Review: Broken Angels

Posted: August 3, 2021 by in Books We Love (5/5 single_star) Meta: Richard K. Morgan, Military SF, Science Fiction

So, a few months ago, one of our readers commented on my review for ALTERED CARBON (EBR Review) that I should look into the second and third books in this series. If I’m being completely honest, I wasn’t too high on the idea, as I’ve never really been overly enamored with Richard K. Morgan’s books. Still I thanked the reader for the comment and proceeded on my merry way.

Then, randomly, I found a copy of the second book in the series at one of the second-hand bookstores that I frequent, and the thing was only two bucks. The thickness of the spine made it look like it was going to be relatively short too. So, I picked it up with no real intention to read it any time soon. But the opportunity to dive in was quickly afforded me when I was asked to chaperone for a couple days at a girl’s camp my daughter was attending. All I needed to do was be present. So I figured, why not grab a quick read and see what came of it?

And here we are.

I mention all this mostly because at no point in this whole process did I think there was going to be any chance that I might actually like this book.

Man, do I love being surprised.

BROKEN ANGELS is the second book in the Takeshi Kovacs series and is a significant departure from the first. That one had a definite hard-boiled detective feel to it, whereas this one definitely operates within the realm of military science fiction. The only real connection between the two books is the main character, and in no way does this feel even like a follow-on story to the first. It’s more of a one-off. A stand-alone. Although, some of the concepts and ideas that get bandied about did have some slight part of their genesis in the previous one. Still, I can easily say that there’s very little doubt in my mind that someone could pick this book up on it’s own and absolutely enjoy what it has to offer without missing what happened in book one. Starting to feel like I’m kind of over-selling that point. 🙂 Can you tell how much fun I didn’t have with ALTERED CARBON? lol.

This time around Takeshi has been hired as a soldier in a war to stop a rebellious uprising on the far-flung planet of Sanction IV. He’s part of a military unit called Carrera’s wedge, and the sleeve he’s been given has just been shot up in a fire-fight. However, instead of having his cortical stack scanned and being resleeved, his superiors decide instead to heal his body. Cheaper, and it won’t take very long given available technology. Thus, he spends a good chunk of time in a hospital where he meets Jan Schneider. She was a pilot some time ago for a group of archaeologists on Sanction IV that found a Martian artifact that could make someone very rich indeed. She’s looking for some help to head back that way and ultimately cash in on that opportunity, and if there’s anything that Takeshi Kovacs is interested in more than killing people, it’s making a wad of cash for his own personal benefit.

The first Richard K. Morgan book that I've ever enjoyed reading. Great story. Great character. Great science fiction. Read this book.

As with ALTERED CARBON, this story is a first-person POV and sticks strictly to that mode of story-telling. As has always been the case, Morgan’s writing is pretty fantabulous. He knows how to string words together. That’s never been the issue for me though. It always been about the story, and what he brings to table in terms of being able to make me both believe and then care. Like I mentioned above, I totally didn’t expect much from this one going in. First few chapters flesh out the world and the situation and main impetus to the plot. Description is great. Character is high. And even though the main character is a bit cold and impersonal, this time around he came across as tough, a bit jaded, and just ready to do his job, come what may.

First step of the journey sees them rescuing the lead archaeologist from Schneider’s dig, who is currently residing in a prisoner camp. This woman is damaged in the extreme, but she knows why Schneider has come to get her, and where they’re going to go. It was about this time in the story that something funny started to happen.

I actually started the like the thing. Like REALLY like the thing.

What followed was several hundred pages of great story. From the wholesale market of cortical stacks, to the dangerous local politics, to military grade nanotechnology, to wide scale nuclear fallout, and that doesn’t even touch what the Martian artifact holds for them. Not only did this story make be believe, it also took the opportunity to instill that sense of wonder that is so ever-present when it comes to great science fiction. My issue has always been that without that central core of a character story, the sense-of-wonder stuff just never sets in. I’ve only found a few science fiction authors that have given that to me. Now I can add Richard K. Morgan as one of those. And honestly… I never thought I would ever find myself saying that.

One other thing about the story totally floored me as well, and that dealt with the sexual content in the book. Morgan’s known for his ridiculously over-the-top sex scenes that have no bearing on the story whatsoever. And don’t get me wrong, this one still has a couple scenes, and they’re absolutely just as solidly ludicrous glorifications of sexuality as always, but this time… they actually both had significant impact upon the plot. When I came to that part of the book, I stopped for a brief moment and wonder just who they’d hired to write this thing, because we were totally outside the wheelhouse now.

When it comes to Morgan’s fiction, I’ve always wanted to find something to enjoy. There’s so much stuff that he does well, that it was always such a shame that I never connected with any of them. Now I have. But of course that means that now I have to read the next one. Oddly enough, I was at another second-hand bookstore the other day, and found a copy. Was four bucks. When I went to pay for it, the owner asked me if I liked books by that author. I looked over at him and said, “Typically? No.” He quirked an eyebrow at me, and so I had to tell him my story.

So glad that I had this one to share.

  • Recommended Age: 18+ for everything on the slate
  • Language: Strong and frequent, but not as much as usual
  • Violence: Bloody, visceral, and personal
  • Sex: Two strong scenes and several strong references

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