The szchphthiel on the back of Richard Morgan’s Market Forces suggests that “what he did for science fiction, he now does for the thriller”. Well, if what he did for sf was introduce large trade paperbacks with shiny glossy covers he certainly does this here. You might think this was a continuation of the story started in Altered Carbon, which was a fun sf detective novel which had a few good ideas vis a vis consciousness storage and space travel. The second book of the Takeshi Kovacs series, Broken Angels was weaker but did have one brilliant piece of invention, weapons which evolve to work out the weakness of its enemy. All in all rather fun gung-ho action space operas.

Published by Gollancz SF, Market Forces is a nice entry in near-future dystopianism. The rule in inventing a dystopia is generally to take one aspect of current society and extrapolate to a ridiculous degree. Here we have companies who are into conflict management, people who buy and sell arms and gamble on the outcome of small conflicts. The irony that this is what The Company (ie the CIA) has been doing for the last fifty years is not lost. Though is somewhat obfuscated by Morgan’s parallel desire to write a white collar version Mad Max, where overpowered executives kill people in Saab’s of destruction.

This is, quite clearly, science fiction. There is no science in it, of course not, but dystopias and social extrapolations (no matter how silly) belong in the speculative fiction genre. As a thriller this is rather moribund, it is fundamentally the story of one man deciding whether to sell out or not. Certainly Morgan’s setting and methods makes this potentially more exciting, but road raging on the M11 is still not something that works best on the page. Morgan likes to think his world is as plausible as anyone else’s (he has a nice gobalisation and rampant capitalism bibliography at the end which all seems like yesterdays darlings) but he is too in love with the cars and chrome. Which is probably where its shiny cover comes back in.