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Richard Morgan
Woken Furies
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2005

Victor Gollancz / Orion Books
UK Hardcover First Edition
ISBN 0-575-07325-X
Publication Date: 03-17-2005
436 Pages; £9.99
Date Reviewed: 10-27-05

Del Rey / Random House
US Hardcover First Edition
ISBN 0-345-47971-8
Publication Date: 09-27-2005
450 Pages; $24.95
Date Reviewed: 10-27-05

Index:  Science Fiction  Mystery

Anger is exhausting. It's a difficult emotion to sustain, and a worse means of sustenance. But it fuels fights, wars, holy wars, revolutions, rebellions and revenge, and in many ways, it makes the worlds go round. At least it makes Harlan's World go round in Richard Morgan's latest Takeshi Kovacs novel, 'Woken Furies'. And it certainly keeps Takeshi Kovacs, having returned to his home on Harlan's World, up and running. Literally running, as the novel begins, and Kovacs is a man on a mission. Of course which mission depends on which Kovacs you're talking about.

The Kovacs that readers know from Morgan's two previous novels is driven but weary. He's on a mission of vengeance against the priests of a fundamentalist sect that sees the mutilation and murder of women as divinely inspired. This inspires Kovacs to kill the priests and collect their cortical stacks, with plans that are every bit as horrific as the priests deserve. In order to support this nasty habit, Kovacs takes up with a group of mercenaries who are hunting down rogue, automated weapons left over from a failed revolution. When he begins to suspect that one of his comrades carries within her the personality of Quellcrist Falconer, the woman who inspired the revolution, he dares to hope that it can finally, at long last, succeed.

But as Kovacs soon learns, he's been Napstered. The corporate elites who crushed the nascent rebellion have found -- or stolen, or illegally kept -- an old copy of the young Kovacs, and they've re-sleeved him and given him the mission of terminating the older, more experienced -- and virulently anti-corporate -- Kovacs. Talk about self-conflict!

'Woken Furies' is a complex novel, a story of anger and violence recollected in tranquility. Morgan's style is mature but gripping, thoughtful but entertaining. The Takeshi Kovacs we find on Harlan's World still burns with fury but he seems to be headed towards some goal, some resolution. He's aged, but not particularly gracefully. At least until he gets re-sleeved into an experimental human body with some unique abilities. As Kovacs learns about his new capabilities, his ability to hope, cautiously, carefully makes an appearance. Morgan has given his characters several new shades of experience, of age, and if not exactly wisdom, at least there's an acknowledgement that wisdom is possible. While Morgan credits writer Kem Nunn's novel 'Tapping the Source' for information on surfing, he's also picked up that novel's strangely nostalgic but violent vibe as well. Kovacs this time around is as ever a great narrator, but he's acquired dimensions and depths that make him even more enjoyably human. Morgan's other characters are equally resonant, from Kovacs' mentor Virginia Vidaura to the members of his robot-hunting hit squad, to the petty gangsters and suave criminals who run Harlan's World. Readers can sense the entire history of each of them, the rich levels of experience that have brought them to their meetings with Kovacs.

Much of this is due to Kovacs' voice and Morgan's prose. This is a novel of glittering details. Morgan knows how to paint a complex picture of an entire seaside slum, a technological wasteland, a mountainside fortress or a swampland farm in a few brief strokes. Every scene is beautifully rendered and tinged with a wash of often-conflicting emotions. More than Morgan's other works, this novel offers delicately rendered scenes of brutality and beauty. 'Woken Furies' will keep you furiously turning the pages and make you regret the fact that every page you turn brings you closer to the end.

Even though 'Woken Furies' is set entirely on Harlan's World, it really has the feel of a full-blown space opera. The details that Morgan supplies with his finely-turned prose reveal that world not only in close-up, but from the distance of a man who has in fact been to many worlds, worlds connected by commerce, war, and greedy opportunism. But Morgan also focuses on the sort of crime fiction details and conflicts that made 'Altered Carbon' such an enjoyable fist to the face. He has a way of cranking up the scores and agendas of the characters that seems effortlessly realistic, even though we're on another world. You believe that the various factions in conflict here would respond as they do because the situations and the consequences play out in a fashion that seems reasonable. Morgan makes the readers feel as if they could understand how these characters might react were they to be living in the here-and-now, so their actions in the there-and-then seem natural.

With 'Woken Furies' Richard Morgan reaches farther into himself and farther into his characters than readers might have thought possible. Combining the best aspects of his previous novels and adding a layer of emotion, an almost wistful sense of place and time, 'Woken Furies' is powerful and affecting. It will create visions that readers will be able to go back and visit as if the scenes Morgan described were memories, not stories. In fact, perhaps that's Morgan's greatest accomplishment here. With his whole back-story of cortical stacks and stored personalities, in 'Woken Furies', Morgan has managed the prose equivalent of restoring experience for the reader. This is not just a book you'll remember; it's a book you'll relive.

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