Market Forces by Richard Morgan
Gollancz (UK) HCVR: ISBN 0575075120 PubDate: 02/01/04
Review by John Berlyne
400 pgs. List price £9.99
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I read somewhere recently and article about the tremendous rise in men’s interest magazines over last dozen or so years. Publications such a FHM, GQ and Esquire are big business nowadays and they specialize in things that, broadly speaking, men like. And, broadly speaking of course, these things are not hard to identify – we’re talking here of sharp Italian suits, of slick, mean-looking cars and pouting, scantily clad sex-goddess girls. Furthermore, the blokes who relish such things tend, again broadly speaking, to be in high risk, high pressure jobs – they work in the city as brokers, or lawyers and such like.
So why this preamble to my review of Richard Morgan’s latest cracker? Well, again broadly speaking, if ever there was book for the lads, this is it! Market Forces is about fast cars and faster women.
This near future thriller starts with a bang and immediately we know that we are once more in the company of the UK’s freshest and hardest hitting of the new wave genre writers. Chris Faulkner works in Conflict Investment – a branch of high risk, high rewards finance in which huge corporations control and manipulate wars all over the globe. This aggressive market is fuelled as much by ambition as by greed and the traditional way up the ladder is to run your competition off the road – literally. On the motorways of southern England high-flying executives challenge each other for contracts and positions and Faulkner comes to prominence after a particularly blood-thirsty kill. He is offered a job with Shorn Associates, the biggest and baddest of all the corporations. The fringe benefits are vast (everything FHM readers aspire to) but the costs are just as high. Powers feeds everything, but power is a hungry master. In Market Forces, we follow Faulkner as he wrestles with office politics the like of which you’ll hope you never see. This is a world of betrayal, of Machiavellian manipulations and one in which even a man a ruthless as Faulkner can have a troubled conscience.
I’ve deliberately avoided too much plot synopsis here – but be assured there is plot a-plenty in Market Forces and Morgan’s writing is as explosive and energized as one could hope for. This is an accessible and intensely exciting work, and one that develops further Morgan’s interest in the power of the corporate world and in the moral questions that arise from immoral (and amoral) actions of those that inhabit it. In Market Forces conflicts are started and controlled for reasons far away from moral necessity. Terrorists and small governments have become mere commodities to be used as the executives see fit and one cannot but consider the current truths from which Morgan extrapolates this fiction.
After the tour de force of Morgan’s debut Altered Carbon (see my review here) I found his follow up novel Broken Angels a little disappointing (see the review here) and ended that review saying that whatever Morgan came up with next would truly show his calibre. Market Forces does so - in spades. It is superb, and shows without doubt that Morgan is no “one hit wonder”. By far the sharpest book I’ve read in the last year, Market Forces is highly recommended.