The 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 male.”
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 rampage.
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