Review: "Woken Furies" by Richard K. Morgan

Woken FuriesWaiting to meet a friend for lunch the other day, I stood outside a restaurant in Manhattan's TriBeCa with my face buried in Woken Furies, the latest book from Richard K. Morgan. The restaurant manager spotted me reading and approached me eagerly: "Is that the new Takeshi Kovacs?" The funny part is, this was the second time I'd been approached by a rabid fan while reading one of Morgan's books.

This is Morgan's third novel featuring Takeshi Kovacs (KOH-vatch), a twenty-fifth-century killer in a future where death is usually only temporary. In this universe, every human is implanted at birth with a so-called "cortical stack" in their spine that records the entirety of their personality. When someone is killed or (rarely) dies a natural death, their stack can easily be installed into a new body, or "sleeve." Death is only temporary—provided you can afford the new sleeve and that your stack doesn't get lost or destroyed in the interim.

There are no hyperdrives or wormholes to make frequent intergalactic travel convenient, so the only practical way to get from one planet to another is via "hypercast"—having your personality digitally broadcast instantaneously between planets. For a centralized government in a universe like this to wield any real power over its various colonies, it would need personalities so deadly and capable that they could be hypercast into any sleeve, under any circumstances, and in small numbers effectively neutralize the existing government. Thus, we have the elite Envoy Corps, a unit of highly trained commandos whose mission it is to be instantly sleeved into any world bucking UN control or flouting interplanetary conventions, like the one against placing the same personality in more than one sleeve at once. The Envoys are feared throughout the galaxy for their brutal effectiveness at regime change. Kovacs was an Envoy before some bad combat experiences drove him to go freelance—which explains both his classic private dick world weariness and his nearly superhuman fighting abilities no matter what body he is inhabiting.

Kovacs's debut in Altered Carbon stuck closely to the tropes of the private detective genre. Morgan obviously modeled Kovacs after your classic private dick, and reviewer comparisons to scifi noir like Blade Runner were inevitable. But in Broken Angels, Morgan loosened his collar a bit, having established his universe and its conventions, and began to let Kovacs breathe as a real character. Woken Furies continues in that direction, delving deeply into the most intriguing aspects of this universe, from religion to politics to love. In this installment, Kovacs is taking bloody revenge for a lost love on Harlan's World when he falls for a tough-as-nails mercenary only to discover that she's been possessed by the personality of a centuries-dead revolutionary who once nearly turned the galaxy upside-down. It's dense stuff, but Morgan writes action and sex terrifically, and there's a good deal of the former, and more than you would expect of the latter, to keep you engaged throughout. I recommend reading the previous two books if possible, but that won't be necessary to appreciate this one. They each stand alone perfectly well.

Woken Furies by Richard K. Morgan
Published by: Ballantine Books/Del Rey (2005)
ISBN: 0345479718
Genre: Military/noir sci fi


  1. RKM is fab, so I appreciate you having had him on, more than once. I am happy to read anything by him, so far. His Black Widow comics are pretty cool, too.

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