Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Market Forces

by Richard Morgan


Market Forces takes place in a decaying Britain in the middle of the 21st century. In some ways the country is still recognisable, but for the most part it has gone to the dogs. For rich executives there is transport, healthcare, the trappings of wealth, and a measure of safety. For everyone else, there's the grim and inexorable poverty of the zones.

Chris Faulkner works in Conflict Investment, making a profit from other people's small wars. This makes him one of the privileged élite. But his job is only secure so long as someone doesn't run him off the road on the way to work. And that's a real risk when the accepted method of promotion is to run over your professional rivals. Challengers compete for various investment portfolios on almost empty roads. "Turn up with blood on your wheels, or not at all" is the ethos.

The roads are practically empty because executives are the only people able to afford petrol or driving licenses. And in a world where the lines between rich and poor are sharply demarcated, Shorn is one of the wealthiest and most bloodthirsty companies.

Conflict Investment is nothing new. People have been picking sides in wars and investing in the probable winners throughout history. What is new in this novel is the raw savagery with which it's done, and the way people have abandoned all pretence at fairness and justice. Might is right, corruption is rife at every level, and there's one law for the wealthy, another for the rest.

Chris travels to work in a souped-up armoured Saab, kept in fighting condition by his wife and mechanic, Carla. But the cut-throat environment at Shorn is taking its toll on their relationship. The question is, will Chris find a way out of his job, before his way of life destroys his marriage or himself?

Market Forces is a story of set-ups, cover-ups, sex, death and double-dealing in the corporate jungle. The violence of the executive world often resembles anarchy, and the only way to survive is to be the strongest. Unfortunately this means that the main character is a real hard case, an over-macho product of his environment. Chris is brutal, thuggish and unprincipled, and the more we learn about him the less sympathetic he becomes. Richard Morgan makes his points about the ruthlessness of the business arena with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, and his anti-hero is likewise extreme. It's hard to warm to such a character, and as a result this novel isn't all that enjoyable to read.

The body-count stacks up, as Market Forces whips up into a frenzy of guns, fast cars and mayhem. This is writing at its most masculine.

Book Details

Year: 2004

Categories: Books

  Science fiction
  Male Protagonist  
  Not For The Squeamish  

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3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson

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