Monday, November 12, 2007

Black Man (Thirteen) by Richard Morgan

'"Fucking right, not us. You know how they breed contemporary humans from a thirteen? You fucking domesticate them. Same thing they did with wolves to make them into dogs... You Select for fucking tameness, Marsalis. For lack of aggression, and for compliance. And you know how you get that?"
...You get it by taking immature individuals, individuals showing the characteristics of fucking puppies."

"We're the only thing that scares those people because we won't comply, we won't stay infantile and go out and play nice in their plastic fucking world."
-Richard Morgan, Black Man

I have something of a man-crush on Richard Morgan. I can admit it.

I've been reading his books for five or so years now, ever since I chanced across the Phillip K. Dick award winning Altered Carbon in my local used book store. To say I was gratified when I finally got around to reading it is something of an understatement.

Altered Carbon is among the very best science fiction books of this young millennium, and although Morgan has written 3 fine novels in the interim between AC and Black Man, it seemed he may never again reach the heights of his debut novel. (This is too often the case with writers, after all.)

Well, Black Man is better. And not insignificantly so. Black Man is the best science fiction novel of the year. Black Man is the most thought-provoking and stirring science fiction novel I have ever read.

Morgan tackles racism and the many faces of religion today and tomorrow; war, politics and the very nature of masculinity. Six or so months removed from my initial reading of this work, I still find myself internally debating ideas expressed here, finding I have no answers. I'll save the plot summaries for Amazon; just read this book.

And then go here to buy your membership so that you may nominate it for the Hugo.

10/10 (If you read only one book this year, etc, etc.)

Collector's Notes:

Do the SF community a favor and import this one from the U.K. (While you still can.) Gollancz published this title as it was written; Black Man. Del Rey, on the other hand, shied away from the controversial title, renaming it Thirteen for the United States.

As for the future value of this title, well..

Look, one of these days Morgan is going to be recognized for what he is; the best combination of sheer readability and thought-provoking ideas we've had in science fiction since Robert Heinlein was good. U.K. First editions of Altered Carbon are selling for around 800 dollars, and I still view that as a sound investment. Buy the book, enjoy the book, and if the value inflates as it ought, you can thank me later.

Comments on "Black Man (Thirteen) by Richard Morgan"


Blogger Ed S. said ... (1:36 AM) : 

I gather that you look on this book from the perspective of the social ideas and issues that Morgan explores and considered it a great success. Well, I won't argue with that. However I read this expecting a more straight forward mystery/action thriller in line with his previous books and was very disappointed.

As a story nothing really happens for most of the book. The main characters blunder about accomplishing nothing while vague meaningless clues are dropped from time to time about the villain(s) activities. It is only after many many hundreds of pages, near the very end in fact that a villain is discovered, confronted, and confesses everything in detail, telling us about everything that has being going on and why. This comes as a great surprise to the reader because we haven't been involved in hardly any of this throughout the book.

This may be a good book from the ideas and issues viewpoint, but as a story it is a failure. Overall, without both, I just can't see it as a great book, not really Hugo worthy.

And yes, Del Rey are a bunch of weenies for not maintaining the original UK title.


Blogger Unknown said ... (3:23 PM) : 

I agree, Wil. There's just something about Richard Morgan's writing that chokes the breath in me.

I couldn't put this book down.


Blogger Unknown said ... (12:38 PM) : 

Good review :) I wasn't blogging when you had to stop, but when I started, I heard a lot of good things about you :D

The Book Swede


Blogger Unknown said ... (7:09 PM) : 

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Blogger William Lexner said ... (8:42 PM) : 

This comment has been removed by the author.


Blogger William Lexner said ... (8:45 PM) : 

This comment has been removed by the author.


Blogger Lsrry said ... (9:05 PM) : 

While I mostly agree with your take on the book (the social ideas mostly overcame the story deficiencies that Ed points out), I don't know if I'd say this is the Book of the Year. While I'll likely place it in a finalist position, as works of writing I'd probably put Michael Cisco's The Traitor and Emma Bull's Territory above Morgan.

But Black Man/Thirteen certainly is a powerful read, especially in a year that seems to be largely devoid of books that take risks.

And dare I ask what happened that led to that one person's outburst?


Blogger William Lexner said ... (9:11 PM) : 

This comment has been removed by the author.


Blogger Unknown said ... (9:25 PM) : 

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Blogger Lsrry said ... (9:45 PM) : 

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Blogger Adam Whitehead said ... (1:18 PM) : 

Easily one of the most significant SF&F novels of this year and a worthy Hugo nominee. Based on Morgan's past record, though, I wouldn't bet on the nomination. However, I suspect Brasyl may get the nod, which is an equally worthwhile and arguably better-written novel. There is something in the take-no-fucking-prisoners approach of Morgan in this book which is rarely seen in SF these days: balls. This is a book that pisses off a lot of people, and that's something to be encouraged in spec fic.


Blogger Unknown said ... (6:19 PM) : 

Is the UK publisher planning to release a paperback with this cover?


Blogger Unknown said ... (11:33 AM) : 

William J Lexner
236 S Main St
Attleboro, MA 02703-4131
(508) 455-1375

See you soon you piece of shit.


Blogger William Lexner said ... (11:38 AM) : 

Kastor, please come.


Blogger Unknown said ... (11:43 AM) : 

Your ninja is at your disposal, Wil.

< nods >


Blogger William Lexner said ... (2:14 PM) : 

Lowell Torres, of Indiana. You've lived in Kouts, Terre Haute, etc. I have your addresses. I have your personal information. I'm considering spending the 50 bucks to get your SSN. I even read your pathetic attempts at college journalism. Bother me again, in any way, and I will be calling the FBI.

And I *will* follow it up with charges. Lowell. Heh.


Blogger Race said ... (3:37 PM) : 

Lowell is also an aspiring writer.

"My Bio
I'm 25 and studying history and journalism. I've already written a few stories, and have a whole book series planned out that will reinvent the fantasy/horror genre. I drink too much. I'm a pothead. I don't like it, but hey, what's a guy to do? I used to live in the projects of Gary and be a gangster. Now I live in the farmland and am a hippy/prep. "


Blogger William Lexner said ... (3:50 PM) : 

Yeah, a gangsta/hippy/prep is actually what they warned us to avoid in combat zones when I was a Marine.


Blogger Unknown said ... (7:31 PM) : 

Next time, maybe you will consider your words. You called my 18-month-old son a piece of shit because I said bad things about your football team. Do you really think that's something to laugh off? I don't care if it is online, you do not insult someone's family.

Am I going to travel to Massachusetts to kick your ass? Hell no. Why would I do that? I've been through that state once and once is enough for a lifetime. I will be in Denver for WorldCon next year. So I will see you soon. It wasn't a threat. It was merely a statement.

And you're going to contact the FBI? Because I posted information I easily Googled? If anyone has been stalked, it's me. All because I said I was going to kick your ass.

You told people you got a gun out while thinking of me and said you knew where I lived. That's a threat. Nothing I've done (which consists solely of Googling your name) comes close to that.

You contacted people I know.

Then you looked up personal information and said you were going to get my SSN.

I posted on your blog. OH NOES!

If YOU contact ME again, I will notify the police of your threats against my life.

Learn the lesson here, William. I've read other threads, at both Ran's and other message boards, where you've insulted and threatened people. Not everyone will meekly bow their head because you used to be a Marine.

If you have a problem with me because I said bad things about your football team, take it up with me. You do not, DO NOT, insult my child because his father despises your coach.

How childish can you be? Actually, your vast overreaction has shown that.

You'll probably delete this just like you had the mods at Rans delete my posts there. Better for you to come across as the victim than be shown for what you really are.


Blogger William Lexner said ... (8:58 AM) : 


This is the last time I will ever comment to you.

I love how you are re-writing history. I'm sure it makes your insane mind somehow feel better about your insane ramblings.

You came on a forum and said you hoped that Tom Brady got a career ending injury because Pats fans were assholes. I called you a piece of shit for hoping anyone would ever be injured like that, anywhere, anywhen.

Later in the thread you mentioned you had a son. I said that it was scary that people like you were breeding. (Terrifying, now knowing how unstable you are as a 'human being.') I probably should not have said that. I say a lot of things I probably should not.

You then proceeded to threaten my life and stalk me incessently. You still will not let it go.

I answered you on Rans thread. I wish you had had the opportunity to see what I wrote before it was deleted. (I assure you, I wanted you to see it. I did not want your insane ramblings deleted.)

You have made threats against myself and my family. You are not now and never will be in the future, a member of the BWB or welcome at their events.

However, I look forward, more than you could ever hope to imagine, to you coming to Worldcon and seeking me out. On the other hand, I hope you are not that stupid.

I let you have your say. I will not delete it. You are hereby banned from posting on my blog. I will delete anything you write here, under any fake name, after it is logged and a copy sent to investigative authorities. I am willing to let this go. Please do not continue to harass me.


Blogger Melissa said ... (8:32 PM) : 

Of course I have read, "Altered Carbon". Since then, I have sort of switched my reading to more of a great terroristic thriller like Some Kind of Angel. I just can't get enough of it. Remembering how much I liked Morgan's first book though, I'm sure I will definately check out his latest one. Thanks for the review.


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