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A Takeshi Kovacs Novel

Written by Richard K. MorganAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Richard K. Morgan


List Price: $11.99


On Sale: September 27, 2005
Pages: 0 | ISBN: 978-0-345-48612-7
Published by : Del Rey Ballantine Group
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Richard K. Morgan has received widespread praise for his astounding twenty-fifth-century novels featuring Takeshi Kovacs, and has established a growing legion of fans. Mixing classic noir sensibilities with a searing futuristic vision of an age when death is nearly meaningless, Morgan returns to his saga of betrayal, mystery, and revenge, as Takeshi Kovacs, in one fatal moment, joins forces with a mysterious woman who may have the power to shatter Harlan’s World forever.

Once a gang member, then a marine, then a galaxy-hopping Envoy trained to wreak slaughter and suppression across the stars, a bleeding, wounded Kovacs was chilling out in a New Hokkaido bar when some so-called holy men descended on a slim beauty with tangled, hyperwired hair. An act of quixotic chivalry later and Kovacs was in deep: mixed up with a woman with two names, many powers, and one explosive history.

In a world where the real and virtual are one and the same and the dead can come back to life, the damsel in distress may be none other than the infamous Quellcrist Falconer, the vaporized symbol of a freedom now gone from Harlan’s World. Kovacs can deal with the madness of AI. He can do his part in a battle against biomachines gone wild, search for a three-centuries-old missing weapons system, and live with a blood feud with the yakuza, and even with the betrayal of people he once trusted. But when his relationship with “the” Falconer brings him an enemy specially designed to destroy him, he knows it’s time to be afraid.

After all, the guy sent to kill him is himself: but younger, stronger, and straight out of hell.

Wild, provocative, and riveting, Woken Furies is a full-bore science fiction spectacular of the highest order–from one of the most original and spellbinding storytellers at work today.

From the Hardcover edition.


Damage. The wound stung like fuck, but it wasn’t as bad as some I’d had. The blaster bolt came in blind across my ribs, already weakened by the door plating it had to chew through to get to me. Priests, up against the slammed door and looking for a quick gut shot. Fucking amateur night. They’d probably caught almost as much pain themselves from the point-blank blowback off the plating. Behind the door, I was already twisting aside. What was left of the charge plowed a long, shallow gash across my rib cage and went out, smoldering in the folds of my coat. Sudden ice down that side of my body and the abrupt stench of fried skin-sensor components. That curious bone-splinter fizzing that’s almost a taste, where the bolt had ripped through the biolube casing on the floating ribs.

Eighteen minutes later, by the softly glowing display chipped into my upper left field of vision, the same fizzing was still with me as I hurried down the lamplit street, trying to ignore the wound. Stealthy seep of fluids beneath my coat. Not much blood. Sleeving synthetic has its advantages.

“Looking for a good time, sam?”

“Already had one,” I told him, veering away from the doorway. He blinked wave-tattooed eyelids in a dismissive flutter that said your loss and leaned his tightly muscled frame languidly back into the gloom. I crossed the street and took the corner, tacking between a couple more whores, one a woman, the other of indeterminate gender. The woman was an augment, forked dragon tongue flickering out around her overly prehensile lips, maybe tasting my wound on the night air. Her eyes danced a similar passage over me, then slid away. On the other side, the cross-gender pro shifted its stance slightly and gave me a quizzical look but said nothing. Neither was interested. The streets were rain-slick and deserted, and they’d had longer to see me coming than the doorway operator. I’d cleaned up since leaving the citadel, but something about me must have telegraphed the lack of business opportunity.

At my back, I heard them talking about me in Stripjap. I heard the word for broke.

They could afford to be choosy. In the wake of the Mecsek Initiative, business was booming. Tekitomura was packed that winter, thronging with salvage brokers and the deCom crews that drew them the way a trawler wake draws ripwings. Making New Hok Safe for a New Century, the ads went. From the newly built hoverloader dock down at the Kompcho end of town it was less than a thousand kilometers, straight-line distance, to the shores of New Hokkaido, and the ’loaders were running day and night. Outside of an airdrop, there is no faster way to get across the Andrassy Sea. And on Harlan’s World, you don’t go up in the air if you can possibly avoid it. Any crew toting heavy equipment—and they all were—was going to New Hok on a hoverloader out of Tekitomura. Those that lived would be coming back the same way.

Boomtown. Bright new hope and brawling enthusiasm as the Mecsek money poured in. I limped down thoroughfares littered with the detritus of spent human merriment. In my pocket, the freshly excised cortical stacks clicked together like dice.

There was a fight going on at the intersection of Pencheva Street and Muko Prospect. The pipe houses on Muko had just turned out and their synapse-fried patrons had met late-shift dockworkers coming up through the decayed quiet of the warehouse quarter. More than enough reason for violence. Now a dozen badly coordinated figures stumbled back and forth in the street, flailing and clawing inexpertly at each other while a gathered crowd shouted encouragement. One body already lay inert on the fused-glass paving, and someone else was dragging their body, a limb’s length at a time, out of the fray, bleeding. Blue sparks shorted off a set of overcharged power knuckles; elsewhere light glimmered on a blade. But everyone still standing seemed to be having a good time, and there were no police as yet.

Yeah, part of me jeered. Probably all too busy up the hill right now.

I skirted the action as best I could, shielding my injured side. Beneath the coat, my hands closed on the smooth curve of the last hallucinogen grenade and the slightly sticky hilt of the Tebbit knife.

Never get into a fight if you can kill quickly and be gone.

Virginia Vidaura—Envoy Corps trainer, later career criminal and sometime political activist. Something of a role model for me, though it was several decades since I’d last seen her. On a dozen different worlds, she crept into my mind unbidden, and I owed that ghost in my head my own life a dozen times over. This time I didn’t need her or the knife. I got past the fight without eye contact, made the corner of Pencheva, and melted into the shadows that lay across the alley mouths on the seaward side of the street. The timechip in my eye said I was late.

Pick it up, Kovacs. According to my contact in Millsport, Plex wasn’t all that reliable at the best of times, and I hadn’t paid him enough to wait long.

Five hundred meters down and then left into the tight fractal whorls of Belacotton Kohei Section, named centuries ago for the habitual content and the original owner-operator family whose warehouse frontages walled the curving maze of alleys. With the Unsettlement and the subsequent loss of New Hokkaido as any kind of market, the local belaweed trade pretty much collapsed and families like Kohei went rapidly bankrupt. Now the grime-filmed upper-level windows of their façades peered sadly across at each other over gape-mouthed loading bay entrances whose shutters were all jammed somewhere uncommitted between open and closed.

There was talk of regeneration, of course, of reopening units like these and retooling them as deCom labs, training centers, and hardware storage facilities. Mostly, it was still just talk—the enthusiasm had kindled on the wharf-line units facing the hoverloader ramps farther west, but so far it hadn’t spread farther in any direction than you could trust a wirehead with your phone. This far off the wharf and this far east, the chitter of Mecsek finance was still pretty inaudible.

The joys of trickledown.

Belacotton Kohei Nine Point Twenty-six showed a faint glow in one upper window, and the long restless tongues of shadows in the light that seeped from under the half-cranked loading bay shutter gave the building the look of a one-eyed, drooling maniac. I slid to the wall and dialed up the synthetic sleeve’s auditory circuits for what they were worth, which wasn’t much. Voices leaked out into the street, fitful as the shadows at my feet.

“—telling you, I’m not going to hang around for that.”

It was a Millsport accent, the drawling metropolitan twang of Harlan’s World Amanglic dragged up to an irritated jag. Plex’s voice, muttering below sense-making range, made soft provincial counterpoint. He seemed to be asking a question.

“How the fuck would I know that? Believe what you want.” Plex’s companion was moving about, handling things. His voice faded back in the echoes of the loading bay. I caught the words kaikyo, matter, a chopped laugh. Then again, coming closer to the shutter, “—matters is what the family believes, and they’ll believe what the technology tells them. Technology leaves a trail, my friend.” A sharp coughing and indrawn breath that sounded like recreational chemicals going down. “This guy is fucking late.”

I frowned. Kaikyo has a lot of meanings, but they all depend on how old you are. Geographically, it’s a strait or a channel. That’s early-Settlement-years use, or just hypereducated, kanji-scribbling, First Families pretension. This guy didn’t sound First Family, but there was no reason he couldn’t have been around back when Konrad Harlan and his well-connected pals were turning Glimmer VI into their own personal backyard. Plenty of DH personalities still on stack from that far back, just waiting to be downloaded into a working sleeve. Come to that, you wouldn’t need to resleeve more than half a dozen times, end-to-end, to live through the whole of Harlan’s World’s human history anyway. It’s still not much over four centuries, Earth-standard, since the colony barges made planetfall.

Envoy intuition twisted about in my head. It felt wrong. I’d met men and women with centuries of continuous life behind them, and they didn’t talk like this guy. This wasn’t the wisdom of ages, drawling out into the Tekitomura night over pipe fumes.

On the street, scavenged into the argot of Stripjap a couple of hundred years later, kaikyo means a contact who can shift stolen goods. A covert flow manager. In some parts of the Millsport Archipelago, it’s still common usage. Elsewhere, the meaning is shifting to describe aboveboard financial consultants.

Yeah, and farther south it means a holy man possessed by spirits, or a sewage outlet. Enough of this detective shit. You heard the man—you’re late.

I got the heel of one hand under the edge of the shutter and hauled upward, locking up the tidal rip of pain from my wound as well as the synthetic sleeve’s nervous system would let me. The shutter ratcheted noisily to the roof. Light fell out into the street and all over me.


“Jesus!” The Millsport accent jerked back a full step. He’d been only a couple of meters away from the shutter when it went up.


“Hello, Plex.” My eyes stayed on the newcomer. “Who’s the tan?”

By then I already knew. Pale, tailored good looks straight out of some low-end experia flick, somewhere between Micky Nozawa and Ryu Bartok. Well-proportioned fighter’s sleeve, bulk in the shoulders and chest, length in the limbs. Stacked hair, the way they’re doing it on the bioware catwalks these days, that upward static-twisted thing that’s meant to look like they just pulled the sleeve out of a clone tank. A suit bagged and draped to suggest hidden weaponry, a stance that said he had none he was ready to use. Combat arts crouch that was more bark than readiness to bite. He still had the discharged micropipe in one curled palm, and his pupils were spiked wide open. Concession to an ancient tradition put illuminum-tattooed curlicues across one corner of his forehead.

Millsport yakuza apprentice. Street thug.

“You don’t call me tani,” he hissed. “You are the outsider here, Kovacs. You are the intruder.”

I left him at the periphery of my vision and looked toward Plex, who was over by the workbenches, fiddling with a knot of webbing straps and trying on a smile that didn’t want to be on his dissipated aristo face.

“Look, Tak—”

“This was strictly a private party, Plex. I didn’t ask you to subcontract the entertainment.”

The yakuza twitched forward, barely restrained. He made a grating noise deep in his throat. Plex looked panicked.

“Wait, I . . .” He put down the webbing with an obvious effort. “Tak, he’s here about something else.”

“He’s here on my time,” I said mildly.

“Listen, Kovacs. You fucking—”

“No.” I looked back at him as I said it, hoping he could read the bright energy in my tone for what it was. “You know who I am, you’ll stay out of my way. I’m here to see Plex, not you. Now get out.”

I don’t know what stopped him, Envoy rep, late-breaking news from the citadel—because they’ll be all over it by now, you made such a fucking mess up there—or just a cooler head than the cheap-suited punk persona suggested. He stood braced in the door of his own rage for a moment, then stood down and displaced it, all poured into a glance at the nails of his right hand and a grin.

“Sure. You just go ahead and transact with Plex here. I’ll wait outside. Shouldn’t take long.”

He even took the first step toward the street. I looked back at Plex.

“What the fuck’s he talking about?”

Plex winced.

“We, uh, we need to reschedule, Tak. We can’t—”

“Oh no.” But looking around the room I could already see the swirled patterns in the dust where someone had been using a grav lifter. “No, no, you told me—”

“I-I know, Tak, but—”

“I paid you.”

“I’ll give you the money—”

“I don’t want the fucking money, Plex.” I stared at him, fighting down the urge to rip his throat out. Without Plex, there was no upload. Without the upload—“I want my fucking body back.”

“It’s cool, it’s cool. You’ll get it back. It’s just right now—”

“It’s just right now, Kovacs, we’re using the facilities.” The yakuza drifted back into my line of sight, still grinning. “Because to tell the truth, they were pretty much ours in the first place. But then Plex here probably didn’t tell you that, did he?”

I shuttled a glance between them. Plex looked embarrassed.

You gotta feel sorry for the guy. Isa, my Millsport contact broker, all of fifteen years old, razored violet hair and brutally obvious archaic datarat plugs, working on world-weary reflective while she laid out the deal and the cost. Look at history, man. It fucked him over but good.

History, it was true, didn’t seem to have done Plex any favors. Born three centuries sooner with the name Kohei, he’d have been a spoiled stupid younger son with no particular need to do more than exercise his obvious intelligence in some gentleman’s pursuit like astrophysics or archaeologue science. As it was, the Kohei family had left its post-Unsettlement generations nothing but the keys to ten streets of empty warehouses and a decayed aristo charm that, in Plex’s own self-deprecating words, made it easier than you’d think to get laid when broke. Pipe-blasted, he told me the whole shabby story on less than three days’ acquaintance. He seemed to need to tell someone, and Envoys are good listeners. You listen, you file under local color, you soak it up. Later, the recalled detail maybe saves your life.

Driven by the terror of a single life span and no resleeve, Plex’s newly impoverished ancestors learned to work for a living, but most of them weren’t very good at it. Debt piled up; the vultures moved in. By the time Plex came along, his family were in so deep with the yakuza that low-grade criminality was just a fact of life. He’d probably grown up around aggressively slouched suits like this one. Probably learned that embarrassed, give-up-the-ground smile at his father’s knee.

The last thing he wanted to do was upset his patrons.

The last thing I wanted to do was ride a hoverloader back to Millsport in this sleeve.

“Plex, I’m booked out of here on the Saffron Queen. That’s four hours away. Going to refund me my ticket?”

“We’ll flicker it, Tak.” His voice was pleading. “There’s another ’loader out to EmPee tomorrow evening. I’ve got stuff, I mean Yukio’s guys—”

“—use my fucking name, man,” yelped the yakuza.

“They can flicker you to the evening ride, no one’s ever going to know.” The pleading gaze turned on Yukio. “Right? You’ll do that, right?”

I added a stare of my own. “Right? Seeing as how you’re fucking up my exit plans currently?”

“You already fucked up your exit, Kovacs.” The yakuza was frowning, head-shaking. Playing at sempai with mannerisms and a clip-on solemnity he’d probably copied directly from his own sempai not too far back in his apprenticeship. “Do you know how much heat you’ve got out there looking for you right now? The cops have put in sniffer squads all over uptown, and my guess is they’ll be all over the ’loader dock inside an hour. The whole TPD is out to play. Not to mention our bearded stormtrooper friends from the citadel. Fuck, man, you think you could have left a little more blood up there.” “I asked you a question. I didn’t ask for a critique. You going to flicker me to the next departure or not?”

“Yeah, yeah.” He waved it away. “Consider it fucking done. What you don’t appreciate, Kovacs, is that some people have got serious business to transact. You come up here and stir up local law enforcement with your mindless violence, they’re liable to get all enthusiastic and go busting people we need.”

“Need for what?”

“None of your fucking business.” The sempai impression skidded off and he was pure Millsport street again. “You just keep your fucking head down for the next five or six hours and try not to kill anyone else.”

“And then what?”

“And then we’ll call you.”

I shook my head. “You’ll have to do better than that.”

“Better than.” His voice climbed. “Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to, Kovacs?”

I measured the distance, the time it would take me to get to him. The pain it would cost. I ladled out the words that would push him. “Who am I talking to? I’m talking to a whiff-wired chimpira, a fucking street punk up here from Millsport and off the leash from his sempai, and it’s getting old, Yukio. Give me your fucking phone—I want to talk to someone with authority.”

The rage detonated. Eyes flaring wide, hand reaching for whatever he had inside the suit jacket. Way too late.

I hit him.

Across the space between us, unfolding attacks from my uninjured side. Sideways into throat and knee. He went down choking. I grabbed an arm, twisted it, and laid the Tebbit knife across his palm, held so he could see.

“That’s a bioware blade,” I told him tightly. “Adoracion Hemorrhagic Fever. I cut you with this and every blood vessel in your body ruptures inside three minutes. Is that what you want?”

He heaved against my grip, whooped after breath. I pressed down with the blade, and saw the panic in his eyes.

“It isn’t a good way to die, Yukio. Phone.”

He pawed at his jacket and the phone tipped out, skittered on the evercrete. I leaned close enough to be sure it wasn’t a weapon, then toed it back toward his free hand. He fumbled it up, breath still coming in hoarse jags through his rapidly bruising throat.

“Good. Now punch up someone who can help, then give it to me.”

He thumbed the display a couple of times and offered the phone to me, face pleading the way Plex’s had a couple of minutes earlier. I fixed him with my eyes for a long moment, trading on the notorious immobility of cheap synth features, then let go of his locked-out arm, took the phone, and stepped back out of reach. He rolled over away from me, still clutching his throat. I put the phone to my ear.

“Who is this?” asked an urbane male voice in Japanese.

“My name is Kovacs.” I followed the language shift automatically. “Your chimpira Yukio and I are having a conflict of interest that I thought you might like to resolve.”

A frigid silence.

“That’s sometime tonight I’d like you to resolve it,” I said gently.

There was a hiss of indrawn breath at the other end of the line. “Kovacssan, you are making a mistake.”


“It would be unwise to involve us in your affairs.”

“I’m not the one doing the involving. Currently I’m standing in a warehouse looking at an empty space where some equipment of mine used to be. I have it on pretty good authority the reason it’s gone is that you took it.”

More silence. Conversations with the yakuza are invariably punctuated with long pauses, during which you’re supposed to reflect and listen carefully to what’s not being said.

I wasn’t in the mood for it. My wound ached.

“I’m told you’ll be finished in about six hours. I can live with that. But I want your word that at the end of that time the equipment will be back here and in working order, ready for me to use. I want your word.”

“Hirayasu Yukio is the person to—”

“Yukio is a chimp. Let us deal honestly with each other in this. Yukio’s only job here is to make sure I don’t slaughter our mutual service provider. Which, incidentally, is something he’s not doing well. I was already short on patience when I arrived, and I don’t expect to replenish my stock anytime soon. I’m not interested in Yukio. I want your word.”

“And if I do not give it?”

“Then a couple of your front offices are going to end up looking like the inside of the citadel tonight. You can have my word on that.”

Quiet. Then: “We do not negotiate with terrorists.”

“Oh please. What are you, making speeches? I thought I was dealing at executive level. Am I going to have to do some damage here?”

Another kind of silence. The voice on the other end of the line seemed to have thought of something else.

“Is Hirayasu Yukio harmed?”

“Not so’s you’d notice.” I looked down coldly at the yakuza. He’d mastered breathing again and was beginning to sit up. Beads of sweat gleamed at the borders of his tattoo. “But all that can change. It’s in your hands.”

“Very well.” Barely a handful of seconds before the response. By yakuza standards, it was unseemly haste. “My name is Tanaseda. You have my word, Kovacs-san, that the equipment you require will be in place and available to you at the time you specify. In addition, you will be paid for your trouble.”

“Thank you. That—”

“I have not finished. You further have my word that if you commit any acts of violence against my personnel, I shall issue a global writ for your capture and subsequent execution. I am talking about a very unpleasant Real Death. Is that understood?”

“It seems fair. But I think you’d better tell the chimp to behave himself. He seems to have delusions of competence.”

“Let me speak to him.”

Yukio Hirayasu was sitting by now, hunched over on the evercrete, wheezing breathily. I hissed at him and tossed him the phone. He caught it awkwardly, one-handed, still massaging his throat with the other.

“Your sempai wants a word.”

He glared up at me out of tear-smeared, hating eyes, but he put the phone to his ear. Compressed Japanese syllables trickled out of it, like someone riffing on a ruptured gas cylinder. He stiffened, and his head lowered. His answers ran bitten off and monosyllabic. The word yes featured a lot. One thing you’ve got to hand to the yakuza—they do discipline in the ranks like no one else.

The one-sided conversation ended and Yukio held the phone out to me, not meeting my eye. I took it.

“This matter is resolved,” said Tanaseda in my ear. “Please arrange to be elsewhere for the remainder of the night. You may return six hours from now when the equipment and your compensation will both be waiting for you. We will not speak again. This. Confusion. Has been most regrettable.”

He didn’t sound that upset.

“You recommend a good place for breakfast?” I asked.

Silence. A polite static backdrop. I weighed the phone in my palm for a moment, then tossed it back to Yukio.

“So.” I looked from the yakuza to Plex and back. “Either of you recommend a good place for breakfast?”

From the Hardcover edition.
Richard K. Morgan|Author Q&A

About Richard K. Morgan

Richard K. Morgan - Woken Furies
Richard K. Morgan is the acclaimed author of Thirteen, which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award, Woken Furies, Market Forces, Broken Angels, and Altered Carbon, a New York Times Notable Book that also won the Philip K. Dick Award. Morgan sold the movie rights for Altered Carbon to Joel Silver and Warner Bros. His third book, Market Forces, has also been sold to Warner Bros. and was winner of the John W. Campbell Award. He lives in Scotland.

Author Q&A

Interview with Richard K. Morgan, author of Woken Furies

Question:Woken Furies is your third novel featuring ex-Envoy Takeshi Kovacs. For readers unfamiliar with the previous books in the series, Altered Carbon and Broken Angels, can you give us brief introduction to Kovacs and his distinctive future? Are the novels stand-alones, or should they be read in order?

Richard Morgan:The three Kovacs books are stand-alones, at least in theory. You should (if I’ve done my job properly!) be able to pick up any of them and read it without reference to the others. Having said that, there are references between the three and they do follow a rough chronological order, so it’s also fair to say that you will get a little more out of each book if you read them in order. Or, another way of looking at it, if you read them out of order, then the back-story references are going to seem that fraction more mysterious and/or intriguing. So there are benefits, however you do it.

As for the salients of Kovacs’s universe — well, they’re not so different to the salients of the world we live in today: unrestrained corporate power, corruption in high places, a radical gap between the haves and the have-nots. Mankind has settled a number of planets at interstellar distances, but all the old political and religious shit is still in place. Advanced data technology has made it possible to store back-up copies of your personality which can be retrieved from a cortical stack in your spine if you die and the stored personality, being digital data, can be uploaded into a machine-generated virtual environment, transmitted over distance like a phone call, or simply put back into a new body — but all this will depend on your wealth and status. If you have those things, or connections to them, you can trade in your body for a new one whenever you feel like it. If you go to jail, you lose your body, get filed away on a shelf and wake up in whatever bag of bones they’ve got to hand for you when you get out. Kovacs once served in this rather nightmarish world as an Envoy — part of an elite corps of political enforcers for the UN Protectorate. Basically, these guys are trained for transmission over interstellar distance, downloading into whatever suitable body is available at the far end and committing whatever murder or mayhem is required to maintain Earth’s grip on the colonies. It’s a very unpleasant job and Kovacs has quit — now he only commits murder and mayhem on his own behalf or for those close personal acquaintances he considers friends. So make friends with him — it’s safer that way.

Q:In Greek mythology, the Furies are goddesses of vengeance, pitiless persecutors of gods or humans who break established laws and cultural norms. Who are the “woken Furies” of this novel, and who are they pursuing? Is Kovacs their agent or their target?

RM:Well, that’s really up to the reader to decide. I’ve always been enamoured of implacability as a theme in my work, and it became quite clear to me early on in the writing of Woken Furies that the book was going to be about revenge and retribution at a variety of levels. But that’s a resonance rather than a specific plot element, and Fury here has all of the several meanings you’ll find in the dictionary. As with Broken Angels, Woken Furies can be taken as a reference to any number of different characters and themes within the book.

Q:Woken Furies is set on Harlan’s World, Kovacs’s home planet. Tell us about this world and its people. Is Kovacs an unusual product of its culture? And finally, is the name a tip of the hat to Harlan Ellison?

RM:Yes, the Harlan issue. In fact, this is rather embarrassing — when I wrote Altered Carbon, I was under the impression that I’d invented the name Harlan’s World. I’d never read anything by Ellison except a battered second hand-copy of Deathbird Stories I bought on holiday in Andalucia once. My closest conscious point of reference was a world in a Bob Shaw novel called Thornton’s Planet, and I was very pleased with myself for extrapolating. Then a friend showed up at a wedding I was attending and told me all about Ellison’s Medea project and the unofficial title his SF writer colleagues gave the world they’d created. Oops. Since then I’ve racked my brains to think where I heard the name, and I think I now have it. I used to subscribe to Omni back in the late seventies, and I think one of the Medea stories was published there — something called, if my memory serves me correctly, Why Dolphins Don’t Bite by Theodore Sturgeon. I remember reading that story back when I was about fourteen or fifteen, and my guess is that Harlan’s World comes up by name there. I must have tucked it away in the deeper recesses of my memory, something about the cadences of how it sounds maybeÉ.

Anyway — Harlan’s World as it exists in the Kovacs novels isn’t, I think, anything like the Medea envisaged by the Ellison group — it’s a smaller planet than Earth, with three moons, and it’s covered largely by water. Most of the available land comes in the form of hard-to-use craggy archipelagoes, in effect drowned mountain ranges, and so real estate is at a premium. Like all the worlds in the Protectorate, it was originally settled by the Martians and then abandoned hundreds of thousands of years ago, so it’s littered with ruins and ringed by a system of still operational Martian orbital platforms. The human settlers who inherited it, Kovacs’s ancestors that is, were a combination of a Japanese ruling class and an Eastern European labor force, though by the time Kovacs comes along, there’s been a lot of interbreeding and he has distinctly mixed ancestry. Kovacs isn’t that unusual in his initial background — he’s pretty much a typical product of slum conditions and low grade criminality on a southern landmass called Kossuth, translated at a young age into the local military. But his time in the Envoy Corps has changed all of that. The Envoy conditioning is so thorough that it’s questionable if what emerges afterwards is a wholly human being in any normal sense of the word.

Q:I was pleasantly surprised to see you mention Kem Nunn’s surf-noir classic, Tapping the Source, in your acknowledgments A number of speculative fiction writers have cited this novel as an influence, even though it’s not speculative fiction itself. Why was it helpful to you, and why do you think it has had an impact within the genre?

RM:I guess the basic reason is that it’s a fine novel, and it gets to the heart of the human concerns we’re all involved in as writers — ecstasy and pain, loss and learning, family, and friendship, life and death. At the time, I was on the look-out for anything specific about surfing, because I knew that a surf community was going to play a part in the story I was telling, and I needed some background. But once I picked up the book, it was the opening lines that grabbed me, and they take place a few hundred klicks inland in the back yard of a gas station. There’s not a wave in sight, but Nunn conveys that first scene so powerfully that you can almost feel the heat and smell the engine oil — at that point I would have bought the book anyway, regardless of subject matter. Later on, though, I got what I was looking for — Nunn cuts right to the heart of the way the sleazy and sublime rub up against each other in surf culture. These were things I’d run into on and off in my travels anyway — I’d met quite a few surfers here and there - but TTS manages to distil the mix down to its salients and express them with a rare, unaffected eloquence that almost aches.

Q:Are you a surfer, or did you become one in the course of writing this book?

RM:No! Those guys are fucking crazy. I’m entirely too fond of living to take the risks inherent in serious surfing. Also, I don’t live even remotely close enough to any water warm enough to practice in.

Q:One reason I asked earlier whether the Kovacs novels should be read in order is that you seem to be methodically unpacking elements of your back-story in each one. The impression is of an evolving tale that transcends the individual books, as threads of your future history come together. In Woken Furies, it’s not only details about Harlan’s World, and Kovacs’s past there, but also the character of the legendary revolutionary Quellcrist Falconer, whose precepts are quoted liberally in the previous books. First of all, are you following a larger pattern or plan in your novels?

RM:Not really. I tend to write as the inspiration takes me, and that’s a close-to-random thing. It depends as much as anything on fragmentary images, little bits of scenes and even the cadences of certain words and phrases. But obviously, when you’re writing about the same character,r you acquire an increasing quantity of detail with each novel, and that can’t help but inform what you do. Woken Furies, I think, is the Kovacs book that’s most about Kovacs, because over the course of the two previous novels I became increasingly fascinated by the question of who exactly he is and where, psychologically, experientially, he’s from.

Q:And that gets us into Falconer and her ideology of Quellism, which have shaped Kovacs almost as much as his Envoy conditioning, or so it often seems. Are they modeled on anyone in particular?

RM:I think Quellism is really the sum total of my own exasperation with both the inherent self-serving corruption of right-wing politics and the back-biting, up-its-own-arse self-absorption of the left. Quell herself is driven by fury at the oppression that’s endemic on Harlan’s World (and which I think most of us would recognize only too well here on 21st century Earth). But at the same time she’s too smart and individualistic to buy into the standard revolutionary rhetoric of her comrades in the struggle. Her political antecedents are anarchist thinkers like Proudhon and Bakunin, who provide the critique of state power, whether exercised by the right or the left. But she doesn’t have the ludicrous, lethal innocence that goes with anarchist belief, and her practical post-revolutionary ideas are grounded in a clear understanding of human foibles, checks and balances, and necessary social systems. Ultimately her political vision amounts to an engaged hi-tech social democracy (which in itself is something of a radical concept in Kovacs’s world).

Q:Martian technology and the mystery of the vanished Martians play an increasing part in each novel, both in the world-building and in the plots themselves. Without giving away any of the surprises waiting in Woken Furies, what can you tell us about these enigmatic aliens and their presence, or absence, on Harlan’s World?

RM:Very little, actually. The Martians came through this region of space a very long time ago and then disappeared, for reasons that aren’t clear, round about the time humans were learning to cave each other’s skulls in with flints. They left a lot of stuff lying around, but most of it isn’t well understood. They had wings and looked not dissimilar to very big bats. Their technology was very advanced. They left a legacy of about three dozen worlds, habitable to themselves and humans, and quite possibly terra-formed for that purpose. Beyond those basics, the scientists are still squabbling about detail.

Q:Who is responsible for the evolving weapons systems that Sylvie and the other deComs hunt down and destroy? How did they get there?

RM:Oh, that was us. There was an intense period of global conflict just after Harlan’s World was settled by humans, and all sides were quite happy to deploy automated weapon systems at the time. Just a shame they didn’t give any thought to how they were going to decommission all the hardware when the fighting was over. Plus ca changeÉ.

Q:You mentioned in our last interview that, partly as a result of his Envoy conditioning, Kovacs changes depending on his environment and circumstances; its not just his sleeves that vary, but which elements of his personality come to the fore. Thus, we saw one Kovacs in the relatively civilized (though still deadly) environment of Altered Carbon, and a very different one in the war zone of Broken Angels. What’s the Kovacs of Harlan’s World like?

RM:Woken Furies takes place about thirty years after Broken Angels, and Kovacs is back from the war. He’s brought his murderous tendencies back with him, but they’re a little more tamped down, in keeping with a society that’s nominally at peace. In that sense, Kovacs here bears more resemblance to the man he was in Altered Carbon. But the problem is that he’s gone pretty much off the rails. When we meet him, he’s pursuing a vendetta of unrelieved savagery, with trademark competence, of course — murder and mayehem is what he’s trained to do - but it’s questionable whether he’s quite sane anymore. This is definitely Kovacs at his most frightening.

Q:From novel to novel, and within the novels too, you show technology evolving and advancing. Yet Envoy conditioning doesn’t seem to change. Are there improvements to this conditioning that would make someone like Kovacs, long resigned from the Corps, an outmoded model? And wouldn’t there be advances in other technologies that would compensate for Envoy-instilled advantages, making non-Envoys their equals or superiors?

RM:In fact, Envoy conditioning does undergo constant refinement, but it’s all small-scale stuff. In the Protectorate’s eyes, no major modifications are necessary or possible. An Envoy is a bit like a bicycle or a pistol — the basic design is pretty near perfect; you can always fine tune, build out of better materials, but if you make too many changes the thing ceases to be what it is. Think of soldiering itself. The difference between a Greek hoplite or a Roman legionary and a modern infantryman isn’t that great — they just have better weapons to do their killing with. You could teach a soldier from ancient Greece or Rome to use a machine pistol or a grenade easily enough. The biggest problem you’d have with these time-displaced warriors wouldn’t be the technology, it would be trying to get them to understand the issues they were being asked to fight over. The point of Envoy conditioning is flexibility of mind and speed of practical response. New biotech will bring better bodies for these guys to drive, but the mind behind it is the same. There isn’t any kind of compensatory technology that you can deploy against the Envoys, because the technology isn’t the point. Any military machine is only as dangerous as the mind that animates it.

Q:One of the plot threads in Woken Furies is Kovacs’s vendetta against a misogynistic religion called the New Revelation. I got the feeling that you had strong personal feelings about the contemporary Earthly religions that are its models.

RM:Yeah, I have approximately zero time for religion of any sort — it continues to astound me that at the beginning of the twenty first century, we can still be grubbing about on our knees like a bunch of medieval peasants. But within the larger set of that idiocy, I’m driven to especial fury by the misogyny inherent in the great patriarchal religions. As far as I’m concerned, any belief system that assigns a separate and subordinate role to women in society is, by definition, uncivilized. Anyone who advocates it is, by definition, a barbarian.

Q:Why is double-sleeving–the practice of putting a human consciousness into more than one sleeve at a time–illegal? Wouldn’t the Protectorate, at least, employ this technology? Since all Envoys are not created equal, wouldn’t it be to their benefit to have multiple copies of their best agents?

RM:Well, obviously that sort of thing does go on. But it’s a forbidden practice as far as the common herd are concerned. You might see an analogy in the contemporary use of amphetamines, which is strictly illegal for US citizens - unless you happen to be a pilot in charge of an aircraft racked with high-impact destructive weaponry. Hmmm, what’s wrong with this picture? Or for that matter you could consider incest, which with the arrival of effective contraception, pre-natal screening, and a more open society, simply doesn’t rate as the great horror we all still see it as. It’s still illegal, though. Societies tend, rightly or wrongly, to criminalize the things that scare them. And double-sleeving is very scary because it cuts at the fundamental roots of individual human identity.

Q:How is the movie of Altered Carbon progressing?

RM:Ha! I wish I knew. I’m told that there is still a lot of interest in the project, but in Hollywood that could mean anything. The film option expires (again) in November, at which point Warner Brothers has to make up its mind one way or the other and either buy, let go, or re-negotiate. Watch this space!

Q:I had the privilege of reviewing your last novel, Market Forces. In my review, I said it was a pity that Stanley Kubrick was dead, because he would have been the perfect director for it. Now I see that the novel has been sold to Warner Bros. Has there been an announcement of a director yet? And if not, who would you like to see direct this novel?

RM:Thank you. No director as yet. There are a number of people in the field I admire who I’d be delighted to see take it on — Kathryn Bigelow, Michael Mann, Antoine Fuqua, Paul Verhoeven, Guillermo del Toro, Jonathan Glazer — but I try not to think about it too much because the amount of control I have is zero. I’m not convinced by Kubrick, though — I think, with hindsight, his work looks increasingly sterile. I don’t think he liked human beings very much.

Q:Are you going to be alternating between Kovacs and non-Kovacs novels from now on? Do you see the Kovacs series as being open-ended, or do you have a ending in mind?

RM:I don’t currently have any intention to write any more Kovacs novels. I think I’ve said about as much about him as I usefully can, and I don’t really see where I would take him from here on. And I’m very wary of taking the pitcher to the well one too many times. In my experience, authors who write series characters inevitably end up wearing them thin, and I don’t want to make that mistake. I’d rather quit while I’m ahead and leave Kovacs while he’s still going strong. At the same time, I wouldn’t categorically say never again, because who knows? A fan I spoke to last time I was in the US, a guy called Terry Hertzler, who’s also a writer and poet in his own right, just smiled when I told him Woken Furies was probably going to be the last Kovacs book. “That’s okay,” he said. “In ten years time, you’ll be a different man and so will Kovacs. Maybe then you’ll think of something fresh to say about him.” Well, who knows, maybe I will. But for now, where Kovacs is concerned, Less is definitely going to have to be More.

Q:What are you working on now?

RM:I’m currently writing a near(ish) future noir thriller called, appropriately enough, Black Man. It’s set about a hundred years from now and deals with the social consequences of genetic engineering, and the global impact of a concerted effort to colonize Mars. After that, I’m planning to write some fantasy. I’ve had it in mind for a while now to see if the salients of the noir form will transfer from SF to Sword and Sorcery, and my London publishers have been kind enough to come along for the ride. It’s going to be a considerable change from anything I’ve done so far, but that’s the trick, I think. Got to keep moving, got to keep trying to do something fresh — otherwise, what’s the point?

From the Hardcover edition.



Praise for Richard K. Morgan

Market Forces

“Morgan is one of science fiction’s bright young lights, a crisp stylist who demonstrates equal facility with action scenes and angst.”
–The New York Times Book Review

“Forces is turbo-injected with moral ambiguity, Wag the Dog political scenarios, and action sequences fit for a Bruckheimer movie.”
–Entertainment Weekly

Altered Carbon

“Compelling . . . immensely entertaining . . . full of duplicitous characters, murky motives, and a detective who’s as tough as he looks.”
–The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Gritty and vivid . . . Looks as if we have another interstellar hero on our hands.”
–USA Today

Broken Angels

“Clearly the work of a gifted, ambitious writer.”
–The Washington Post Book World

“A superior, satisfying cyberpunk noir adventure.”
–Publishers Weekly

From the Hardcover edition.

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