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Reading: Broken Angels

Broken Angels
Broken Angels by Richard K. Morgan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Broken Angels is the second of the three Takeshi Kovacs novels, following Altered Carbon. Where that first book was a murder mystery (albeit it one where the victim was alive and hired the investigator and is suspected by the police to have killed himself), Broken Angels places Kovacs on a planet engaged in a major revolutionary war and sends him on a treasure hunt. It hammers home that this isn’t a series that follows one type of story or style, it’s a series that provides scenarios for Kovacs to rage against.

This time that rage is directed at almost the entire planet of Sanction IV. On one side is the revolutionary force of Joshua Kemp, who misappropriates the words of Quellcrist Falconer (whose wisdom Kovacs understands, even if he disagrees with a lot of it) as he leads his uprising. On the other is the ruthless private military group of Carrera’s Wedge, who have all the best toys and aren’t afraid to use them. Various black market groups and giant corporations are taking advantage of the war to make money or research technology that would be forbidden outside of wartime.

Naturally, Kovacs manages to make an enemy of pretty much everybody. He’s sick of the war and is desperate to get off the planet, teaming up with an archaeologist to retrieve what could be one of the most significant finds in human history, making a deal with one of the corporations and hiring a team of mercenaries from a black market seller. The archaeologist’s find is near the site of a recent nuclear bombing, so the whole team is steadily being killed by radiation, are completely cut off from all help and have multiple factions and things looking to kill them.

The war gives Morgan the chance to expand the downloadable consciousness concept established in the first book. Soldiers are resurrected in new bodies and sent straight back into the fighting, at least until they go mad from the constant re-sleeving. Black market sellers harvest stacks from the battlefield and sell them in huge batches. Kovacs and his team enter the radiation zone knowing that it will kill them eventually, confident they will have fresh bodies once it’s all over and done with. The book also looks more into the mysterious Martians, the ancient and long-extinct race whose technology is being used by the humans to get them out into space.

It’s a very good book even if I prefer Altered Carbon, which has a setting that appeals to me more than this book’s planetary war zone and less of a focus on soldiers. Sanction IV and the Martian find are still interesting settings, and the war gives Morgan ample opportunity to explore new ideas with the technology presented in the first story instead of treading the same ground. There are plenty of great new characters too, each managing to be fairly unique despite only having a limited space to flesh them out. Kovacs is still an excellent character, broken and angry, and the story gives him ample room to react in the way that only he can. How he handles events in the the finale was particularly shocking, and helps cement him as one of my favourite characters.

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