Black Man - Richard Morgan
Well, my original aim of reading all of Richard Morgan's books in order was thwarted by the good people at Gollancz, who kindly sent me a copy of his latest book, Black Man, to review. This is my first ever publisher-supplied book, and I wanted to be all aloof about it so no-one thinks I've sold my integrity to the Man in exchange for some free books... but I just couldn't. This book is awesome.
The universe is the same as in Altered Carbon, but much less far in the future (only around 100 years) - the political and economic structures of Earth still largely resemble our own, and the altered carbon technology is just one of many new ideas coming out of the Mars colony. The current technology here is gene manipulation; while the illegal "black labs" in China continue to experiment with human genetics, the rest of the world is in the midst of a genetic-purity backlash. The bioengineered super-soldiers from the recent wars - Variant 13 mutants - have all been interned for the good of humanity, with the one exception of our protagonist, Carl Marsalis, who works for the UN rounding up escapees. When another Variant 13 commits a string of murders across the continent, Carl is hired by the powerful COLIN corporation to track him down, and in the process discovers a whole host of nasty secrets...
On the surface, this looks very similar to the premise of Altered Carbon - combat veteran busted out of jail to bring down a killer, yadda yadda yadda - but this is a whole lot darker and more political. It's also a lot more than just a big action movie, with Wesley Snipes blowing shit up in picturesque locations; there's plenty of food for thought on bigotry, ethics and the role of aggression in society. Morgan takes this about as far away from SF's whitebread image as he can, with his characters displaying a whole range of different ethnicities that feel like much more than tokenism. And, on top of that, it's a cracking thriller, too. It's out mid-May in the UK, and slightly later in the US (under the different title of Thirteen), and I can't recommend it highly enough. Better than Altered Carbon - you heard it here first.