The Bellinghman (bellinghman) wrote,
The Bellinghman

#249 Richard Morgan: Black Man

Richard Morgan: Black Man

Paperback: 656 pages
Publisher: Orbit (4 Nov 2004)
ISBN-10: 0575075139
Category(ies): SF

This is an intense piece from a writer who has never held back from strong violence in his work. But while violence and action may be the way the story is written, its theme is that of prejudice, racism, sexism and discrimination in all forms. The protagonist - the Black Man himself - is Carl Marsalis, a bounty hunter employed to hunt down and either bring back, or if necessary kill, errant examples of the variant thirteen - a genetically regressed type of human that has been taken all the way back to the suppose pre-civilisation alpha male hunter type. And of course, who better to hunt them than one of their own. So Marsalis is, himself, a outcast and pariah from a late 21st Century world.

(Yes, this is reminiscent of Blade Runner/Do Androids ... But Morgan is telling a different story with a few of the same elements.)

So, Marsalis is 'black' in the metaphorical sense as well as being black skinned. And he's been tasked with tracking down a replicant thirteen that has escaped from Mars, hidden in a cryo-capsule on an interplanetary transport. But who has woken up too soon, and taken the only route possible for survival: cannibalism of all the others on-board. And who then, once back on Earth, has started on a killing spree in the Rim Union and in Jesusland (yes, the US has fallen apart along the expected lines).

Another major character is Sevgi Ertekin, NYPD. She's one generation away from Turkey, is female and Muslim, and has issues with her parental culture. How Marsalis and Ertekin interact, how prejudices are overcome or not, how some people turn out not quite what they first appear, and how death is faced bravely - these are the elements of the story. That it has a rattling good plot wrapped round this doesn't hurt at all. The book would be a good thriller without the depths beneath it, but with them, it's excellent. Morgan shows how to put across a powerful message in such a way as to strengthen a story, not to weaken it.

Not for the squeamish, but recommended .
Tags: books, reviews

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