Waxing Lyrical

I go through phases of reading material, depending on the month, where I alternate between graphic novels and wordy novels. For instance, during August and September last year, on the heels of the release of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, all I wanted to do was read science fiction novels. This past January, with the release of Fear Itself and the second Invincible Iron Man omnibus, I spent most of my time indulging in superhero books.

A usual pattern that I find emerges is that when there’s a month chock-full of comic releases (like the upcoming May, which is going to be a major hit to the wallet by the end of it) that’s all I really want to read, even if I don’t read the books I actually buy that month. When there’s no good releases in a month, the opposite is true. So February has been a month of wordy novels for me, since next-to-nothing good came out comics-wise.

As part of my current wordy novel venture I’ve been indulging in Richard Morgan, the prominent author of some of my favourite books like Altered Carbon and The Steel Remains. The recent news that the former novel would be turned into a film made me want to go and do something I’ve been waiting at least four years to do – finish the last book in his Kovacs trilogy, Woken Furies.

I picked this up in 2008 (coincidentally, shortly before my then-girlfriend broke up with me. Connection?) and got roughly 3/4 of the way through it. Then I stopped. The actual reasons have since been lost to time and my own leaky-sieve memory, but I think one of the post-stoppage reasons I came up with related to a quote Morgan himself wrote about the book – Probably the last Kovacs Novel, so like any good single malt or a Scottish west coast sunset, savour it as it goes down.”

I guess I’ve been saving Woken Furies for a special occasion, since Kovacs is the star of my favourite book of all time and one of the most complex, multi-layered characters I’ve ever read about. I decided that the time had now come to complete it, and it’s even better than I remember. I stayed up well past my bedtime last night reading large chunks of it, and the way Morgan deftly narrates the internal struggle as well as the physical setting and action is peerless, and I don’t just say that because he wrote my favourite book.

If you’ve never read a Richard Morgan book, then I heartily recommend it. Enough has been said about Altered Carbon, so I’ll take a quick look at the other books of his I’ve read.

Broken Angels: Kovacs book 2, much more a military fiction text rather than detective noir, dealing with Kovacs and a team of near-psychotic mercenaries digging up an old Martian starship. It feels a bit like a sadistic burlesque of Firefly, with all the likeability of the characters twisted into a sort of black comedy as everyone tries not to kill each other and deal with the gravity of their find. If they ever adapt it into a film, the end boss fight had better be as spectacular visually as it was mentally.

Black Man: A genetically-engineered killing machine is set loose against another genetically-engineered killing machine in a near-future Earth where America has become dominated by the church. It’s a bit of a heavier read than I’m describing, and not nearly as two-dimensional, but the shift from Morgan’s first to third-person works quite well and gives multiple characters the chance to be fleshed out quite well. Also, reading it a second time, the prologue is fucking creepy.

The Steel Remains: Morgan’s first foray into the fantasy genre, with all the cross-sexuality intercourse and copious swearing he put into his earlier works. It’s a little slow on the start, but once it gets going you can see parallels between Ringil, the main character, and Kovacs. It also acts as a very good entree to exploring the world at large that Morgan has crafted, and you get the feeling that the much-larger sequel, The Cold Commands, will give you a very satisfying first dish of the main course to describe the setting in greater detail.

I haven’t read the other two books I haven’t mentioned – being Market Forces and The Cold Commands – but rest assured, they will be next on my list.

I’m not really sure what the topic to this entry was, besides mindless self-indulgence, but I guess an underlying point is that you should all go and read Richard Morgan right now. If you pick up Altered Carbon today, you can read it before the movie and tell everyone that you were into it before it was cool.


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