The second in what might be a series on the exploits of Takeshi Kovacs.
In Altered Carbon ( Mar. 2003), Morgan put his antihero’s antihero on a Chandler-esque mission in a futuristic San Francisco, mopping up with ease all the lowlife scum who got in his way. This time out, Kovacs is back to being what he initially trained to be: a soldier. War has been raging on the planet of Sanction IV, where Kovacs’s mercenary unit, Carrera’s Wedge, is helping the Protectorate crush a nonsensical but nevertheless vicious uprising. Recuperating from his wounds in an orbital hospital—his current body, or “sleeve,” is being fixed, while his consciousness, or “stack,” is downloaded into another sleeve—Kovacs meets Jan Schneider, a pilot with an interesting proposition. Schneider was hauling some archaeologists around a dig for Martian artifacts (such artifacts are discovered quite often, on many planets, apparently, but nobody knows what to make of most of them) when she and her crew came across some sort of hyperspatial gateway that led to a point in space far, far away, where was parked an actual Martian spaceship. But the war got in the way. All that’s needed now is to bust the lead archaeologist out of the internment camp she’s being held in, line up some corporate backer for more manpower, equipment, and financing, stake a claim without being killed, and get filthy rich. It’s not quite so easy in actuality, of course, what with all the corporate espionage going on and a senseless war raging, but Kovacs (a killing machine who’s sick to death of death, though he can’t deny his knack for it) will likely manage. Here, Morgan has nicely expanded the scope of his series, giving a detailed look at the chaotic hodge-podge that interstellar discovery has turned a small section of the galaxy into, along with the Milosevic-like bureaucrats and soldiers jockeying for position in it. Occasionally overdosing on world-weariness, but nevertheless a thrilling cyberpunk actioner.