22 June, 2009

Review: The Steel Remains, by Richard Morgan

     The Steel Remains (2009) is Richard Morgan's first stab at the fantasy genre, jumping the fence from his dystopian science fiction adrenaline rides. Much like his other work, it is a brutal assault on the senses that will leave you wondering what the hell just happened. 

The Setup

     Nothing fancy here. You get a court advisor, a depressed warrior, and a clan chief whose stories (big surprise) eventually merge. Morgan's science fiction origins come through with the introduction of an alien race (the bad guys) who travel through a determinedly mysterious space time. Skimping a bit on lore and history, The Steel Remains chooses instead to focus on sex and gratuitous violence. For those of you familiar with Morgan's earthy style and action driven plot, you won't be disappointed, but you also won't be surprised.
     To my disappointment, Morgan falls back on a decadent and decidedly unoriginal vision of Islamic culture as the backdrop for the novel. It seems to me too many authors are doing this of late--oh well--sign of the times I guess. For anyone familiar with Jacqueline Carey's highly textured and sensual historical fantasy, Kushiel's Legacy, The Steel Remains will seem like a pale, if more violent imitation. To sum up the action, you get an outcast warrior hero son who is asked by his mother to rescue a distant cousin form the chains of slavery--he obliges--while killing a couple people along the way. Almost forgot, as you can tell form the pic, our antihero also has a really cool sword. 

My Take in Brief

     As you can probably tell form my unenthusiastic summary, this is not one of Morgan's best novels; it is a good stab at his first fantasy book, but definitely not his best work. Some of you no doubt disagree, but that is only because you secretly reread the lengthy scenes of explicit gay sex. To be fair though, there are good parts, and yes, overall the book is worth reading. Morgan also leaves a number of loose threads that will make for some great stitching in the next installment. However, I can't help but think that he has made the switch for the money, fantasy being much more popular than science fiction.
     Let me emphasize, given all the negatives that I have mentioned, that The Steel Remains is still worth reading. My only real issue is that I did not enjoy it nearly as much as his Takeshi Kovacs novels. I have no doubt that this is partly due to my current infatuation with science fiction, but to try and remain objective, this fantasy is generally unimaginative--violence and sex fill the void that creativity has left. Why oh why Mr. Morgan have you abandoned Mr. Kovacs to the barren soil of novels past!? 

Ratings & Links

Amazon: Honestly how cares?
B&N: Yea, won't be using this dude anymore.
My Rating: 3/5

Piqued Your Interest?

     Don't let me have scared you away, you should even go for a signed copy of The Steel Remains. The cover art is pretty sick.


Unknown said...

Wow sick of amazon and b&n already?

ediFanoB said...

This was my first Richard Morgan book.
After reading the book I wrote following note: "First of all it is a fantasy novel and the first volume of the LAND FIT FOR HEROES trilogy.
It is dark, violent, contain sex, use an explicit language, is character driven and has good world building."
It seems I liked the novel more than you.

I'm member of goodreads.
Maybe you are interested in goodreads rating for The Steel Remains
Book data (23rd of June 2009):
all editions = 206 ratings, 3.86 average rating, 63 reviews

Jam Lebrilla said...

lol...a really cool sword. loved that line.