Sequel to Morgan's well-received dark fantasy, or perhaps far-future science fiction, The Steel Remains (2009), following a string of innovative cyberpunk-style sci-fi novels.
Morgan's world is a dark, dank, dismal place, haunted by ghosts, gods, evil magic, invading lizards and the specters of vanished super-beings, where life for most tends to be nasty, brutish and short. Ringil Eskiath, war hero, tired, middle-aged and gay in a world where homosexuality is anathema, attempts to rescue an escaping young slave, thereby earning the enmity of the outraged slave-trade magnates, who put a large price on his head. Worse, the Salt Lord, one of the gods—the sort you don't want to mess with—seems to be taking an interest. Ringil returns to the city Yhelteth, where his black-skinned friend Archeth, last of the immortal Kiriath race, advises the sadistic Emperor Jhiral. The rest of Archeth's race, volcano-born and with powerful magic or perhaps unimaginably advanced technology, have all gone—somewhere. Archeth has just dispatched Egar the Dragonbane on a secret mission. Meanwhile, an object falls from orbit, to impact in the desert; it turns out to be an irascible and enigmatic Kiriath Helmsman, Anasharal, a sort of organometallic morphing robot with a knack for spinning very bad news into something that sounds enticing. Violent, intense, atmospheric and highly textured, Morgan's narrative slips rapidly and unnervingly from past to present tense, sometimes in the same sentence, while present action whirls into past recollection with scarcely a drawn breath, and the dialogue crackles with expletives. Add in the subtexts within subtexts, religious, political and philosophical, not to mentions bouts of explicit gay sex, and the whole thing becomes addictive, or repulsive, or both, depending on your viewpoint.
A full-immersion experience, uncompromising and bleakly magnificent.