Skip to main content

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.

Hardback:  

Kindle:  
Using these links earns us commission at no cost to you

Review by Brian Clegg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The World According to Physics - Jim Al-Khalili *****

There is a temptation on seeing this book to think it's another one of those physics titles that is thin on content, so they put it in an odd format small hardback and hope to win over those who don't usually buy science books. But that couldn't be further from the truth. In Jim Al-Khalili's The World According to Physics, we've got the best beginners' overview of what physics is all about that I've ever had the pleasure to read.

The language is straightforward and approachable. Rather than take the more common historical approach that builds up physics the way it was discovered, Al-Khalili starts with the 'three pillars' of physics: relativity, quantum theory and thermodynamics. In simple language with never an equation nor even a diagram in sight, the book lays out what physics is all about, what it has achieved and what it still needs to do.

That bit about no diagrams is an important indicator of how approachable the text is. Personally, I'm no…

Until the End of Time: Brian Greene ***

Things start well with this latest title from Brian Greene: after a bit of introductory woffle we get into an interesting introduction to entropy. As always with Greene's writing, this is readable, chatty and full of little side facts and stories. Unfortunately, for me, the book then suffers something of an increase in entropy itself as on the whole it then veers more into philosophy and the soft sciences than Greene's usual physics and cosmology.

So, we get chapters on consciousness, language, belief and religion, instinct and creativity, duration and impermanence, the ends of time and, most cringe-making as a title, 'the nobility of being'. Unlike the dazzling scientific presentation I expect, this mostly comes across as fairly shallow amateur philosophising.

Of course it's perfectly possible to write good science books on, say, consciousness or language - but though Greene touches on the science, there far too much that's more hand-waving. And good though he i…

Jim Al-Khalili - Four Way Interview

Jim Al-Khalili hosts The Life Scientific on BBC Radio 4 and has presented numerous BBC television documentaries. He is Professor of Theoretical Physics and Chair in the Public Engagement in Science at the University of Surrey, a New York Times bestselling author, and a fellow of the Royal Society. He is the author of numerous books, including Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed; The House of Wisdom: How Arabic Science Saved Ancient Knowledge and Gave Us the Renaissance; and Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology. The paperback of his novel Sunfall is published in March 2020 by Transworld. His latest book is The World According to Physics.


Why physics?

I fell in love with physics when I was 13 or 14, when I realised not only that I was pretty good at it at school – basically common sense and puzzle solving – but because it was the subject that answered the big questions I had started contemplating, like whether the stars in the night sky went on for ever, what they were ma…