The Cold Commands (book, Richard Morgan, 2011)

Originally published in SFX #215.


Author: Richard Morgan

Publisher: Victor Gollancz

Long-awaited follow-up to The Steel Remains

This is a dense book whose cargo is difficult to unpack in a review, so here are the salient points.

Richard “Altered Carbon” Morgan’s first fantasy saga continues. An invasion of the mortal realm by evil magical types looms. Ringil, Egar and Archeth – veterans of a terrible war against lizards – stumble toward the truth.

This is solid, gripping fantasy. Morgan in real life is morally outraged by society’s exploitative aspects. The planet Earth he rages against perhaps doesn’t quite exist, but it makes good fuel for his writing engines, even if it means Morgan’s characters, good and bad, tend to the samey: either cynical and violent or cynical and manipulative. His plentiful, celebrated violence seems to solve it all, but in the tumble of history all it really avails his hard men of is a momentary “fuck you” to the Man. This is his despairing, well-crafted message. Morgan doesn’t do kindness.

Still, society is exploitative, people can be bastards, so he’s about 50% right, and the stage he plays out his fury on is a rich multi-planar thing full of sorcery and imaginative magical technology. Texturally, it’s like Joe Abercrombie without the arched eyebrow. This is not a criticism, merely intended to help you tailor your reading to your mood.

Like we said; dense. We’re reading the ongoing transformation here of broken people back into heroes on a planet horribly short of them, and that works fine for us.

Did you know?

Morgan is currently working on the story for a reworked version of the cult 80s Syndicate Wars computer game. The original was dark, miserablist cyberpunk: right up his street.


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