three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
38-Jan-Feb-2009
user_rating: 
0

A-The Steel RemainsThis is the first fantasy novel from Richard Morgan, who is already well known for award-winning science fiction works such as Altered Carbon (4 of 5 Stars Sept/Oct 2003), Broken Angels ( 4 of 5 Stars July /Aug 2004), Market Forces ( 3 of 5 Stars May/June 2005), and Thirteen ( 3.5 of 5 Stars July/Aug 2007).

The Story: Years ago, humanity and the world’s other races bravely united to defeat an invasion by lizard men. But some of the war’s veterans are wondering whether the conflict was worth it, since the empire they fought to save now depends on slave labor. Ringil, a valiant sword slinger and minor lord, must remain on the fringes of society because of his homosexuality. Archeth suffers constant doubt about why her father (and his mysterious Kiriath species) abandoned her world. The steppe warrior Egar wonders if life will ever be as exciting as wartime. As each of these characters deals with the consequences of violence and warfare, there are hints of a new threat to their world.
Del Rey. 432 pages. $26. ISBN: 0345493036

Sffworld.com 4 of 5 Stars
"The harsh language, the graphically depicted non-traditional sex, and stark reality of violence all add a stamp of boldness readers of Morgan’s science fiction will find familiar. … The Steel Remains is one of the more noteworthy fantasy novels of the year and with it, Morgan is continuing to carve a solid niche for himself in the genre; he’s just now broadening his reach." Rob H. Bedford

graemesfantasybookreview.com 3.5 of 5 Stars
"While the underlying story isn’t startlingly original (world-weary heroes, the threat of a Dark Lord etc) it’s what Morgan does with it that makes it wholly his own and a book that a large chunk of fantasy fans will relish. … If you’re a fantasy fan (or fan of Richard Morgan’s sci-fi work) then this is a book that you need to read this year." Graeme Flory

Guardian (UK) 3.5 of 5 Stars
"After five science-fiction novels that explored the seamier side of corporate machinations in grittily realised futures, Morgan turns his hand to classic fantasy, with barbarians, assassins, warlords and demon hordes. What remains constant is his flair for setting, complex political feuding, and strong characters forever on the outskirts of society." Eric Brown

Locus 3 of 5 Stars
"[The] book seemed rather slow to take off. … When it does move, though, it’s fast and violent, with a degree of specificity in its depiction of both fighting and sex that would get it an R rating (for the former) or an X (for the latter) if it were a film, and the language of soldiers, thieves, slavemasters, and even eldritch creatures would be right at home in The Sopranos or Deadwood." Russell Letson

Strange Horizons 3 of 5 Stars
"Although, at 340-odd pages, The Steel Remains is short compared with other fantasies, it feels like it spends too long getting to this point. … [The] last third of The Steel Remains is the most risky and successful thing I’ve read so far by Morgan. It’s just a shame that it takes so long to get there." Graham Sleight

Critical Summary

After reading his film noir take on the future in his science fiction novels, critics were eager to see how Richard Morgan would handle fantasy. In this respect, reviewers were pleased, noting how Morgan takes plot elements that are as old as those of Lord of the Rings or Conan the Barbarian and gives them a freshness by importing many of the themes that drove his sci-fi work. Several critics were a little disappointed by the pacing of the novel, though they seemed to find it more acceptable when they thought of the book as the first of a series. Every critic also warned readers that while they don’t detract from the overall quality of the work, many scenes from The Steel Remains contain an awful lot of explicit sex, violence, and harsh language. Perhaps such scenes are right up your alley …