18 May, 2009

Review: Market Forces, R. K. Morgan

      Market Forces (2005) by Richard K. Morgan is a standalone thriller set in the near future, and published by Ballantine Books. If you are familiar with his action packed style, then Market Forces won't disappoint. As a standalone corporate adventure, it marks a definite improvement over both Altered Carbon and Broken Angels.

The Setup

     Think Mad Max minus the post-apocalyptic backdrop, and throw in a little corporate world domination just for kicks. Market Forces showcases the corporate gladiator like you have never seen him before. In a global political reality where "small wars" are harnessed as investments and promotions are earned behind the wheel of supped up cars, the one and only rule of the road is success.
     Meet Chris Faulkner, once part of the seething masses of the impoverished, he has fought tooth and nail to earn his place in Conflict Investment in the corporate world. Now, working for Shorn Enterprises, the most ruthless of them all, he must push the envelope even further to succeed. Corporate rivals, military warlords, and assassination are sown throughout Chris' climb to the top, and once there he has to decide if he wants to keep what's left of his humanity, or take an even bigger share of the profits.

My Take in Brief

     Market Forces is a clean break from the previous Takeshi Kovacs novels and the reader is presented with a much improved style on the part of Mr. Morgan. What felt hard edged and unpolished in Broken Angels is clean and sleek this time around. It is clear to me that his writing has matured, as have his tricks for character development and a plot construction. 
     In Market Forces every character is the embodiment of a contradiction cunningly used to showcase a society that is imprisoned by the excesses of capitalism. The poor are sequestered in the squalor of 'the zones' while the rich lead a life of reckless abandon. Far from dominating though, these political themes discreetly assemble to form a backdrop for a compelling and deeply personal story. Cunning and artful deception on the part of Mr. Morgan leave the reader guessing at every turn, and ultimately propels the protagonist towards a conclusion that is everything but typical. 
     I picked up Market Forces thinking it was another Takeshi Kovacs novel. To my initial disappointment, it was not, but my opinion quickly changed by the end of the first chapter. As tends to happen with most books that I really enjoy, I finished this in under two days and was mightily impressed. The book marks, in my opinion, a great improvement over its predecessors, so if you enjoyed those you are going to love Market Forces. 

  • A future that isn't necessarily so far off the truth.
  • Dynamic and compelling characters.
  • A subtle blend of real politik and actual political theory. 
  • Road-warrior action scenes that put Mad Max to shame. 
  • Mr. Morgan uses the takeaway quite artfully, promising a neat Hollywood ending and instead delivering one of his signature conclusions.
  • Honestly, nothing comes to mind here. Mr. Morgan hit the nail on the head given the limitations of the genre. The SFSite review of Market Forces phrases this a bit differently, so I thought it deserves a mention:
    The book has one serious flaw. The social and economic conditions that Morgan envisions are a result of picking several trends and following them all to their worst-case conclusions. The technique works in that it allows the reader to step inside a world that is demonstrably insane; its inhabitants have lost the ability to discern right from wrong. The few characters who do question the status quo are presented as either ineffectual idealists, arrogant meddlers, or simply disappear by the end of the novel. The playing field is so tilted that Morgan is required to continually increase the levels of tension and violence in order to keep the reader from stopping and seeing the holes in the character's thinking.
Your Take

     Some bloggers and reviews out there are uncomplimentary and I find this difficult to understand. You know what you are getting when you go with Morgan, so don't read it if you don't like his style. Its straightforward, brutal, and feels somewhat like mainlining adrenaline. If that isn't what you are looking for... then don't read it. That said, Market Forces definitely has more depth than its predecessors, and is thus more vulnerable to criticism. 

Ratings and Links

Amazon: 3.25/5
B&N: 3.75/5
My Rating: 4/5

An interview with Richard Morgan at Scifi.com. This covers his previous work and up to Market Forces.
A neat review of Market Forces over at Resolute Reader. 

Piqued Your Interest?

     If you didn't enjoy Altered Carbon or Broken Angels, don't bother. If you did though, I can guarantee that you will really enjoy Market Forces. I am addict at this point. 


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Jam Lebrilla said...

I'm thinking happy thoughts, but dammit, I live half-way across the world.