the third novel in Richard K. Morgan’s takeshi kovacs trilogy did not disappoint. kovacs (aka micky serendipity in this installment) is back in true form: ruthless, disaffected, unhappy, and yet strangely sympathetic.
spoilers to follow….i mean it.
kovacs is back on his home planet (Harlan’s World), and man is he pissed. i mean, really pissed. a very specific group of individuals has raised his ire this time; it’s not just his normal "kill anyone who looks at me sideways" sort of rage. this time, it’s really personal. it takes awhile before we find out who, exactly, he is butchering ruthlessly and why. as it turns out, all of the high-level functionaries in a particular religion on Harlan’s World are destined to reach the promised land a little sooner than expected…
this is just backdrop for a broader story arc where a fugitive Kovacs becomes involved with a group of mercenaries, one of whom (Sylvie) turns out to be carrying the soul of long-dead revolutionary leader Quellcrist Falconer inside her head. or not. it could just be a glitch in the matrix, a partial personality construct that got uploaded into some sophisticated mindware used by Sylvie and others like her for hardcore military command-and-control missions. whether or not it’s the real Quellcrist is immaterial; her potential power as a symbol to reignite revolution on Harlan’s World is enough to get everyone excited, despots and revolutionaries alike.
the leaders of Harlan’s World decide that Sylvie needs to be procured to prevent revolution and its discontents. they learn that Kovacs is a part of the group running with her, and so decide to do something quite ingenious: they reincarnate a younger version of Kovacs to hunt him down and bring Sylvie to them. you see, it turns out that prior to the first book in the Kovacs series (see my previous entry on Altered Carbon), Harlan’s leaders had managed to create an illegal copy of Kovacs and keep it on digital ice, just waiting for the day when a young, ruthless Envoy would come in handy. and what better occasion than the need to hunt down an older version of that same Envoy?
morgan explores at least three separate themes in Woken Furies: revolution, the role of religion in society, and the nature of identity. not your average topics for a sci-fi thriller. the exploration of revolution is interesting, that of religion is intensely biased (negatively, as you might expect), and that of identity the most interesting. it’ all good stuff, but i’ll only touch on the latter.
imagine you were a fugitive, and you were being hunted by a younger copy of yourself. can you outsmart yourself? are age and experience enough to outwit the same intellect? and what of the encounter between the two copies of you? the young copy looks at the old and judges: is that who i thought i would be? the older version looks at the youth through the distorting lens of memory; would he look with fondness or disdain? how do we reconcile our visions of ourselves, both looking forward and looking back? i thought morgan did a good job of exploring this conundrum, and the way our visions of our own futures often don’t match the reality.
in summary, another great book by a gifted writer. it’s thrilling, well-written science fiction with some sophisticated ideas. highly recommended.
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