Thin Air: Not Quite Cyberpunk, But All The Way Awesome

I’ve said before, Richard K. Morgan is the author I most want to be like when I grow up. I discovered him through his Takeshi Kovacs novels, and gobbled his backlist. I’ve loved his take on fantasy, and think his Black Widow comic story is the best in print. The video games are excellent; his story-based work gets the nothing-but-net 5/5 from distinguished critics like Giant Bomb.

I say this to help you understand my excitement on the release of Thin Air. Let’s get into it.

Our story starts with protagonist (…not quite a hero) Hakan Veil, financially marooned on Mars. He busts up a nightclub, murders a few people who need killing, and winds up in jail for his trouble.

Veil’s not your usual down-and-out. He’s ‘retired’ from some pretty epic special forces. He’s competent, but not in the ways that are important for his survival. The mission he finds himself in through bad circumstance and extortion is political, where the only thing that matters is the rich staying rich, and the powerful going through an epic land-grab.

The little people are squeezed, pulped, and nothing but grimy gruel survives. Veil’s trip becomes personal; somewhere along the way he loses sight of who’s paying me for all this and turns to who am I gonna make pay. It’s not a redemption story, because Veil doesn’t want your forgiveness, but for all that it’s a justice story. Or perhaps a judgment one.

In typical Morgan style, he doesn’t spoon feed this tale to you. There’s no lengthy paragraphs of exposition. You won’t find conveniently placed dialogue so two characters can explain WTAF is going on. You find this out my smelling the grit in Mars’ regolith, stubbing your toes against the seamy underside of organised crime, and facing down the powerful who just don’t want to hear truth.

While I’m going to tell you: you must read this, I’m also going to issue two warnings.

  • Morgan’s British, which means he went to school where people curse as a form of punctuation. His writing is real; this isn’t some for-show nonsense to get the masses titillated. Thin Air’s set in a future without a lot of unicorns and rainbows to be found. If you’re that guy who doesn’t like reading excellently-placed cursing, steer clear. The rest of you, welcome aboard; this book’s for you.
  • My copy from Amazon was rife with typographical/typesetting errors. My give-a-damn meter usually reads a zero on proofing or grammar errors; if I understand the intent, that’s good enough for me. The Kindle edition of this book has a lot of errors with page breaks within dialogue, italicized text stopping off 1/2 way through a sentence, and that kind of thing. Once or twice I was left head-scratching over who was talking, or what was going on. Gollancz should do better, as it’s immersion-breaking to the point of dropping my review a point.

If you’re in any doubt about whether a master of storytelling, let alone sci-fi, is back in the sadle: relax. This book is worth your time, and if you’re like me you’ll gobble it in two days and have no regrets about the lost sleep. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

If you want more Morgan, you might like his recent interview with Beyond the Trope:

If you haven’t read the Takeshi Kovacs novels, you might find the Netflix series a good introduction:

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