three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
29-July-Aug-2007
user_rating: 
0

A-Th1rte3nCarl Marsalis is a Variant Thirteen, a genetically engineered soldier who stays free by tracking and killing others like him as a favor to the UN. Marsalis is doubly cursed—despised by the humans who created him and viewed as a traitor by other Thirteens. Captured in Miami upon his return from a mission in Peru, Marsalis is sent to a facility in Jesusland (one of three regions of which America now consists, having been split in the near future along political and religious lines). Abandoned by the UN, Marsalis barters for his freedom, agreeing to eliminate a serial killer for a planetary-development outfit. When death is a commodity, can a born-and-bred mercenary maintain his humanity?
Del Rey. 560 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0345485254

Guardian 4 of 5 Stars
"Brilliantly plotted and unremittingly violent. … The novel’s considerable achievement is to make Marsalis believable as well as humane, a product of scheming politicians and a hypocritical society keen to franchise out its dirty work." Eric Brown

sffworld.com 3.5 of 5 Stars
"While Morgan’s imagined future is plausibly laid out and the action scenes flip the pages briskly, I found the overall pacing of the novel to be uneven. … The power of Morgan’s bravado and ideas make for a significant (and entertaining) book." Rob H. Bedford

Strange Horizons 3 of 5 Stars
"For all that Morgan steps outside some of the usual conventions he is still recognisably working in the format and [Thirteen] comes with some of its bad habits. … Morgan’s approach is problematic but at the same time it is so utterly different to anything else out there that it is almost impossible not to admire it." Martin Lewis

Critical Summary

Winner of the Philip K. Dick Award for Altered Carbon (see below), his debut novel, and the author of successful follow-ups Broken Angels ( 4 of 5 Stars July/Aug 2004) and Woken Furies, as well as the stand-alone Market Forces ( 3 of 5 Stars May/June 2005), Richard K. Morgan and his characters are hardly strangers to violent dystopias. Thirteen, published simultaneously in Britain as Black Man, tackles some difficult issues, including race and identity. The result is perhaps less compelling than some of Morgan’s previous work, and the novel could have been shorter. Still, the author can hardly be accused of simply retreading familiar ground. Thirteen is a solid effort for Morgan’s devotees, as well as a good read for fans of military sci-fi with a twist.

Also by the Author

Altered Carbon (2003): 4 of 5 Stars Sept/Oct 2003. Death isn’t so bad when your consciousness can be "resleeved," or downloaded into a new body. That’s the norm in the 25th century—if you can afford it. Takeshi Kovacs, a highly trained soldier, is resleeved into a cop’s body by one of the world’s richest men, Laurens Bancroft—recently resleeved himself—to investigate whether Bancroft was murdered. Kovacs begins working closely with police lieutenant Kristin Ortega, who happened to be in love with the man previously in the body Kovacs now inhabits.