Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Book: Richard K. Morgan's Woken Furies

I would characterize my latest read as a Noir Sci-Fi Singularity Dystopia. The book is Richard Morgan's "Woken Furies". This is the third book that follows the character of Takeshi Kovacs. Kovacs was introduced in the book "Altered Carbon" and his story was fleshed out some more in "Broken Angels". In Woken Furies, Kovacs' story returns to his home, Harlan's World. We enter the story part way through and, as you read the book, more and more details are revealed about what he was doing when the reader came into the story. You learn that Kovacs is a sociopath sometimes bordering on the psychotic.

"Altered Carbon" introduced the reader to a distant future where everyone has a memory implant called a Stack which records the essence of the person. When a person dies, their information is downloaded into the stack of a new body, known as a Sleeve, and they can carry on with their life. In a way, humanity is now immortal moving themselves from one body to another. In many cases the bodies are custom made, enhanced with extra strength, speed, stamina, and other desirable traits. People can download themselves into virtual worlds where time can move at any speed and the virtual world can be customized to whatever the user wants. For example, you could download yourself to a beautiful beach, spend a year lounging on the beach, and then return to your real body with only a few minutes having passed in real life. The same virtual worlds are also used for interrogation and torture.


The book winds threads of religion, politics, revolution, archeology, technology, morality, sociopathy, honor, revenge, and loyalty when Kovacs pisses off some important people and, in doing so, ends up going against himself when a younger copy of his essence is re-sleeved and sent after him. The twist in the end promises to change all future Takeshi Kovacs novels.

In the background of all three novels are the Martians. This is what Morgan refers to the ancient race that once lived in our neighborhood. Only ruins and a few intelligent machines, that have eluded our technological grasp, still exist. The Martians play a very important role in this book and it looks like they will play an even larger roll in the next book.


These concepts of downloading and saving the brain and living in artificial bodies or virtual worlds is very similar to
Ray Kurzweil's ideas. The difference is that Kurzweil's world is an optimistic utopia. Morgan's fictional world is dark. Kovacs is an ex-military, known as an Envoy, whose main job was to control rebellions and civil unrest. After a particularly haunting mission, he left the Envoys and became a mercenary who doesn't hesitate in killing. In fact, many times he is more criminal then mercenary. While he is the "good guy" in the book, his means of doing good are a little drastic almost always involving some weapon or other. The world he inhabits is driven by money and power and you can see that he is a product of that world. You can be re-sleeved if you have enough money. You can be enhanced if you have the right connections. Harlan's World is dominated by the First Families, the Yakuza, and other mafia-like organizations. This world, as pessimistic as it is, is probably closer to what the future will be like. People and groups battling for wealth, influence, power, and immortality.

I liked "Altered Carbon" better then "Woken Furies". The climax, in my opinion, was not well defined and it feels like the whole purpose of the book is to set up for the next book. Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed the book and there is a lot of valuable back story there. I just wish there was a little more beginning - middle - end in the book. The book felt like a bunch of beginning and middle and very little end. If this were the second book of a trilogy, I would understand but each of these books are supposed to stand on their own. I don't think they do, this last one especially. I guess I will have to wait for the next Kovacs novel to get my end.

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