Review: Woken Furies by Richard K. Morgan
Woken Furies is the 3rd Takeshi Kovacs novel by Richard K. Morgan, after Altered Carbon and Broken Angles (my review). Takeshi Kovacs has a VERY small monkeysphere. As an envoy, his job was to quell (or sow) political unrest where ever the Protectorate sent him. In Altered Carbon we learned that he could love, if only the dysfunctional love of your average noir protagonist. In Broken Angles we saw the lengths that he would go to earn passage off of a war torn planet. In both we saw him elevate violence to new heights.
We’re thrust into the story knowing that Kovacs is back on his home planet and not looking to make friends. The political elite, religious elite and criminal elite all seem to want him irretrievably dead, enough so that someone has resleeved a backup copy of Kovacs to track down the version we’ve been following. Home for Kovacs is Harlan’s World, a watery planet surrounded by ancient “Martian” orbitals that shoot down anything that uses technology to fly too high too fast. There’s also a large section that’s uninhabitable because a long finished war left behind battle robots that not only keep the fight alive, but seem to be evolving.
That’s the tapestry in which Morgan examines the big issues. What is life and what is death, when a person’s entire personality can be stored in a small chip at the top of their spine. Religion embraces both extremes … rejecting “technological reincarnation” or rejecting the restrictions of flesh and uploading into their own virtual universe. What relationship develops between relative strangers that are “sleeved” into genetically identical bodies. What happens when software loaded into cybernetic enhancements contains one or more other personalities. And most importantly, what happens when two copies of a deadly warrior are roaming around at the same time.
Morgan keeps us laser focused on Kovacs. We learn more about the universe, the martians, the protectorate, the envoys and Harlan’s world, but most of it is off screen as the violence waxes and wanes around our central character. I love the fast boats (with grappling hooks), the cyborg DeCom teams attempting to clean up the war robots, the jazz, the booze, the sex, the ever mysterious martian artifacts, the onion of painful memories that is Kovacs, peeled for our entertainment. I mentioned obliquely that Kovacs has few friends. The few friends that he does make (that also survive) Kovacs will move mountains for. It’s a very simple morality that makes for a very complex character and story.
I have a feeling, that having spread my reading of these 3 novels out over such a long time, I may have missed some connections. For instance, I can’t recall the exact chronological order the stories, and it’s possible there is supposed to be some ambiguity. I’ll add that to the list of reasons why this series would be worth a reread, or a read if you haven’t read it yet.
[update 2009-2-13] This review has been republished on Adventures in SciFi Publishing.