setting of Richard K. Morgan’s latest novel is far into the
future, the year 2091 and beyond. Carl Marsalis has been engineered
as a “thirteen” by the current government. He is
arrested in a police sting and languishes in a high-security prison
in Florida, uncertain if he will ever regain his freedom. While he
is incarcerated, a chilling crime scene is discovered by COLIN, the
law enforcement arm of government. Marsalis possesses abilities
that the authorities do not have.
A space shuttle has crashed deep into waters within the New York
City Police Department’s jurisdiction. Its inhabitants have
been brutally murdered, dismembered and cannibalized. The shuttle
was en route to Earth from the outer planet, Mars, desolate home to
prisoners, misfits and outcasts from Jesusland, the Rim states and
former American landscapes.
The recovery operation is kept secret. There would be widespread
panic in the streets if the truth about the agonizing deaths was
made public. Additional senseless killings have surfaced throughout
the country within a short time after the crash. COLIN officers
suspect that these new cases are somehow related to the shuttle
deaths. WHAT is to solve the brutal murders. WHO is the probability
of a highly trained engineered prototype known as a thirteen. WHY
remains the biggest unanswered question.
Sevgi Ertekin and her partner, Tom Norton, are the COLIN officers
assigned to the destruction and devastation on Harkin’s
Pride. Built to withstand a crash landing on Mars, the downed
ship had not been ocean-tested. Rim-state cops guard the scene when
the two arrive. Convinced by the evidence that the perpetrator is
insane, Eretkin and Norton feed all collected crime scene
information into the path “face” for analysis. The face
on the screen responds, “…salients are consistent with
the perpetrator being a variant thirteen reengineered
Enter Marsalis, freed and now in service to Norton and Ertekin.
Marsalis has the physical and mental capabilities to assist in the
capture of a renegade thirteen. An investigation leads to the
identity of Allen Merrin, whose resume reads like death-row
statistics from Alcatraz. Marsalis’s freedom depends on his
ability to capture and eliminate Merrin, who is protected by an
unknown entity difficult to penetrate. The chase takes them from
South America to Turkey and numerous points between.
For those readers who consider science fiction to be among their
favorite genres, THIRTEEN will be a barn-burner. Action moves with
intercontinental speed. Vehicles are characterized as futuristic
but believable. Thirteens are designed to inflict deadly force by
brute strength alone but have at their command weaponry instilled
with lethal ammunition. Marsalis operates by sheer strength, a
virtual soldier, though his physical effectiveness may be
compromised by a leak in his emotional armor.
Drug lords and mafia-type familias use thirteens for dirty work in
the future world. It is said, “Cross the familias and
they’ll send a…thirteen to visit you.” Fear of
deportation to Mars no longer threatens Marsalis once he is
determined to avenge the variant thirteen’s bloody
THIRTEEN is fast paced and lengthy but not redundant.
Morgan’s characters are believable entities in a futuristic
society because they are laced with emotions to which the
contemporary reader can relate. We do care what happens to them,
even to the engineered personality of our hero thirteen. Events are
credible, from means of time-travel and outer-space transportation
to weapons used in a future world. Fans of ALTERED CARBON will
embrace this novel as a must-purchase for their sci-fi library.
Morgan is a genius at holding the reader’s attention, and
storytelling mastery is his forte. THIRTEEN is his latest
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on January 23, 2011