Published by Del Rey on October 23, 2018
Genres: Science Fiction
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From the moment Richard K. Morgan’s dazzling debut, Altered Carbon, burst onto the scene, it was clear that a distinctive new voice had arrived to shake up science fiction. His subsequent novels—including the sequels Broken Angels and Woken Furies—confirmed him as a master of hard-boiled futuristic thrillers. Now Morgan returns to the world of SF noir with a riveting tale of crime, corruption, and deadly crisis on a planet teetering close to the edge.
On a Mars where ruthless corporate interests violently collide with a homegrown independence movement as Earth-based overlords battle for profits and power, Hakan Veil is an ex–professional enforcer equipped with military-grade body tech that’s made him a human killing machine. But he’s had enough of the turbulent red planet, and all he wants is a ticket back home—which is just what he’s offered by the Earth Oversight organization, in exchange for being the bodyguard for an EO investigator. It’s a beyond-easy gig for a heavy hitter like Veil . . . until it isn’t.
When Veil’s charge, Madison Madekwe, starts looking into the mysterious disappearance of a lottery winner, she stirs up a hornet’s nest of intrigue and murder. And the deeper Veil is drawn into the dangerous game being played, the more long-buried secrets claw their way to the Martian surface. Now it’s the expert assassin on the wrong end of a lethal weapon—as Veil stands targeted by powerful enemies hellbent on taking him down, by any means necessary.
I tend to say I don’t read a lot of sci-fi. That’s probably not true. This is my 7th sci-fi book this year, which compared to the number of mysteries I’ve read is small but compared to the amount of sci-fi the average person reads is probably a lot. I do think when you’re reviewing genre fiction it does matter how much you read. It affects your expectations, your familiarity with structures, how original the work seems, your enjoyment of the book. I guess that makes me a casual sci-fi reader.
But Thin Air is not solely sci-fi. I’dsay its more noir with a sci-fi backdrop. Veil is our “detective,” an outsider with an attitude who takes the job both because he needs the money and because his honest cop friend wants him to. We’ve got lots of violence and several sex scenes. We’ve got the dark underbelly of the city where everyone lives in shades of grey, where corruption runs rife, and politicians use whoever and whatever to get what they want. We even have a femme fatale, although a bit updated. The women here have agency, are not merely plot devices. There are no good choices here, only doing the best you can based on the information you have. But it all happens on Mars. And the information you have might be provided by your onboard military-grade AI, ‘Ris, who you can dialog with internally and interact with through analytic displays projected onto your retina. And the femme fatale might be running sex chemistry, sending a generalized arousing signature, screwing up any gestalt readings you might get.
Veil starts off the book playing bodyguard to Madison Madekwe, an auditor, part of a team sent from Earth to investigate corruption in the colonial government. She gets kidnapped and there’s an assault on Veil’s home, leaving Veil knowing he needs to a.) find her, and b.) figure out what’s actually being investigated by the auditors and why.
What follows is a lot of sex and violence, but also a nicely complicated plot involving crooked politicians, the military, and loyalty. I will say that there was so much going on all the time and I didn’t really care about any of the characters, that it sometimes drug a bit. It never really engrossed me, although it was enjoyable enough.