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Thin Air

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Richard Morgan has always been one of our most successful SF authors with his fast-moving and brutal storylines, blistering plots and a powerful social conscience behind his work.And now he's back, with his first SF novel for eight years . . . and it promises to be a publication to remember.An ex-corporate enforcer, Hakan Veil, is forced to bodyguard Madison Madekwe, part Richard Morgan has always been one of our most successful SF authors with his fast-moving and brutal storylines, blistering plots and a powerful social conscience behind his work.And now he's back, with his first SF novel for eight years . . . and it promises to be a publication to remember.An ex-corporate enforcer, Hakan Veil, is forced to bodyguard Madison Madekwe, part of a colonial audit team investigating a disappeared lottery winner on Mars. But when Madekwe is abducted, and Hakan nearly killed, the investigation takes him farther and deeper than he had ever expected. And soon Hakan discovers the heavy price he may have to pay to learn the truth.


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Richard Morgan has always been one of our most successful SF authors with his fast-moving and brutal storylines, blistering plots and a powerful social conscience behind his work.And now he's back, with his first SF novel for eight years . . . and it promises to be a publication to remember.An ex-corporate enforcer, Hakan Veil, is forced to bodyguard Madison Madekwe, part Richard Morgan has always been one of our most successful SF authors with his fast-moving and brutal storylines, blistering plots and a powerful social conscience behind his work.And now he's back, with his first SF novel for eight years . . . and it promises to be a publication to remember.An ex-corporate enforcer, Hakan Veil, is forced to bodyguard Madison Madekwe, part of a colonial audit team investigating a disappeared lottery winner on Mars. But when Madekwe is abducted, and Hakan nearly killed, the investigation takes him farther and deeper than he had ever expected. And soon Hakan discovers the heavy price he may have to pay to learn the truth.

30 review for Thin Air

  1. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    Most of the people that want to kill me barely have the budget for a nice knife. Hakan Veil, ex-Overrider and now muscle for hire, is running hot after coming out of his four month hibernoid sleep rotation. All systems are cranked high, with emotion and aggression responses dialled right up to max, and that’s before everything turns to shit. Someone in the criminal underworld has aggressively disappeared a client he stepped in to protect on his last waking cycle and that’s the kind of disrespect Most of the people that want to kill me barely have the budget for a nice knife. Hakan Veil, ex-Overrider and now muscle for hire, is running hot after coming out of his four month hibernoid sleep rotation. All systems are cranked high, with emotion and aggression responses dialled right up to max, and that’s before everything turns to shit. Someone in the criminal underworld has aggressively disappeared a client he stepped in to protect on his last waking cycle and that’s the kind of disrespect that needs to be addressed in this town. On top of that, the COLIN oversight committee has arrived from Earth, here to investigate possible corruption following yet another person gone missing, this time of a ticket-home lottery winner. And guess who’s been ‘assigned’ (read: given zero choice) the task of protecting one of the high-ups, Madison Madekwe, by Bradbury PD? Yep. The guy with serious impulse control issues and a very problematic attitude towards authority. Drawn into her investigation and placed on somebody’s hit list, he’s right in the middle of the storm as all kinds of nasty secrets and underhand dealings emerge from the dark. Cue what seemed like a relatively minor task morphing into the mother of all fuck ups, ably accelerated by brutal violence, deceit, and not a little death. Given the recent Netflix adaptation of Altered Carbon, the spectacular visuals, outrageous savagery, and another level tech on show here was exactly as expected. Except the detail of this imagined frontier type Mars colony was beyond what I could have envisaged, utterly meticulous and all-encompassing. There’s no other choice but to believe wholeheartedly in this world, to see every aspect of it with blinding clarity, because it’s all there. All of it. I may be a newbie to sci fi, but it boggles the mind when authors know their creations to this extent, whatever the genre. It did take me a long time to get to the end, because whatever else it is, it’s also hard work. The layers of assumed knowledge, technical vocab and Mars slang means that there’s sometimes a stutter in the flow, with sentences overloaded and bereft of sense. I had to reread often at the beginning, though maybe that’s a personal failure rather than an authorial one. It gets better for two reasons. The first being that Morgan does explain it all, specifically or in context so that reader understanding grows exponentially. The second that the staccato rapidity of Veil’s language and thought processes slow to match his physical status, running less hot as time moves forwards, changing the way he is presented. Everything is connected, not just the labyrinthine plot unfolded via Veil’s investigation, but the way its all done. The author has a knack for character and expression that never ceases to surprise and amuse: I think you’d cut the laugh out of a toddler’s throat with a blunt scalpel if you thought you could sell it for cab fare. In fact, the commentary as a whole is deliciously dark and entertaining, but the themes and issues underlying the book have an unmistakeable contemporary relevance, a forceful questioning of the ways in which the masses are manipulated by business and government. It's a book that punches you in the face and then makes you think about why it happened. As well as being ultra violent, it’s also got some er… in-depth sex scenes. Yet the presentation of women is representative of the larger picture: as individuals with agency. It’s just another way the book surprised me. Veil might be an arsehole but he’s not entirely Mr. Misogyny. Sure, he’s got the attitude that women’s lives would be improved by a ride on what he’s got going on, but whether they decide to do so is all up to them. And he’s not afraid of putting in a bit of work, their pleasure is something he thinks about, but whether they enjoy it or not is entirely relative- this is not one of those books where women explode into orgasm as soon as the guy looks at them with purpose. There’s a great section where he’s interviewing a series of women about someone they’ve all chosen to have sex with and they all mention the impressive size of this guy’s dick. Veil gets more than a little irked by it, but is fully aware of his fragile ego, and so is the author, making the whole thing into a comedic episode that's genuinely funny. So there’s this effective clash between the way I expected Veil to be, how he thinks of himself, and how the women in the book respond to him. All of which has clearly been considered by Morgan. Women’s sexual choices are theirs to make, mistakes and all, same as the rest of their lives within the confines of whatever larger problems they have going on. It's well done. And the depiction of various ethnicities follows the same pattern. You're either being an arsehole or you're not, race and gender have nothing to do with it. Overall, this was one of those books that made choosing a rating difficult. Sometimes it was a push to get through, but was fun and most importantly, memorable. Other reviewers have mentioned their disappointment that Hakan Veil is too similar to what Morgan has done before, but since I haven’t read anything else he’s written, I could just sit back and enjoy. And anyway, if that’s the case, it means that I have the benefit of a whole back catalogue I know i’ll appreciate too. Saying that, I did picture Joel Kinnaman as Veil, but I may just see him as every male sci-fi lead from now until the end of time so… it might just be a coincidence. Who knows?! While the noir style investigation/Mars colony corruption story is all wrapped up here, I’d be up for seeing more. There’s certainly scope for it. In the meantime, Takeshi Kovacs bekons… ARC via Netgalley

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Like his 2002 hit “Altered Carbon”, this one is a great blend of detective noir and cyberpunk in a dystopian world. Instead of shipping a detective self to far planets by sleeving a digital personality into a receiving body, the future tech staged here on a colonial, terraformed Mars is in the realm of bioengineering, artificial intelligence implants, and nanotechnology. Instead of Tak in the earlier series, our similar hero here is Hak, short for Hakan Veil, and he is a weapon incarnate. Veil h Like his 2002 hit “Altered Carbon”, this one is a great blend of detective noir and cyberpunk in a dystopian world. Instead of shipping a detective self to far planets by sleeving a digital personality into a receiving body, the future tech staged here on a colonial, terraformed Mars is in the realm of bioengineering, artificial intelligence implants, and nanotechnology. Instead of Tak in the earlier series, our similar hero here is Hak, short for Hakan Veil, and he is a weapon incarnate. Veil has been genetically modified for heightened physical capabilities (like night vision and high octane combat modes) and implanted from infancy with an onboard military-grade AI he can dialog with internally and interact with through analytic displays projected onto his retina. This investment was made by a mega-corporation, Blond Vaisutis, specializing in corporate security, sort of a Haliburton of the future. For twenty years Veil worked for them as an “overrider”, an all-around agent for spying, covert operations, and violent countermeasures to any threat to profitable business from pirates, insurrections, or uppity local governments. But he made a costly mistake that incurred deaths and exposed the company to adverse political expose, for which he was fired and exiled to Mars. There he struggles against poverty to use his talents in private contracting. His cybernetic make up requires Veil to undergo hibernation for four months out of a year. He has been able to buy a former spaceship escape pod with hibernation unit set up in a living block of living pods for the poor in the metropolis Bradley (sort of like Bruce Willis’ pad in the movie “The Fifth Element”). When he is revived, he runs “hot”, or on a hair-trigger, for violent solutions, which is part of his programming for decisive action like when a company ship is under attack. Thus, we get a little bit of a cartoonish Hulk aspect to our fallen superhero. His onboard AI, ‘Ris, tries to shape him toward more strategic and safe behavior with sarcastic goading and ironic nagging, but “her” military design makes whatever the current mission or contract top priority: She’s a Blond Vasuitis crisis management system; you can’t really blame her. OSIRIS—Onboard Situational Insight and Resource Interface Support. It’s her whole desoigned purpose to plan and oversee critical conflict situations, and with that comes a tacit enthusiasm for the fight. .. Where possible, an Osiris will prefer to avoid damage to high-value personal—they are company assets after all—and sometimes even to human beings in general, because it understands that large numbers of casualties can be a public relations nightmare. …Come the crunch, Osiris will always prefer murder and mayhem to failure. I’d like to think I’m made a little differently, but deep down I suspect it isn’t true. Our first experience with Veil upon waking up from hibernation is a bold murder of an organized crime figure who killed a woman he had saved from being collateral damage in the last job he did. Soon thereafter he unwinds with hot sex with a female neighbor in his “Pod-Park Heaven” abode. Crude revenge violence and wallowing in crude sex sets us on a squirmy path to what? The next phase quickly had me pushing down the “ucks” and the “icks” and blasting off to a “wow” ride. Like with James Ellroy’s post-war Los Angeles noir detective tales, I felt like taking a shower by the end of the run, but nonetheless I had to race through the pages. Veil’s new case starts with a metro police Lieutenant, Nikki Chakana, using leverage of his arrest for the murder to get him to serve as contracted security for a key female auditor sent from Earth to investigate corruption in the colonial government. She serves the Governor Mulholland, whose interest in maintaining his beautiful (and profitable) wickedness calls for doing anything to keep Mars out from under the military boots of Earth: She’d be scurrying around like a ferrite bug in a mountain of rust … Plugging leaks, disappearing inconvenient evidence and witnesses, getting stories straight. Terraforming local conditions, in other words, into some shiny simulacrum of what the good people back on Earth apparently expected things to be like out here. Good luck with that, Lieutenant. The particular auditor in his charge, Madison Madekwe, aims to look into corruption in the state-run lottery system in the more rural provinces where the last winner has disappeared and presumed killed. But these provincial regions of the “Uplands” are like the Wild West with respect to central government controlled, and besides the usual conflict and collaborations among factions like organized crime, local police and governments, and the corporations, there is a huge underclass of people with many aligned toward the revolutionary “Mars First” movement. At the same time that Veil slips home to gather some weapons, the auditor is kidnapped with expert slaughter of security forces and Veil’s home defense tech identifies a coming assault from two commandoes with a ship-killer missile and another with a a big-caliber automatic assault weapon. Our hero survives with the wonderful application of his special skills, but all he gets is grief from Lt. Chakana: You think you could have left something for forensics? They’re having a hard time finding six organic molecules still stuck together down there. She doesn’t quite see the connection between the two events or recognize that both reflect military capabilities beyond any of his many known enemies or Mars First guerilla factions. I love the hyperbolic, Chandleresque speech Morgan creates for Veil: Look, you don’t send a crack audit team across 200 million kilometers of interplanetary space because you think someone needs a few close tips on colonial management. … This was a major crackdown in the making, and the knowledge was all over Mulholland’s face. He looked like a man being forced to choke down spoiled oysters in zero G. The satisfying Gibsonian cyberpunk element of the tale comes from the coolness of our hero in the face of all the corrupt factions he has to deal with and the replication of his predecessor’s “Sprawl”, the richly detailed and multicultural urban underbelly of a dog-eat-dog world in a high-tech future. A pleasurable return to the human jungle captured so well the “Blade Runner” film take of P.K. Dick’s “Do androids Dream of Electric Sheep.” I passed on successor books by Morgan after “Altered Carbon” as I didn’t want a lesser repeat. After highly enjoying the recent Netflix production of the book, it was perfect timing to catch up with him in this thrilling new work. This book was provided for review by the publisher through the Netgalley program.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Liviu

    This is a standalone novel set in the same universe as Thirteen but as the action is pretty much all Mars (with some flashbacks from Hakan Veil's past as overrider - see below - and discussing a few important geopolitical events in the rest of the Solar System that impact the storyline) one doesn't need to read the other book (I read it a while ago on publication and didn't like it that much - the only thing I remember is that the usual RK Morgan twist, namely the main villain is the main hero's This is a standalone novel set in the same universe as Thirteen but as the action is pretty much all Mars (with some flashbacks from Hakan Veil's past as overrider - see below - and discussing a few important geopolitical events in the rest of the Solar System that impact the storyline) one doesn't need to read the other book (I read it a while ago on publication and didn't like it that much - the only thing I remember is that the usual RK Morgan twist, namely the main villain is the main hero's friend/associate/employer was present there too - thankfully that twist was not really present in Thin Air as I thought it would have been again too much repetition within the author's sf oeuvre); also it is self-contained in the sense that there is a clear storyline, a clear ending and while the author can write more books in this universe - which could definitely be interesting with the right characters and plot - Thin Air is done as is, no sequel needed, no real loose ends remaining After a slow beggining, maybe some 80 pages in, Thin Air starts getting really interesting with action, lots of promises for stuff to come and with the quips and verbal duels of the narrator becoming the usual dark, cynical but funny RK Morgan entertainment - the narrator being Hakan Veil, former overrider contracted to a major Earth corporation before birth so raised in the relative luxury of high skill corporate indenture, with the advantages and drawbacks of being groomed as an overrider from the womb - requiring 4 months of hibernation per year in cryo, but when awoken being in the "hot" phase where he is almost superhuman in thinking, reflexes and fighting abilities as his job of overrider meant precisely this, being in cryo on the corporation spaceships plying Solar System trade until/unless there was major trouble and then he was woken up to solve it and save the ship and its cargo/passengers at any cost, but now marooned on Mars for some 7 local, 14 Earth years due to messing up a mission, being fired and not being able to get his overrider license/job back as the corporation still owns all the hardware inside his body. But now Earth is ready to clean the corruption on Mars - again as Veil points out to one of the leaders of the Earth audit, while the last try some years back led to a few of his friends turned whistleblowers, buried alive in regolith when the audit was aborted and the vengeful Mars governor and his cronies were cleared - and Hak gets an offer he cannot refuse from the investigators, while being at the mercy of the local Bradbury homicide PD chief (who is, of course, hand in hand with the governor, so opposite the Earth team) for the small matter of the ("unsolved" for now but with Veil as prime suspect) murder of a bar owner who crossed Veil before his hibernation time (and who made the major mistake of having his enforcers beat Hak badly as he was quite sluggish at the time, but then let him go) Lots of cool stuff - technology, atmosphere, naming (Adam Smith counties, Rand junction, Gingrich corporation etc - keeping with the Mars as the new wild west/libertarian paradise image that is sold to the masses, while of course, all is corporate corruption this being an RK Morgan novel after all), lots of action and intrigue as noted and again being a RK Morgan book, mayhem, dark cynical humor and unvarnished language are what's ultimately powering Thin Air Great (and complete) ending and an excellent novel which shows a lot of evolution in the author's oeuvre (being less simplistic, with more interesting twists and superb world building and characters beyond the narrator) A few choice quotes below: “Well, it’s the thought that counts. Fact remains—launch determines orbit, and Torres got a launch in life that put him low and in decay from the start. You just give it time and watch the sky.” I lifted an index finger and drew a slanting trajectory across the air between us. I made a noise like oil in a pan. “Bye-bye, Torres.” “Even with a lottery win under his belt?” “That’s just fuel for the vector. Good luck won’t save these guys any better than bad. Bad’s the air they breathe. If good comes along, it just **** with the mix. Get some big payoff or other, they’ll most likely go out ODed or smashed up in some high-spec crawler they blew all the money on.” I thought about it. “Or they maybe just swagger in the wrong direction, **** off the wrong OC *****, end up buried in the regolith.” “You think that’s what happened?” I spread my hands. “Hey—I’m not a detective. You do the investigating, I’ll just stand around and make sure no one tries to stop you.” ****** She flushed. “Is that how you see us?” “Not really about you, it’s about local conditions. You talk up a storm in your retreats and your universities, but go outside and you don’t have the critical density. This valley is filled with people who don’t give a **** about your theories of history and economics, and the people they listen to have already sold them a shinier dream.” “Which is what?” “Lifetime membership in Humanity’s Rugged High Frontier Elite, with a side order of aspirational consumer tech product for the masses. Exceptionalism, a sense of belonging, and shiny toys to play with along the way. What have you got that’s going to compete with that?” “It can’t last,” she snapped. “It’s a bubble, a fantasy. When it all falls apart—” “Yeah—if and when that happens, sister, you’d better ***** pray you’re not standing anywhere close to ground zero.” Some jagged shard of old anger spiking in my voice now. “I’ve seen what happens to humans when it all falls apart. Believe me, it isn’t pretty.”

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bradley

    Wow! To be fair, I have been looking forward to reading more Morgan since the devouring the trilogy that started with Altered Carbon. Wasn't quite sure I wanted to go the fantasy route with him, but his SF? It's an automatic Hell Yes. I'm a big fan of Cyberpunk and Noir fiction and this has all the same great features (if less technologically advanced) as Altered Carbon. Think Noir disgraced military turned gumshoe but put him firmly on a Mars surrounded by corruption, nasty corporate tricks, an Wow! To be fair, I have been looking forward to reading more Morgan since the devouring the trilogy that started with Altered Carbon. Wasn't quite sure I wanted to go the fantasy route with him, but his SF? It's an automatic Hell Yes. I'm a big fan of Cyberpunk and Noir fiction and this has all the same great features (if less technologically advanced) as Altered Carbon. Think Noir disgraced military turned gumshoe but put him firmly on a Mars surrounded by corruption, nasty corporate tricks, and a military takeover in the wings. In other words, the situation is ripe for a TON of bloodshed. :) And fortunately, as we go through some pretty awesome plotting, mystery, reversals, I can safely say I had a TON of fun. It WAS a bit cliche with the dames, but let's face it... it IS Noir. And they were not cardboard cutouts at all. Sex sells. Violence, too. This book knows its market. :) I LOVE the military upgrades. Do computers normally have this much humor? ;) Cyberpunk rules!!! Morgan is one of my favorites and I think I need to get on the rest of his catalog. :) I'm so glad I finally got to this! What a treat!

  5. 5 out of 5

    kartik narayanan

    Thin Air is in the same vein as Takeshi Kovacs but the noirish/hard boiled element is much more. Hakan Veil is an ex-black ops operative who is now dabbling in crime to keep himself alive. He is a manufactured product developed by a corporation to help them 'solve' problems - usually permanently. He is now unemployed but still has to pay for hibernation. As character, I really liked Hakan. He starts off as an amoral person but soon we get to see hidden depths in him with elements of humanity tha Thin Air is in the same vein as Takeshi Kovacs but the noirish/hard boiled element is much more. Hakan Veil is an ex-black ops operative who is now dabbling in crime to keep himself alive. He is a manufactured product developed by a corporation to help them 'solve' problems - usually permanently. He is now unemployed but still has to pay for hibernation. As character, I really liked Hakan. He starts off as an amoral person but soon we get to see hidden depths in him with elements of humanity that other 'normal' humans do not have. He has a great character arc and 10/10 for RkM for doing this This book is set in Mars about 100-200 years in the future. And so, comparisons to Total Recall cannot be avoided. It has the same feeling of paranoia as well as the gritty feel of life on Mars. The scifi elements were quite decent and believable. The one thing that RkM uses throught the book is the concepts of 'gels' which seem to be tablets/screens which can be used for a lot of purposes. It cannot be a RkM book if the action scenes do not get your pulse pounding and they do. There are numerous places where you just get sucked into the action. Overall, I loved the book. I hope there will be more books in this universe

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

    This is only my second Richard K. Morgan book after Altered Carbon, so I'm not sure whether all his science fiction books are updated detective noir, or that Thin Air is just a cleverly timed tie-in for people who loved the recent Altered Carbon Netflix series. Either way, this is very much updated detective noir with intricate world-building and a believable future, albeit a darkly cynical one. Hakan Veil is an ex-overrider, a genetically-engineered and cybernetically-enhanced human essentially This is only my second Richard K. Morgan book after Altered Carbon, so I'm not sure whether all his science fiction books are updated detective noir, or that Thin Air is just a cleverly timed tie-in for people who loved the recent Altered Carbon Netflix series. Either way, this is very much updated detective noir with intricate world-building and a believable future, albeit a darkly cynical one. Hakan Veil is an ex-overrider, a genetically-engineered and cybernetically-enhanced human essentially designed as a electronic warfare platform /first responderto acts of sabotage or piracy in interplanetary space. Veil is grounded on Mars where he has a reputation as a hard man with experience with both security/police and organized crime. After getting into trouble almost immediately after waking from his latest stint in hibernation, local law enforcement taps him as a bodyguard/local guide for a visiting dignitary from Earth Oversight while she investigates the disappearance of a local lottery winner. Things fairly quickly go off track, and Veil has to use all his skills and allies to survive and uncover everything that's going on. Noir fiction is not kind to its characters, and has a reputation for being misogynist. Morgan has updated that for 21st century writing, and now it feels primarily misanthropist, although its roots show, with lots of female prostitutes, but no male ones, and the classic femme fatale making a non-standard appearance. But other classic noir archetypes get to switch genders, like the nearly-honest cop with an antagonistic but respectful relationship with our main character, and the corrupt politician who's tangentially involved in the plot. Veil makes for a complex and interesting character with an equally interesting network of allies and enemies, and the world he inhabits represents a fascinatingly decaying future where people struggle for a future no-one believes in, but is still surprisingly hopeful. Recommended.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Robert Davis

    HIGHLY RECOMMENDED … This book is a whole lot of fun! It is, essentially, a hard-boiled noir detective story set on the Red Planet. Think of Mike Hammer on Mars! Although set in the same universe as Thirteen, it is a stand alone novel and completely separate from its' predecessor. Meaning, if you haven't read Thirteen, no worries, you will have no problem with starting here. In many ways, I think Thin Air is superior in style and overall fun. It is a great combination of old fashioned detective n HIGHLY RECOMMENDED … This book is a whole lot of fun! It is, essentially, a hard-boiled noir detective story set on the Red Planet. Think of Mike Hammer on Mars! Although set in the same universe as Thirteen, it is a stand alone novel and completely separate from its' predecessor. Meaning, if you haven't read Thirteen, no worries, you will have no problem with starting here. In many ways, I think Thin Air is superior in style and overall fun. It is a great combination of old fashioned detective noir and science fiction. (view spoiler)[ On Mars, corporations clash with independence movements fighting against interests on Earth trying to extract as much profit from the planet as it can. In the midst of this is Hakan Veil, a cybernetically enhanced ex-super soldier who just wants to return home to Earth. There’s a catch: he has to work as a bodyguard for an investigator from an organization called Earth Oversight. The investigator, Madison Madekwe, is on the trail of a missing lottery winner, and the two find themselves in more trouble than they bargained. (hide spoiler)] Did you ever have a book that was so good that you didn't want it to end, so you stopped reading it so that you could let the story live a little longer before you finished it? That was me with this book! As I neared the end, I procrastinated so that I could live a little bit longer in the world of the story. It is that good! My only real complaint, and it is a very minor one, is that I am not really in love with the final bookcover design, it seems a little 'CreateSpace' to me. The earlier proposed bookcover (seen here) also seemed a bit generic. Surely they could have come up with something more interesting. ----------------------------------------------- Finally received my ARC from Goodreads and am really enjoying it!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bandit

    A while back my fiancée and I tried watching Altered Carbon on Netflix. We made it through one episode with no interest to continue. That should have been a good indication that Morgan’s stories may not be for me, but then again Netflix has long traded quality for quantity and Morgan’s new book showed up on Netgalley and it’s been a while since I read some scifi and it was set on Mars, so I took a chance. A decision I’ve come to regret over and over during the countless, ok, not really, it was t A while back my fiancée and I tried watching Altered Carbon on Netflix. We made it through one episode with no interest to continue. That should have been a good indication that Morgan’s stories may not be for me, but then again Netflix has long traded quality for quantity and Morgan’s new book showed up on Netgalley and it’s been a while since I read some scifi and it was set on Mars, so I took a chance. A decision I’ve come to regret over and over during the countless, ok, not really, it was technically one morning and one day, but still entirely too long of a time it took to get through. And here’s the thing…it may not be Morgan at all, he seems to be wildly acclaimed award winning author, it might have just been the non existent author/reader chemistry, but boy, did I loathe this book. Kinda knew I wasn’t gonna like it from the first pages, but no, my OCD drives me to finish every book I start and since it’s such an odd uncharacteristic display of drive for an otherwise drivefree person, it gets tolerated. So I waded through this entire book, 400 pages that definitely seemed longer and the denseness of the text not only prohibited speedreading/skimming, but did indeed justify using wading as an adequate descriptor. The thing is when you stuck reading a short book you don’t care for it creates a dislike at most, when the book is this long…it’s hate. Like a tedious family function, it just seemingly wouldn’t end. Slowly, sluggishly, the plot convoluted around some tiresome Martian politics, while Veil (the macho protagonist that reminded me of the main guy on Altered Carbon, is that all Morgan writes?) glowered, plowed, fought, killed and screwed his way through his impromptu investigation. At no juncture did I care about the protagonist, the plot or any of the characters, which is pretty depressing of a status for such a long book with so many players. Just wanted it to be over. Morgan seems to write using pure testosterone for ink, it’s all clipped, tough machismo with some occasional very graphic sex scenes. It’s also very heavy on tech and light on world building, the exact opposite of how I like my science fiction. It’s like all the wrong aspects are detailed and all the fascinating things are skipped over. And then there was a shoot’em up finale and it was finally over. Whew. If it seems like I just gave up on the book early on and then merely went through motions, it isn’t so, I really did try to get into it, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Even Mars wasn’t enough. Turned out to a tragically tedious trip to such a spectacular literary destination. What a waste of time, though. Not fun, not even entertaining, learned nothing, gained nothing but yet another reminder to be more selective, at least before committing to large books. I bet there are readers out there who’ll love this, but for me, Morgan, either cinematically or literary, is a no no. Thanks Netgalley.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    “Thin Air” is a grim swaggering tour-de-force of hardscrabble cyberpunk thrills. Take a gene-enhanced cyborg trained killer exiled by the corporate overlords to spend the rest of his waking hours on the frontier of Mars where the cities are filled with beating nightclubs, egotripping stars, lightshows, strippers, and corruption by the armful. Surround that city with the frontier valley, filled with prospectors hoping to find fabled El Dorado, tight knit, loyal, distrustful of outsiders. Cyborg V “Thin Air” is a grim swaggering tour-de-force of hardscrabble cyberpunk thrills. Take a gene-enhanced cyborg trained killer exiled by the corporate overlords to spend the rest of his waking hours on the frontier of Mars where the cities are filled with beating nightclubs, egotripping stars, lightshows, strippers, and corruption by the armful. Surround that city with the frontier valley, filled with prospectors hoping to find fabled El Dorado, tight knit, loyal, distrustful of outsiders. Cyborg Veil, the narrator, is a whirlwind of action, emotion, mission, all of which he and his external lenses are going to need to keep out of jail and fulfill his parole conditions. Once the reader gets into the rhythm of this novel, it’s hard to put down. It may sometimes be necessary to keep a scorecard of all the players and the story has quite a few twists and turns. But, what sets it apart is the swagger, the grimness, the hardboiled attitude, the corruption, the backstabbers, the dances of mistrust, and the sudden explosions of sex and violence that turns this science fiction thriller into a hardboiled monster.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Radiantflux

    109th book for 2018. Every so often when the corruption of this World gets too high, I need a hit of cynical ultraviolent scifi, and who better to deliver this than Richard K Morgan? His first two Takeshi Kovacs novels (Altered Carbon and Woken Furies) are among my all time favorite books, his world-building and character development were phenomenal (forget the obscene corporate saccharine wankfest television series designed for maximum appeal to a brain-dead publicum). Like most (all?) RKM books 109th book for 2018. Every so often when the corruption of this World gets too high, I need a hit of cynical ultraviolent scifi, and who better to deliver this than Richard K Morgan? His first two Takeshi Kovacs novels (Altered Carbon and Woken Furies) are among my all time favorite books, his world-building and character development were phenomenal (forget the obscene corporate saccharine wankfest television series designed for maximum appeal to a brain-dead publicum). Like most (all?) RKM books Thin Air tells the story of a down-on-his-luck cynical mercenary (this time on Mars) with one more unwanted job that leads the antihero deeper and deeper into the corrupt corporate/government rabbit hole. Lots of cool tech and cynicism as usual (I loved that in his universe it's mentioned in passing that the successful detection by Mars-SETI of FOUR independent alien signals just lead to collective shrugs and a desire to turn to more profitable enterprises). While I didn't like this as much as some of his previous works (perhaps there was a little too much of the same-old same-old) I'd still lap up anymore books he has coming. Next time I just need to make sure I have a bottle of single malt on hand. Four-stars.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    These days, as my wife reminds me, it is often possible to judge a book by its cover—and that it's particularly telling when the cover only mentions an author's previous work. Richard K. Morgan's novel Altered Carbon amazed me—twice, in fact, most recently in 2011—and its popular, high-profile Netflix screen adaptation just came out in 2018. Perhaps that's enough to explain why Morgan's new novel mentions Altered Carbon so prominently on its front cover, and why the quotes on the back are all abo These days, as my wife reminds me, it is often possible to judge a book by its cover—and that it's particularly telling when the cover only mentions an author's previous work. Richard K. Morgan's novel Altered Carbon amazed me—twice, in fact, most recently in 2011—and its popular, high-profile Netflix screen adaptation just came out in 2018. Perhaps that's enough to explain why Morgan's new novel mentions Altered Carbon so prominently on its front cover, and why the quotes on the back are all about Altered Carbon, and why the front flap copy refers to Altered Carbon (and its sequels) first, only belatedly getting around to saying anything about the book you actually have in hand. And that's fine. After all, I really enjoyed Altered Carbon too—and, in comparison, Thin Air seemed like pretty thin gruel. {...}the effects of gravity always render spilled blood oddly tame. —Hakan Veil, p.125Now, I'm still a sucker for Morgan's gritty worldview and even grittier prose—the observation above being one striking example. For another, I really liked the not-so-gentle sarcasm of "gentle commerce," a phrase which Morgan deploys several times early on. So don't get me wrong—I enjoyed Thin Air. It just wasn't as... dazzling as I had hoped. In fact, for a science-fiction novel, this one often seems rather unimaginative. Hakan Veil, our hardboiled hero, is a mercenary with an edge—multiple edges, in fact: to his voice; to his temper (especially just after he's awakened from his biologically-engineered hibernation phase and is "running-hot"); to many of the weapons he carries; and to his combat abilities, which were enhanced by his erstwhile corporate employer, Blond Vaisutis. Actually, come to think of it, Veil's just about all edge. Hak's been stuck on Mars for the past six or seven years (Mars years, that is, which are twice as long as his native Earth's)—but however reluctant Veil is to stay on the fourth planet, he fits in perfectly with Martian society (to use the word loosely). Profit is everything, the ostensible forces of order are all on someone's payroll, and blowing off kneecaps with the shotgun that Veil calls his "deck broom" actually starts to seem like the logical way to enter a room. From the constant violence, to the profanity (every fucker Veil meets swears like a motherfucker), to the casual and pervasive sexism, to the cynical corruption that is the norm at every level of the planet's government (to use the word loosely), Veil and Mars seem made for each other. Veil isn't the kind to employ niceties like "please" and "thank you," either—which makes it hard to understand how Veil accumulates friends the way he does—but at least... at least Veil seems to know what "no" means (based on the evidence of a single elevator scene)... although everything else about Thin Air screams bog-standard pornstar sexual dynamics—like the other scene where one of Veil's lovers pours a sticky iced drink down her chest, without even a shiver. A certain segment of the population will, you'll pardon the expression, lap this stuff right up, but I'm not sure I'm in that particular demographic anymore, if indeed I ever was. None of this is pretty—nor is it meant to be. Be prepared for that. And then there was the huge, gaping plot hole—a plot void—that as far as I could tell never got filled: (view spoiler)[the "code-flies," genetically-modified mosquitoes that fly around at unstoppable speeds, injecting Martians with frequent updates to their bioware. The code-flies are a neat idea, to be sure, just itching (heh) for exploitation—but there's never any payoff. Veil gets bitten by code-flies now and then throughout the novel, but even though every other organized system on the planet Mars is corrupted, hacked, compromised (sometimes even by Veil himself), Hak trusts these things without question. So does every other Martian, in fact—and that blind trust is never betrayed. Once, at the end, a code-fly just hovers over Hak without biting. Maybe we're supposed to read something into that, but if so... I missed it. (hide spoiler)] "Fact remains—launch determines orbit, and Torres got a launch in life that put him low and in decay from the start." —p.135Human ballistics—deterministic; nihilist; desperately cynical... but somehow compelling, nevertheless. Hak's preferred liquor—when he can't get someone else to buy him astronomically-expensive Earth stuff like Laphroaig, anyway— is something called "Mark on Mars." I have no idea whether Mark on Mars is any good, but I had my first taste of good ol' terrestrial Maker's Mark while finishing Thin Air, as it would happen, and it went down pretty smoothly. As in the end Thin Air did, as well. For all the things about this book that I thought were gratuitous, I still couldn't stop reading—and I have to raise a glass to Morgan for that.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Don't wake the overrider.... As catchy mantras go, I like it, ... and it grew on me (... no, I didn't get it at first, maybe I was a little slow... but), as a warning, a harbinger, or, I dunno, a curse.... If they end up making this one into a movie (or a Netflix series), I expect don't wake the overrider.... could be right up there with I'll be back.... or, I dunno, Jumanji or, for that matter, Beetlejuice, ... it's not exactly a summoning of a demon, ... but I digress. In any event, it's been y Don't wake the overrider.... As catchy mantras go, I like it, ... and it grew on me (... no, I didn't get it at first, maybe I was a little slow... but), as a warning, a harbinger, or, I dunno, a curse.... If they end up making this one into a movie (or a Netflix series), I expect don't wake the overrider.... could be right up there with I'll be back.... or, I dunno, Jumanji or, for that matter, Beetlejuice, ... it's not exactly a summoning of a demon, ... but I digress. In any event, it's been years since I've read Richard K. Morgan, and I admit ... during that time, I hoped he'd return to his unique brand of militaristic, dystopian, gene-altered, star-hopping sci-fi (and, quite frankly, I harbored hopes that he'd return to his iconic protagonist/envoy, Takeshi Kovacs of Altered Carbon fame, book trilogy, and, more recently, Netflix series flesh and blood). This isn't Altered Carbon, but like in that trilogy, Morgan plows new ground (here, well-settled, late generation Mars) and creates a unique brand of protagonist - ah, yes, remember, don't wake the overrider - and takes his sweet time filling in the blanks of the overrider's back-story, capabilities, and ... most interesting for my purposes ... role in the global space community. Morgan isn't for everyone. Plenty of (graphic) violence? Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full. To the point of excess? maybe. Currently, I'm struggling to get the word "carnage" out of my mind... High octane, bordering-on-the-gymnastic, no subtlety whatsoever, sex? With abandon and without apology. A dark, cynical view of society and governmental institutions, bordering on - and probably qualifying as - dystopia? You betcha. Complicated ... to the point of bordering on the just-plain-messy? Yeah, probably more than I'd like... And, yet, as a whole, the package works. Reader's nit: I've really enjoyed Morgan's sci-fi, and ... for whatever reason ... his constructs, his stories, his characters resonate with me. But ... and maybe this is just me ... the pages rarely turn smoothly for me in his books, and that's a double-edged sword. I'm not saying the prose or the style is necessarily good or bad, but ... it's unique. For whatever reason, I find that I frequently, and I mean frequently, re-read passages (ranging from sentences to paragraphs to pages). Some of this is that Morgan doesn't shy away from lengthy sentences or paragraphs. But (and this, ultimately, is a good thing), if you don't skim, and if you read carefully, Morgan's work is peppered with innumerable small gifts, what I'd think of as Easter Eggs in a movie or a video game. Whether its a name, an acronym (used sparingly or frequently), a place, or an object, the smallest details are often the most interesting. Indeed, I'd actually love to see a reader's guide to accompany this book. I guess this means Takeshi Kovacs really isn't coming back. Well, in that case, this was a lot better than nothing.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michael Hicks

    I've long been a fan of Richard K. Morgan's style of science fiction writing and his return to the field after a decade-long absence is certainly welcome, with Thin Air doing much to remind me why I fell in love with this author's work to begin with. Morgan writes sci-fi that is heavily, heavily influenced by hard-boiled mysteries. Beneath all the whiz-bang high-tech wrappings of interstellar colonization, cybernetic augments, and next-gen weaponry, there's a grizzled take on the classic PI - do I've long been a fan of Richard K. Morgan's style of science fiction writing and his return to the field after a decade-long absence is certainly welcome, with Thin Air doing much to remind me why I fell in love with this author's work to begin with. Morgan writes sci-fi that is heavily, heavily influenced by hard-boiled mysteries. Beneath all the whiz-bang high-tech wrappings of interstellar colonization, cybernetic augments, and next-gen weaponry, there's a grizzled take on the classic PI - down on his luck, hard drinking, smartly armed, and chasing dames - and a planet-sized dose of noir. Thin Air is gritty, like a mouthful of coffee grounds and gravel, and just as grim and bloody as you could imagine. On Mars, one lucky lottery winner has won his ticket back to Earth. Only problem is, he's dead, a complication that has triggered a planet-wide audit by the colony's Earth overseers. Hakan Veil is a former overrider - a genetically augmented warrior who has had his license to kill revoked and has been exiled to Mars. He's just murdered a local gangster, which has put him in police custody. He can make the charges disappear if he can protect the auditor, Madison Madekwe, and keep her safe from whoever's murdered the lottery winner. Veil makes the deal and finds himself up to his neck in organized crime, terrorist factions, killers, and political intrigue...and then things go even further south from there. Thin Air is a densely packed narrative, and Morgan has done an excellent job building up the world of Mars and delivering a cast of deeply complicated characters. Loyalties are ever-shifting, and there's almost as many motives to the madness Veil finds himself lost in as there are Martians. The plot spins wildly upon each new revelation, and the scope of this particular story grows broader and broader. I have to applaud Morgan for being able to keep all the twists, turns, and back-stabbings straight, because there are a lot of moving pieces and characters to keep track of here. I honestly wouldn't mind seeing the notes and outlines he must have created to keep this story flowing as impressively as it does. Thin Air is a perfect example of how characters serve the plot, and the reasons behind their motivations are just as labyrinthine as the story Morgan is telling. And, of course, there is plenty of sex and violence to move that story forward - it wouldn't really be a Richard K. Morgan book without those elements appearing rather frequently in grisly, graphic abundance. Veil is a lab-engineering killing machine; murder is literally built into his DNA, so expect a no-holds barred approach to the action sequences here. Ditto the book's sex scenes. Veil may have been coerced into playing the role of a private dick, but of this latter, well, it ain't all that private and Veil isn't the kind of guy who lets nearly being murdered with a military-grade rocket prevent him from shacking up with the stripper next door. After spending the better part of a decade crafting a trilogy of fantasy novels, it's pretty damn thrilling to have Morgan back in the game of telling ultra-gritty, hard-boiled futuristic noir. I've missed his contributions to science fiction, and Thin Air didn't disappoint in the least. This sucker is chock full of crime, conspiracy, action, and subterfuge, and Morgan is a goddamned master, at the top of his game right here. I just hope I don't have to wait another decade for his next work of dark sci-fi, but if it's as good as Thin Air, I certainly won't complain. [Note: I received an advance reading copy of Thin Air from the publisher, Del Rey Books, via NetGalley.]

  14. 4 out of 5

    MadProfessah

    “Thin Air” by Richard K. Morgan is the latest book by the author of the Takeshi Kovacs trilogy (Altered Carbon, Woken Furies, Broken Angels) and especially “Thirteen”/“Black Man,” the last of which is set in the same universe. Like those books, “Thin Air” is a noir sci-fi thriller featuring an ultra-violent, surgically enhanced, anti-hero who has a weak spot for the underclass in society. This time the protagonist is named Hakan Veil, a former Earth-born mercenary who has been trapped on Mars af “Thin Air” by Richard K. Morgan is the latest book by the author of the Takeshi Kovacs trilogy (Altered Carbon, Woken Furies, Broken Angels) and especially “Thirteen”/“Black Man,” the last of which is set in the same universe. Like those books, “Thin Air” is a noir sci-fi thriller featuring an ultra-violent, surgically enhanced, anti-hero who has a weak spot for the underclass in society. This time the protagonist is named Hakan Veil, a former Earth-born mercenary who has been trapped on Mars after his last job protecting a space ship for a mega-corporation ended in a way displeasing to his bosses and almost fatally for the nearly indestructible Veil. One notable feature of all Morgan’s work, which is one reason that it is catapulted to the top of my must-read lists, is his ability to convey a sense of place, culture and history in the settings of his books. Typically this is referred to as “world building” but with Morgan it means much much more. For example, the Mars of “Thin Air” is a compelling, futuristic, market-driven dystopia, with a rich history and multicultural, multi-ethnic populace struggling under staggeringly corrupt political and juridical officials. Morgan describes a long colonial history of the red planet under the forces of COLIN (the Colonization Initiative), an entity which has appeared in several of Morgan’s science fiction works set in the far future of humanity. The author also describes a civilization on the red planet which is buffeted and sculpted by the amorality of corporate greed and organized crime. Morgan begins “Thin Air” in medias res as he thrusts the reader into a setting where Veil immediately maims and kills people, some of whom appear to be bystanders but some who are also clearly responsible for horrible acts themselves. Another feature of Morgan’s work are his bewilderingly intricate plots. In “Thin Air” the primary plot is about Veil’s task of protecting a COLIN Earth functionary who has come to Mars to investigate the curious case of an Earthbound lottery winner who disappeared before he could collect his prize. This reveals some obvious corruption (Cui buono?) and the fact that several powerful forces are trying to control and dominate the future of Mars society. Overall, Morgan’s “Thin Air” is an exciting, action-filled and intelligent take on a mystery thriller set in a possible dystopian future. If you like any of Morgan’s previous work (especially “Thirteen”) you will almost certainly also enjoy “Thin Air.” A lot. FIVE STARS.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Judy Lesley

    Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine for a digital galley of this novel. If you check out the Amazon.com information for this book it shows 544 pages, the Goodreads info shows 400. I can tell you it definitely feels more like the 544. And it started off so well with Richard K Morgan getting the noir element just perfectly blended with the science fiction. I was fully on board with Hakan Veil and his backstory of the four months of the year cryo sleep, coming out o Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine for a digital galley of this novel. If you check out the Amazon.com information for this book it shows 544 pages, the Goodreads info shows 400. I can tell you it definitely feels more like the 544. And it started off so well with Richard K Morgan getting the noir element just perfectly blended with the science fiction. I was fully on board with Hakan Veil and his backstory of the four months of the year cryo sleep, coming out of the coma on "hot" ready to shred and destroy pretty much anything that got in his way. This seemed like it was going to be my kind of dark hero with the Mars background and culture just adding to the good stuff. Then I began to notice my reading was slowing down and slowing down and then just not getting anywhere at all. Okay, I persevered and read about almost every kind of political and criminal backstabbing plot you could think of. I grew weary! I got bored! I wanted so much to like this a whole lot, but just couldn't make it happen. I think if about half of this book's plot had been saved for another book it would have been fine. As it was, there was just too much and too many. There is profanity coming from every character but I can understand the need for that - all of these characters were dark, dirty, or damaged. However, what I hadn't bargained for were the explicit sex scenes. Yikes, that's not what I want to read in my science fiction novels. I've got an imagination, otherwise I wouldn't be reading science fiction; I can imagine those scenes for myself. And don't think it was there to emphasize the relationship between the two characters, that had been done very well before the sex scenes. All in all, I wanted to like the book much more than I did.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Contrarius

    This guy sure can sling words around. He uses an impressive, brutal, noirish style here that leaves no room for boredom. OTOH, sometimes he seems more thrilled with the style than the substance, which occasionally distracts from the story. Over all I enjoyed the book, and I liked this character conceit (a bio-engineered "Overrider" who is designed to be sleepless for eight months out of every twelve and comatose for the remaining four; he is designed to be a failsafe on long-haul ships, awakened This guy sure can sling words around. He uses an impressive, brutal, noirish style here that leaves no room for boredom. OTOH, sometimes he seems more thrilled with the style than the substance, which occasionally distracts from the story. Over all I enjoyed the book, and I liked this character conceit (a bio-engineered "Overrider" who is designed to be sleepless for eight months out of every twelve and comatose for the remaining four; he is designed to be a failsafe on long-haul ships, awakened from cryosleep only in dire circumstances; "don't wake the overrider" is a common quip in the general vein of "beware of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup") much better than the upload-your-mind-into-another-body theme of the Altered Carbon books, though one could easily find problems with the idea if one wished to look for them. There was tons of bloody action and cynical "yeah, everything is going to hell no matter what you do" attitude, and despite being supposedly washed up and past his prime, of course our Overrider MC manages to upend everyone's plans and survive everyone's many attempts to kill him -- how not? The worldbuilding included lots of (to me) interesting ideas about how to have human civilization on the surface of Mars without constant spacesuits or domed cities or depending on tunnels -- I have no idea how realistic this setup would be, but for me it was both startling and intriguing. The narrator, Colin Mace, was new to me, but he did a fine job. Occasionally I thought his character voices weren't distinct enough, but he had excellent delivery and accents. No serious complaints from me, and I'd be happy to listen to him doing other books.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Karen’s Library

    I watched Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon on Netflix when it first came out and was so enthralled with the sci-fi, tech, and premise, that I watched all 10 episodes in a weekend and then bought the book to read. That was my first Richard K. Morgan book and I really enjoyed it. When the chance came to read a new sci-fi book of his that was set on Mars, I jumped at the opportunity as I love everything Mars. Hak is an overrider exiled to Mars. He’s been bred as an elite soldier/warrior and has en I watched Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon on Netflix when it first came out and was so enthralled with the sci-fi, tech, and premise, that I watched all 10 episodes in a weekend and then bought the book to read. That was my first Richard K. Morgan book and I really enjoyed it. When the chance came to read a new sci-fi book of his that was set on Mars, I jumped at the opportunity as I love everything Mars. Hak is an overrider exiled to Mars. He’s been bred as an elite soldier/warrior and has enhancements to make him the best. He ends up assigned as a bodyguard/babysitter to an Earth woman sent to Mars to do an audit and she’s kidnapped a few days later. Of course Hak does whatever is needed to find her. He is promised a ride back to Earth if he saves her so he’ll stop at nothing. Although there were definitely aspects of Thin Air that I enjoyed, like the sci-fi tech and the gritty world-building, I did have a tough time getting through this book. The slang was hard to figure out, and the story started out pretty slow. I kept at it though, expecting it to make sense eventually, and it paid off. Everything came together. This wasn’t my favorite book ever, but it was definitely a decent action packed sci-fi once it got going. None of the characters were particularly likeable throughout although Hak did finally grow on me towards the end. *Thanks to NetGalley and Del Rey Books for the advance copy!*

  18. 4 out of 5

    Steven Shaviro

    Richard K Morgan has long been one of my favorite science fiction writers. This book marks his return to science fiction after writing a fantasy trilogy. That trilogy was pretty good, but I found it intrinsically less interesting than his science fiction work, so this new novel is a welcome return to form. Thin Air takes place in the same universe as Morgan’s last SF novel, THIRTEEN (US title; it was originally called BLACK MAN in the UK), but it is not a sequel; the two books are entirely indep Richard K Morgan has long been one of my favorite science fiction writers. This book marks his return to science fiction after writing a fantasy trilogy. That trilogy was pretty good, but I found it intrinsically less interesting than his science fiction work, so this new novel is a welcome return to form. Thin Air takes place in the same universe as Morgan’s last SF novel, THIRTEEN (US title; it was originally called BLACK MAN in the UK), but it is not a sequel; the two books are entirely independent from one another. Morgan pulls off a difficult feat in all his texts: he gives us a central character who is essentially an ultra-macho superman (due, in the sf novels, to different varieties of technological body enhancement, as well as character), yet combines this with a degree of sensitivity to social and political concerns that one would not usually expect in this subgenre. For instance, Veil, the narrator and protagonist here, is emphatically not in the least misogynistic, even though this usually comes with the territory of ultra-violence and frequent sexual opportunities. The women he meets have agency, and sometimes the sex is... just bad. All of Morgan’s sf novels have interesting takes on the way neoliberal economics and governance work, extrapolated into various futures. Here Morgan again pulls off an impressive and difficult feat: he is sufficiently clear-eyed not to gild the lilly to the slightest extent, but instead to present financial domination and corporate/governmental impositions without even the slightest hint of redemptiveness; he wants to give us neoliberal capitalism in its full feral horror, even to rub our noses in it. There is nothing in this world besides rich people, and the corporations and governments they control, willing to go to any degree of destruction, torture, murder, and oppression in order to augment their profits. There is no line between criminal corruption, grand political manipulation, and totalitarian control; they are all the same thing. Yet at the same time, he resists the all too common temptation whereby this would slide into total cynicism. Morgan suggests that the worst speculations of Machiavelli and Hobbes are correct in how they view politics; and yet he maintains a sense of outrage about it all. His protagonists enjoy perpetrating violence, and their skills are largely for sale to the highest bidder; they don’t really have the stubborn integrity of those hardboiled noir detectives in novels and movies of the mid 20th century; and yet they aren’t simply amoral monsters, but suggest that there is at least a slim hope of getting beyond the atmosphere of atrocities that they inhabit (and do their bit to perpetrate). In Thin Air, Veil doesn’t really have a conscience, and yet he remains convinced (even if he himself doesn’t quite understand why or how) that something better than given social world is still possible. I am being vague here to avoid spoilers; this pattern is one that we see in all of Morgan’s science fiction in different ways. I am not sure Thin Air is quite as good either as the Takeshi Kovacs trilogy (with its surprising meditations on the slim but not entirely in existent possibilities of socialist revolution in this neoliberal capitalist hell, or as Thirteen, with its fascinating meditation on the powers and limitations of genetic engineering as a technology of capitalist control; but it is still a powerful book because of the way it posits the worst, almost revels in it, and yet allows us to think about the possibilities of things being otherwise than the way the text depicts them... which I take to be Morgan’s overall accomplishment as an SF novelist. It may sound as if I am describing Thin Air as a cyberpunk novel, but it's not. Cyberpunk is long dead and gone, and this is what comes after: the deglamorized residue. Most specifically, Thin Air is about neocolonialism under neoliberal conditions, or about what has been called Combined and Uneven Development . It takes place on Mars, in the aftermath of the Earth attempt to populate a new world. Things are grim and rundown; despite over 200 (Earth) years of colonization, Mars is still a crappy place to live, though there is a lot of money to be made from exploiting it. Of course, this rundown state, with the project of terraforming having been abandoned, rather than a glorious new settlement, is what we can actually expect if Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos ever should succeed in their projects for colonizing Mars. Capitalist cosmopolitanism always requires backwaters. Capitalism always needs to underdevelop the very places it milks or exploits for profit, and the people there are just collateral damage (if they aren't among the very few who are joined with the corporations back in the center - Earth in this case - in skimming off the surplus). Veil, the protagonist of Thin Air, is a former corporate goon who now sells his labor (and the corporate implants for killing and surviving that the corporation didn't manage to deprive him of when they got rid of him) as a mercenary to the highest bidder. It's the only work he can get on Mars, and he doesn't have the money to get back home to Earth. Under such circumstances, everything is a set-up of which we are right to be suspicious - every bit as suspicious as Veil himself is. The novel succeeds because it already anticipates, pre-empts, and discounts in advance whatever we might be tempted to think about it. The novel shows us that everything is in fact even worse than we were prepared to think; and in continually outrunning us in this way, it also earns the barest whiff of the possibility of an at least slightly less awful world with which it entices us, but withdraws from whenever we get too close.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Adam Whitehead

    Bradbury City, Mars. Hak Veil used to pilot ships through the blackness between worlds, acting as a highly-trained combat operative. After a few things went wrong, he's wound up abandoned on the Red Planet, trying to find a way of getting back to Earth. His unique abilities allow him to find work in the most unlikely of places and his new job is a doozy: playing bodyguard to a pen-pusher, one of a team sent to audit the colony's finances on behalf of the colonial authorities. But things soon sta Bradbury City, Mars. Hak Veil used to pilot ships through the blackness between worlds, acting as a highly-trained combat operative. After a few things went wrong, he's wound up abandoned on the Red Planet, trying to find a way of getting back to Earth. His unique abilities allow him to find work in the most unlikely of places and his new job is a doozy: playing bodyguard to a pen-pusher, one of a team sent to audit the colony's finances on behalf of the colonial authorities. But things soon start going south and Veil finds himself on the line, with the promise of a ticket home being the only thing keeping him going... Rewind a decade or so and Richard Morgan was one of the hottest new voices in science fiction. His Takeshi Kovacs trilogy (now a Netflix TV show under the title Altered Carbon) was a vital, angry work of cyberpunk meshed with hard-edged, military SF. Market Forces was a corporate thriller with an SF angle and the even angrier, dirtier Black Man (Thirteen in the US) was a gripping and increasingly prescient story of nations collapsing amidst a tidal wave of rising social discontent. Morgan then took a hard-right turn into the grimmest end of the fantasy genre (albeit SF-tinged) with his Land Fit For Heroes trilogy (The Steel Remains, The Cold Commands, The Dark Defiles), an accomplished work but one where, it turns out, his sensibility was perhaps a little too familiar, with writers like Joe Abercrombie and Mark Lawrence achieving greater success in that end of the market. Morgan's voice and sensibility felt a little redundant in that field at that time, despite his obvious writing chops. Morgan is now back in the field of science fiction and it feels like the return of one of SF's prodigal sons. SF is ready for a new, scintillating book that tears the genre a new one and does fresh, exciting things. Thin Air is not that book. That is not to say that Thin Air is a bad novel, as Morgan's skill with prose, with ideas and with violent action remain undimmed. It is, however, a novel that is not so much in his comfort zone as it is one clad in a Richard Morgan dressing gown and slippers. We once again have an ultra-competent, alpha-male protagonist with near-superhuman technological abilities whom everyone underestimates repeatedly, whom women want to have sex with and men want to have a beer with, who is constantly living on the edge of either death or bankruptcy (despite his clear and unique skillset), who gets in over his head but comes out on top through his superior skills and intelligence and ability to murder literally everyone in a room in seconds. When Morgan did that with Takeshi Kovacs, it was fresh and exciting. When he did that with Carl Marsalis, the racial angle added something fascinating to the mix. When he did that with Ringil, the fact he was an angry and unapologetically gay man made that work. With Hak Veil, it's starting to feel a bit less fresh and a bit more like a retread. It doesn't help that there isn't really a great hook in the story. Mars is being audited and some people are unhappy with that and that's really kind of it. The Martian angle is also not tremendously distinctive either, the odd mention of the weaker gravity and the tall walls of Mariner Valley aside, the book could be taking place in pretty much any SF metropolis on or off Earth. Kim Stanley Robinson's position as the author who has brought Mars vividly to life as its own place better than any other remains unchallenged. Also, most of the characters are distinctly unlikable and the plot makes frequent pit stops for increasingly non-sequitur random sex scenes (rather more than in most of Morgan's prior novels, in fact, including the distinctly late-Heinleinian use of the phrase "pneumatic breasts"). On the plus side, Morgan's writing crackles with kinetic energy and no-one does a brutal turn of phrase better than him. If this novel is Morgan-by-the-numbers, it at least brings the author's talents as well as his weaknesses. There's some pretty good action set pieces, Veil putting together the clues to the mystery is fun (even if, as with his previous novels, there's zero chance of the reader solving the mystery themselves) and there's a wry sense of humour that occasionally surfaces. Whilst virtually all of the characters are unlikable, they're also mostly at least interesting and well-drawn (the major exception being Veil's stripper neighbour whom he also has a no-strings relationship with) and the novel's finale features an appropriate amount of clever plotting and visceral carnage that makes for an explosive ending to the story, even if the stakes never feel hugely engaging prior to that. Thin Air (***) is a fairly solid Richard Morgan novel. It's far from his best, but certainly readable and it's nice to see him back in the science fiction thriller genre. But it feels like he's capable of far more. Readable, engaging but ultimately perhaps a little too ordinary a novel for an author who should never be ordinary.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Luke Burrage

    Full review on my podcast, SFBRP episode #388: "Luke talks to Juliane about Thin Air by Richard K Morgan and how it differs from Altered Carbon." http://www.sfbrp.com/archives/1530 (3.5 stars)

  21. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    OK action and world-building but not as good in terms of characters or ideas as Morgan's previous Altered Carbon series of books, while being very close to those.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Aristotle

    The lawless wild west on Mars. Well this should be interesting It wasn't. I threw in the towel at 40%. It just wasn't a good story and the telling of it wasn't good either. Mars is being audited by Accountants/IRS agents sent from Earth and some people are unhappy with that. An investigation into widespread corruption on Mars. Am i missing something here? Did you say audit? Part of the problem with this book is the main character. Hakan Veil is just not interesting. I was looking for someone like Han The lawless wild west on Mars. Well this should be interesting It wasn't. I threw in the towel at 40%. It just wasn't a good story and the telling of it wasn't good either. Mars is being audited by Accountants/IRS agents sent from Earth and some people are unhappy with that. An investigation into widespread corruption on Mars. Am i missing something here? Did you say audit? Part of the problem with this book is the main character. Hakan Veil is just not interesting. I was looking for someone like Han Solo or Captain Malcolm 'Mal' Reynolds from 'Firefly'. Hakan has no personality, no charisma, no soul, no friends. Where was his Chewbacca, Spock, hell i would have settled for Barf from 'Spaceballs'. Another big problem was the telling of the story. Richard Morgan dropped us in the middle of the story. I struggled from chapter one to get comfortable with what he was talking about. I felt like i was in the dark for most of the time. Even as the book went on, the writing continued to be a struggle for me. This ended up a DNF. Maybe i will pick it up at a later time.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Will

    Okay, so first of all, I won an ARC of this and that's why I have it. Second, well... It wasn't great. Not even really all that good. Thin Air has its moments, but uh. Not enough of them. Few and far between. As usual, Morgan tosses the reader in blind and lets them catch up. The 'lingo, the terms, the plot; pretty much figure it out yourself. It worked in Altered Carbon, and to a lesser extent in Thirt3en. It doesn't work in Thin Air. Not enough is explained, well, ever. Some things are, but most Okay, so first of all, I won an ARC of this and that's why I have it. Second, well... It wasn't great. Not even really all that good. Thin Air has its moments, but uh. Not enough of them. Few and far between. As usual, Morgan tosses the reader in blind and lets them catch up. The 'lingo, the terms, the plot; pretty much figure it out yourself. It worked in Altered Carbon, and to a lesser extent in Thirt3en. It doesn't work in Thin Air. Not enough is explained, well, ever. Some things are, but mostly after I'd already worked them out. It was really hard to get into the story when you weren't sure what exactly was going on. And meanwhile the story... well, it started slow. "It all started with an audit", is not exactly a phrase I'd use to begin a techno-thriller. So, points for originality. Sadly, no points for execution. The audit remains the focus for waaaay too long. And the plot twists, when they come, are too condensed to keep the story moving smoothly. I'll sit on the rating for a little, as mostly right now I'm just disappointed by Thin Air. It took too long for me to read, too much effort, too little excitement, too little fun. And I didn't even have to pay for the bloody thing. Full-er review to come. Probably. At the moment... 2/5 stars. I wouldn't recommend it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    This was a particularly dense read given the rich imaginary vernacular that Morgan has imagined for Mars. Despite the sci-fi trappings this is a hardcore noir novel through and through. Mystiers, secrets, beerayal and hard action abound.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Morgan’s writing opens with a shotgun blast of Mars-speak. The slang, the technology, the background of the politics on the Red Planet… it can be dense and overwhelming, but I say stick with it. The most important info will come back around. I do have to say that there may have been one too many side missions in this one, a puzzle wrapped in a… but the ending is one of the best I’ve read in awhile. A complex wallop… it’s the big finale at the end of the fireworks show. Thin Air is a vastly reward Morgan’s writing opens with a shotgun blast of Mars-speak. The slang, the technology, the background of the politics on the Red Planet… it can be dense and overwhelming, but I say stick with it. The most important info will come back around. I do have to say that there may have been one too many side missions in this one, a puzzle wrapped in a… but the ending is one of the best I’ve read in awhile. A complex wallop… it’s the big finale at the end of the fireworks show. Thin Air is a vastly rewarding read. Not easy to work out, but satisfying and fun. A sparky array of gangs and bureaucrats… all the nefarious peoples of the galaxy. For my full review: https://paulspicks.blog/2018/09/30/th... For all my reviews: https://paulspicks.blog

  26. 4 out of 5

    Koeur

    Publishing Date: October 2018 Publisher: Del Rey ISBN: 9780345493125 Genre: SciFi Rating: 4.8/5 Publisher’s Description: On a Mars where ruthless corporate interests violently collide with a homegrown independence movement as Earth-based overlords battle for profits and power, Hakan Veil is an ex–professional enforcer equipped with military-grade body tech that’s made him a human killing machine. But he’s had enough of the turbulent red planet, and all he wants is a ticket back home—which is just wha Publishing Date: October 2018 Publisher: Del Rey ISBN: 9780345493125 Genre: SciFi Rating: 4.8/5 Publisher’s Description: On a Mars where ruthless corporate interests violently collide with a homegrown independence movement as Earth-based overlords battle for profits and power, Hakan Veil is an ex–professional enforcer equipped with military-grade body tech that’s made him a human killing machine. But he’s had enough of the turbulent red planet, and all he wants is a ticket back home—which is just what he’s offered by the Earth Oversight organization, in exchange for being the bodyguard for an EO investigator. It’s a beyond-easy gig for a heavy hitter like Veil . . . until it isn’t. Review: I did not want this novel to end. It is that good. I wanted to savor every page and end it short to make it last. The imagery and poignant delivery transports you to a futuristic detective tale with all the subtle rawness in tow. It is funny, gritty, bloody and lusty seen through the eyes of a man that is aware enough of his actions to feel regret but driven to carry through based on his genetic development. The Meh: Oh my fuk, who thought of that cover art? I think Veil should have been referred to as a “Heeb” rather than a “Hib”. More street worthy for martian slang, methinks. The Good: The world building is spectacular but you would not think so with all the whiney reviews complaining that the author throws you into a world with idioms and techno-terms without explanation. Wah fukin’ wah. Welcome to unbridled old school SciFi you sniveling arse warblers. Dive into a world without explanation and you might find a transport into realities unknown. Indeed, wherever the story line takes you, it is full of expansive and detailed visuals that lends a septic air to the malady inherent in Mars populace. The Better: The story line crackles with taut buttock like energy in the form of base instincts going off like a pyrotechnic orgasm. Yep, there are peeps that thought the book was pornography, and let me tell you it is confined to short stints with some graphic detail. These interactions usually have hilarious interchanges and outcomes. More funny than porno. There are many interests at play from the various groups that plague Mars that the story line becomes more of a mystery in which to discern along with Hakan Veil. The Best: Hakan Veil is a character that I would read over and over without tiring. He is at once complex in thought, and base in action. He feels regret and makes choices devoid of painful outcomes but can carry out brutal retribution if threatened or paid. If he has a job to do, watch out. He embraces the internal solitude reflected in the masses yet shifts to higher ground in order to enact a hidden sense of humanity despite his debased environment. As he rides this line of moral ambiguity you can’t help but love him no matter the choices he makes. Anyhoo, if you like SciFi techno-noir set in a well rendered Martian landscape, get this! Catch all of my book reviews, here.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Alan Taylor

    Thin Air is Richard Morgan’s first SciFi novel in eight years. I have to admit that I was unaware of Morgan until the Netflix adaption of his first, Altered Carbon, but, inspired by that, I then picked up the three books in that series. The latest, although set in a different ‘universe’ shares much with the earlier trilogy. Thin Air is a hard-boiled noir. It may be set on Mars but is as influenced by Chandler, Hammett and MacDonald as it is by Ray Bradbury. The protagonist, Hakan Veil, bio-engin Thin Air is Richard Morgan’s first SciFi novel in eight years. I have to admit that I was unaware of Morgan until the Netflix adaption of his first, Altered Carbon, but, inspired by that, I then picked up the three books in that series. The latest, although set in a different ‘universe’ shares much with the earlier trilogy. Thin Air is a hard-boiled noir. It may be set on Mars but is as influenced by Chandler, Hammett and MacDonald as it is by Ray Bradbury. The protagonist, Hakan Veil, bio-engineered from childhood to be an enhanced corporate soldier, is much more Mike Hammer than Philip Marlowe. Veil is essentially a thug who solves problems with his fists, always aided by a built-in AI. Having been arrested after one such ‘solution’, Veil is blackmailed into acting as bodyguard for a representative of Earth auditors, sent to interrogate the finances of ‘frontier’ businesses. The labyrinthian plot involves political and corporate corruption, organised crime, femme fatales, a missing lottery winner and a lot of violence. I admit I got a little lost at times but The Big Sleep is one of my favourites so not being entirely sure of what is going on is not necessarily a problem. Thin Air is no The Big Sleep but it is a good read. Mars is realistically realised and the mixture of science fiction with frontier town lawlessness is fascinating. On the evidence of Thin Air and the Altered Carbon-series, Richard Morgan is a master of the futuristic, hard-boiled hybrid and I would not be surprised to see Hakan Veil join Takeshi Kovacs on screen.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Chip

    In many ways a (welcome) return to Morgan's breakthrough first novel, Altered Carbon - a page-turning melange of Blade Runner, badassery, and cyberpunk gumshoe. The one part that didn't ring true for me, and why not 4.5 stars, was (view spoiler)[the hookup (actually, repeated hookups) of the protagonist with Madekwe in light of her later revealed true nature. I get that Morgan wanted to make her resulting fate more impactful, and that relationship did serve that purpose ... but I just don't see In many ways a (welcome) return to Morgan's breakthrough first novel, Altered Carbon - a page-turning melange of Blade Runner, badassery, and cyberpunk gumshoe. The one part that didn't ring true for me, and why not 4.5 stars, was (view spoiler)[the hookup (actually, repeated hookups) of the protagonist with Madekwe in light of her later revealed true nature. I get that Morgan wanted to make her resulting fate more impactful, and that relationship did serve that purpose ... but I just don't see how her chilling with Veil the second time around, while the game was meanwhile afoot, made sense from her perspective. (hide spoiler)]

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kend

    Unfortunately, this book was another nonstarter for me. I struggled through Altered Carbon because I wanted to understand the hype and also understand the Netflix show, but there was less reason for me to keep going on this particular book despite it being centered on a subject that's a favorite of mine (near-future Martian politics). I did manage to struggle through the first chapter, but I'll be honest--there wasn't anything happening yet at that point. That's actually a problem for me. I got Unfortunately, this book was another nonstarter for me. I struggled through Altered Carbon because I wanted to understand the hype and also understand the Netflix show, but there was less reason for me to keep going on this particular book despite it being centered on a subject that's a favorite of mine (near-future Martian politics). I did manage to struggle through the first chapter, but I'll be honest--there wasn't anything happening yet at that point. That's actually a problem for me. I got a lot of scene-setting, and a lot of dim-and-grim "the future is Blade Runner" aesthetic--which only really works if you're actually Blade Runner and not the nth knock-off iteration of the neon grungepunk 80s. I don't know who the main character is yet in significance or personality or voice, or why there are a gazillion real-and-fictional opening epigrams hinting at things, or why Mars has turned into a social morass of prostitutes and exploitation. Maybe this first chapter would have been interesting if it weren't so apathetically lazy. I can't really tell you what the whole book is like. I can't even really tell you what the first chapter is like, except that I didn't get anything worthwhile out of it and I have too many good books that I know I'll like waiting for me to agonize over making it through this one. So ... maybe this book transforms miraculously into something transportively good further in? I'll let you, dear readers, decide.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    I'm a big fan of Richard K. Morgan's science fiction. I reread his Takeshi Kovacs trilogy every handful of years, and 'Market Forces' is a dark, nasty thrill ride that I only appreciated more once I took a job in corporate America. So when I learned that he was working on another sci-fi novel after a long break, I was eager to get my hands on a copy. Unfortunately, I'm not sure this is one I'm likely to revisit. Part of the problem is the main character. Hakan Veil is both a "hibernoid" and an "o I'm a big fan of Richard K. Morgan's science fiction. I reread his Takeshi Kovacs trilogy every handful of years, and 'Market Forces' is a dark, nasty thrill ride that I only appreciated more once I took a job in corporate America. So when I learned that he was working on another sci-fi novel after a long break, I was eager to get my hands on a copy. Unfortunately, I'm not sure this is one I'm likely to revisit. Part of the problem is the main character. Hakan Veil is both a "hibernoid" and an "overrider:" in the early phase of the book, these terms are used frequently without being defined, but it is eventually explained the Veil was genetically modified as a young age to be capable of spending extended periods in cryogenic hibernation ("hibernoid") with the purpose of placing him on long-haul spaceships where he can be awoken to retake a ship on which the crew mutinies ("overrider"). As a result of his genetic alternations, Veil spends four months out of every year in hibernation, and when he wakes up, he's amped for extreme aggression and superhuman physical activity. But, if you want someone who can hibernate indefinitely but wake up immediately ready for action, does it necessarily follow that he'd have long periods of required hibernation? The two concepts don't entirely align, and moreover, there doesn't seem to be a really good reason for this aspect of character identity. We never seen Veil being anything other than brutal, so it's not like his condition alters his behavior or personality appreciably. Nor does the need for prolonged sleep meaningfully change his motivations. It's mentioned early on that he needs to earn enough money during his active periods to sustain him during his annual hibernation, but on the time scale of the novel this never feels like a truly motivating factor: there's no sense of a ticking clock, or that Veil is coming up against a hard limit of his own biology. It would have made for an interesting plot device, but as it stands, it doesn't add much except for the opportunity for some confusing terminology. On the topic of unnecessary elements, the secondary characters in this novel all felt half-developed. Veil seems to have a love-hate relationship with all of the women around him, from the angry lady cop to the hooker with a heart of gold to the bitter failed revolutionary to the icy lady gangster. None of them are fully realized, and although they all serve a plot purpose, it feels very repetitive. Morgan HAS written well-defined, interested female characters before, so I don't know what happened here. The rot eats into the plotting, as well. Morgan tends to throw the reader into the story immediately without a lot of handholding or orientation. This makes for a challenging few early chapters, but it's a valid stylistic decision. In this novel, however, major plot evolutions come out of nowhere. On two different occasions Veil double-crosses someone without warning to the reader. In both cases it's more or less justified retrospectively, but the feeling is less that Veil is making decisions motivated by his values and more that he's bouncing around like a ping pong ball. Additionally, Veil's biotechnological enhancements serve as a recurrent deus ex machina--they allow him to bust out of restraints to escape torture, to shrug off shotgun blasts to the spine, and to generally do whatever the plot needs him to do at any given moment. It short circuits the tension of story, and it feels like a really amateurish mistake for the author to make. I didn't hate it--it was interesting enough, and presented some neat concepts, but it wasn't as good as I'd hoped for from the guy who wrote 'Altered Carbon.' Hopefully now that he's knocked the dust off he'll be back in form.

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