Review: The Steel Remains

Posted: August 18, 2009 by in Books that are Mediocre (3/5 single_star) Meta: Richard K. Morgan, Dark Fantasy

THE STEEL REMAINS (Amazon) is Richard K. Morgan’s first foray into the fantasy genre, after a strong history in Science Fiction, as well as being a winner of an Arthur C. Clarke Award, Philip K. Dick Award, and a John W. Campbell Award. Obviously, we were interested to see how he would do in his new genre experiment. There was very little that disappointed, though we did give thoughtful pause as to just how good it actually was.

Morgan doesn’t seem to be one for half measures. We are under the impression that he is either 150% or 0% in his writing. In this first entry into a planned trilogy he establishes that he does indeed have what it takes to be an epic fantasy writer. However we wonder whether we can place him on the level of Abercrombie, Martin, and Bakker, and are interested for the series to be finished so we can decide.

Everything in this story is set to maximum. The gritty, dark feel, the explicit and graphic violence and sex, the rough language, the engaging plot, the interesting and threatening characters all propel this story straight at your face like a baseball from a major league pitcher. The story is about as comfortable as sandpaper but for some reason we couldn’t stop reading it. Morgan handles the pacing and narrative with all the grace of a bunch of guys pounding on you in a bar room brawl. We sure enjoyed the punishment though.

Everything in THE STEEL REMAINS is set to maximum: the gritty feel, the engaging plot, the interesting characters, all propel this story straight at your face.

The characters are beyond engaging, and while we wished there was just slightly more plot in this first entry, we enjoyed what was there immensely. There are prophecies, dark sorceries, flawed heroes, and all the accouterments that one would expect to come along with those. However, that’s not to say this tale is one of cliches and tropes, as they are broken and turned on their heads at every turn.

As far as reading goes, we are not squeamish by any definition of the word, however a lot of the obscenity heavy pages, extremely graphic sex, and violence leaves us wondering if much of it was included just for simple shock value. We couldn’t find much redeeming reasoning for a lot of it, especially when it took up valuable space in the book for actual plot. That said, we are anticipating the sequels to see where the plot goes.

  • Recommended Age: Definitely no younger than an adult. 18+.
  • Language: More than we expected that's for sure. If harsh language offends steer wide.
  • Violence: Again, more than even we expected, and extremely visceral
  • Sex: Explicit and graphic to say the least, and more than one scene

If you think you can handle all the explicit content we recommend you get started on this promising trilogy, and go pick it up, and if you’re fan of this book and want to see Morgan’s other work, or just want to check out his SF, head over to

Nick’s Note: In our review of THE JUDGING EYE we made mention of the content being for adults, and I’d like to, again if you couldn’t tell from the review, make that same mention here. Also if you are looking for a philosophical and psychological bent as a reason for the graphic nature like we would find in Bakker’s work, you won’t find it Morgan’s book.

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