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Thin Air (SF) - Richard Morgan *****

Just occasionally, you come across a book where the way that the characters speak really gives the feel of being immersed in a particular vision of the future. A Clockwork Orange and Neuromancer spring to mind. And Richard Morgan's Thin Air does exactly the same thing. The setting is a familiar one of a future colony on Mars, struggling with the environment, heavy handed corporations and interference from Earth, where enhanced humans endure the harshness of the frontier life. Yet Morgan manages to bring the whole thing to life and make it feel fresh and effective.

I'm not usually a fan of chunky books, but despite this being a long read, I never felt that it was longer than it should be. Morgan keeps the pressure up, giving us a mix of thriller and detective story, gradually building a picture of the main character Hak Veil and how his enhancements have influenced his life. There's politics, military conspiracy, plenty of dubious cashflows and more, as, with Veil, we eventually get an understanding of just what is going on and why.

Just occasionally the slang and cultural references made things a little difficult to follow. There is one point where we read 
"See, 'Ris put in." I genuinely thought that this was some kind of futuristic slang reference to Rasputin. In fact, an AI character called Osiris (shortened to 'Ris) has just said 'See.' However, with a bit of 'go with the flow' such things quickly became ironed out.

Apart from a couple of arguably gratuitous sex scenes, this is a well-crafted and hugely enjoyable piece of work. It's an easy read, but also engrossing. A heady mix of detective noir with seedy nightclubs, Blade Runner aesthetic and a Martian twist, supported by clever technological concepts. The revelations keep coming right to the end.

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Review by Brian Clegg

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