Thin Air

Thin Air was Richard K Morgan’s return to science fiction, after his fantasy Land Fit For Heroes series, which I could never get into. It’s another scifi noir (see also: Altered Carbon) but without people about to upload their consciousness into USB sticks, and set on Mars.
Every one of the other books Morgan has written seems to have a sex scene about a third of the way in. In Thin Air you think this is going to happen, but haha! narrative coitus interruptus strikes in an elevator. But while you’re surprised at Morgan’s ability to innovate, he slams in four or five more sex scenes (I lost track, to be honest). Such trickery!

It’s a good noir read, though I need to read it a second time to get all the unreliable narrator references. In the last fifty pages the twists pile up and up and up, but it didn’t really feel to me like the rug was being pulled from underneath me. (In the first half, there’s an annoying plot twist because of the narrator mishearing a name, in a way that makes the reader feel yanked about). There were a few loose ends that were never tied off (in particular the Frockers out protagonist visits never have a chance for revenge) but mostly it’s very tight.

Thin Air is about the frontier myth, and about end state capitalism. OK, it’s also about a hibernating space marshal with a vague backstory that has lots of missing detail, but it’s a noir, you don’t buy it for that sort of thing, right?

When I read Altered Carbon, I thought it was great. When I reread it alongside Walter Jon Williams’ Voice Of The Whirlwind I found it hacky and derivative. So I should really reread it again at some point and see if it holds up or not…


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