Science fiction and fantasy
by Richard Morgan
In Richard Morgan's universe, war has not improved for being largely non-lethal. People have simply found more effective ways of inflicting pain on each other, and real death is still a possibility. Kovacs is mired in the war on the planet of Sanction IV, a war between the Protectorate and the followers of Kemp. It's not clear what they are fighting for exactly, but Kovacs has taken the precaution of choosing the side he believes is most likely to win. He wants to get out, but even though he is a mercenary rather than a conscript, a planet-wide blockade makes leaving difficult.
The opportunity to escape comes in the form of Jan Schneider, a man with information about an important archaeological find concerning a lost Martian civilisation. The discovery could be worth a lot of money, easily enough to buy their way out of this war. Together they assemble a team which includes Tanya Wardani, a traumatised archaeologist who they pull from an internment camp, and a number of special ops experts.
Unfortunately there are various people interested in sabotaging the dig. Going on it means that Kovacs has to go AWOL from his Wedge combat unit, so the group need to avoid combatants from both sides. It also becomes apparent that there are enemies within the group Kovacs assembles, as well as amongst the rivals of their commercial sponsor.
This dig introduces a new element into Kovacs' world, that of an advanced alien civilisation which has disappeared, leaving humans with a trail of ultra-high technology which has allowed them to colonise the stars. The mystery of where the Martians went, and why, is a major theme in Broken Angels. Did they evolve beyond mutual destruction, or did they simply get much better at it and wipe themselves out? The novel poses the question of whether increasing violence is an inevitable part of evolution.
Towards the end of the book Broken Angels does tend to descend into an orgy of violence, and in places this seems a little confusing and gratuitous. The book certainly explores a wide range of ideas, however, so that ultimately this is a science fiction thriller with plenty of colour and action rather than a mere series of battles. The complex plotting and vivid scenarios give Broken Angels enough intelligence to be an interesting read.
If you like this, try:Kil'n People by David Brin
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Review © Ros Jackson
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