Richard Morgan – Woken Furies

In the third, and probably last, science fiction novel on his main protagonist Takeshi Kovacs, a rogue agent who switches just as easily between government jobs and criminal affairs, we are taken to his planet of origin. Woken Furies (2005) opens in a chaotic way as Richard Morgan drops the reader in the middle of several unclear affairs. It is a subtle drop as much information is presented in a way that seems random and just part of the noise.

It is the start of a story that follows an odd rhythmic flow that changes from intense, almost chaotic scenes, to almost lethargic sequences in which time little seems to happen and we have to wait with the character for the sparks to be ignited. They do provide Morgan ample room to spend some time with the different characters and present this particular future world. Different themes come across these moments and Morgan uses them without them being obvious if I compare this with how he did so in the first two novels.

Nevertheless, it are the action scenes where Morgan shines. They are exciting and very creatively played out. They are never predictable. Unfortunately you never get into a rush, something Morgan only accomplished in the first novel, Altered Carbon. The slower and longer periods in between are not exactly boring, but they do make it easy to put the novel aside for a shorter or longer while. They do not really grab and hold attention. Could they have been skipped or shortened to create a more tigher story? I don’t know. They do have their functionality as they do provide some depth and reflect the periods of waiting or searching the main protagonist is going through. They are never too long as the scenes change frequently enough. I think it is the great contrast with the action scenes that make it feel so different. It could be just a personal experience in which the setup of the story development simply does not fit me that well.

The behavior of the main protagonist has been going steadily downhill throughout the novels. He seems to have reached a kind of low in Woken Furies. His long life is more of a burden than an asset. He is still likable thanks to his rogueish character and bad boy attitude. He does not undergo much change during the course of the story, but his attitude is frequently the center of discussion, which in a way is unusual to find in most stories and thus it is an interesting element.

The plot is not as tight as the first novel, but much better compared to the second. There is much going on, despite the slower sections. It starts chaotic and the reader will have difficulty finding out what is going on. In the middle part the plot shifts. Developments are different and overall more straightforward. The plot holds many layers of complexity that only come to the front in the final part which holds a great number of unsuspected twists. This setup seems a bit reminiscent of the plot structure of Broken Angels, the second novel, although events were far more simpler and straightforward. I cannot say that Morgan has presented the complex layers in gradual and understandable way. He certainly tried to do so but to me much of it felt somewhat convoluted, with many ideas and concepts coming together in a forced way.

While complexity does not turn me off, I can handle quite some and often enjoy it, it can be dangerous as it can sting the author in its integration into a story. Otherwise, complexity can also be part of the story itself, adding much to the atmosphere. The reader does not need to understand everything in his first read. He can enjoy the oddities and the mysteries and discover the hidden clues and insights in later rereads. I am half of an opinion on that part. Perhaps I did not pay sufficient attention to the story and read to easily on certain sections which would have given better support on later developments. So I will leave this point into doubt and let the reader decide for himself.

The science fiction elements are plentiful but foremost functional, although in several cases I had trouble making something out of it that could put it in the realm of possibility. That is always the difficulty with science fiction: the author has to make it believable to the reader. Morgan did not always succeed there.

Woken Furies holds much to enjoy and I cannot say I irritated myself on anything. The slower sections were maybe a nuisance because I wanted more of the action scenes and a faster pace. That did not mean they were bad or poorly written. They had their function and in their way added much to the story. Overall the story is solid with plenty of details to explore and they were never too much. The atmosphere is dark and gloomy, but the approach of the characters is realistic and grounded. It is easy to connect with them.

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