Genre: SF Noir/Political Thriller
Publication Date: 25/10/2018
In the not-too-distant future, Earth has colonised Mars. But not all is well between these two neighbours.
Hakan Veil is a genetically engineered human weapon, stuck on Mars and short on funds. Coerced into helping an Earth audit of the Martian colonies, he is tasked with protecting person-of-interest Madison Madekwe. But when he fails and Madekwe is abducted, Hakan must hunt down her kidnappers across the Red Planet.
As the search goes on, Veil discovers that he has not been told the whole truth, and there may just be more to the audit than a financial investigation . . .
Like many, I first became aware of Richard Morgan through the Netflix adaptation of Altered Carbon. So when I saw he had a new release out, I thought it was worth trying.
Unfortunately, Thin Air is a very frustrating book. There’s a lot to like about it, but it never quite seems to come together. Since this is largely a character-driven story, we’ll start with Veil.
I imagine (and hope) it would be hard for most readers to relate to Veil, being as he is a one man murderous horde. That’s not inherently a problem, but he does come off as one-dimensional, and lacking agency. Far too many of his discoveries during the infiltration come from other characters simply telling him things without any real motivation to do so. And his, admittedly unique method of interrogation – ask questions, have wild sex with witness/suspect, ask some more questions – leaves a lot to be desired.
The plotting works fine, for the most part, though i do prefer my crime to be a little leaner and a lot tighter, but the divergences here by and large come together in the end. There’s a wonderful juxtaposition between the hardboiled Bradbury city scenes and the later, almost pulpy encounter with a religious sect out in the Martian wilds. The suspense and intrigue are both well-maintained, even if the eventual reveal is a little tired.
The scene that sticks in my mind most is from around the middle act, where Veil sneaks through an (obligatory) warehouse district, and reflects on various horrors and misbegotten experiments that are said to be trapped within. I can’t help but feel any one of those rumours would have made a novel more to my taste than the one I got.
Ultimately, Thin Air is stronger in its opening, noir-ish act, than once the plot really gets going. It is by no means a bad story, just not the one I wanted to read.