
This review is from: Thirteen (Hardcover)
Like many many others, I loved Morgan's amazing debut, Altered Carbon, and have been waiting for something similarly exhilarating from him ever since. I liked the second and third Takeshi Kovacs books (Broken Angels and Woken Furies) well enough, but Market Forces was terrible (to be fair, it was written before all his other books and only published after the success of Altered Carbon). This fifth book (published in the UK under the title "Black Man") is neither particularly good, nor particularly bad, it's a bloated thriller filled with mostly familiar futuristic concepts, underwhelming social commentary, all undermined by a woefully undeveloped protagonist.
The story revolves around Carl Marsalis, a genetically engineered soldier (aka a "variant thirteen") who works for the UN as a freelance hit man/bounty hunter, seeking out "thirteens" who have gone rogue. (Shades of Blade Runner, Terminator 2, and Universal Soldier.) Alas, when a job in Peru goes wrong, he finds himself stuck in a Miami prison with no reprieve in sight. That is, until a seriously psycho thirteen somehow hijacks a transport from Mars, eats the crew, crashes into the Pacific and starts running amok on the west coast. The escalating body count leads the UN to spring Carl and team him up with a female Turkish-American investigator to track down the killer.
The book is essentially more of a crime novel or thriller with science fiction trappings, as the hunt for the killer leads across the former U.S. (now splintered into a Northeastern Union, the south-central "Jesusland", and the western Rim States), to South America, Europe, Turkey, and Mars. It's an incredibly convoluted chase, which is often driven forward by little more than Carl's inexplicable "hunches," which have a remarkable tendency for being correct (something a true crime novel would never rely upon). The story takes far too long to unfold, but with Carl never really getting developed as a character, it's hard to stay connected with what's going on. Morgan's prose is tough and tight, but there's about 200 pages too much of it.