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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Review: The Steel Remains

I would have written a review of The Steel Remains in January if Del Rey had chosen to price the Kindle edition of the book at $9.99 instead of trying to price it like the hardcover at $14. As it was, since I had plenty to read, I simply placed a hold at my public library. Yes, Del Rey, you lost $14 of revenue because you mis-priced your product.

At this point, we all know what to expect from a Morgan novel: a super soldier, lots of explicit sex, and plenty of philosophy and violence. Well, Morgan throws us a twist this time: the universe is an atypical fantasy universe, the protagonist is a gay warrior, and while there's plenty of explicit sex, the violence is even more explicit, and as bloody as you would expect --- much more so than the usual cleaned up fantasy novel.

I mis-wrote. There were actually 3 protagonists, all relics of the past war with the Lizards 10 years ago. Egar the Dragonbane is now part of the Steppe nomads, a happy clan-master running an unhappy clan. Archeth, a deadly knife-fighter, now works for the emperor as a trouble-shooter, losing herself in drugs. All this ends when Ringil's mom shows up and guilts him into searching for a cousin sold into slavery. (As unorthodox a start to a fantasy story as you can find --- how many brave warriors have moms?)

The plot then multiplies and we dig into one mystery after another until it all comes together in a bloody finale. While it's not radical, it all makes for fun reading --- and Morgan, if nothing else, is a good enough writer to keep you occupied for a few hours. Recommended for those with a strong stomach. For anyone else, take a look at Altered Carbon and see if Morgan's to your taste. That's still his strongest work.

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