Sunday, July 12, 2009

Last night, I finished Market Forces by Richard K. Morgan.

Market Forces seems as if it was written as bid for a movie - picture Death Race 2000 meets Wall Street. The world seems to be divided into three parts - the UK/US, which are ruled by an economic elite that settles their differences in formal duels involving their cars while the poor live in squalid "zoned areas"; socialist Europe, not described much except in Utopian terms; the rest of the world, where the evil financiers manipulate and exploit continual small wars. The action scenes, either duels on the road, fights in the "zoned areas" or brutal acts of revenge are described in loving detail, even though it is nearly impossible to picture the car scenes in any kind of real world.

The protagonist is almost a caricature of something Mickey Spillane would create - he starts out hard, and gets harder as the novel goes along, ending with (SPOILER ALERT) killing his super-hard mentor in a car duel.

At the same time, the author seems to intend the book as some kind of condemnation of capitalism, taking it to what he obviously considers is a reasonable extrapolation of where the current system might lead. It would be flattering to call his extrapolation childish, and in any other book it might be clear that this is parody or deliberate exaggeration, but this book does not seem to have any kind of humour attached to it, and he gives a bibliography at the end of "books consulted", including Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore and Joseph Stiglitz, that makes it clear that he isn't kidding.

But at the same time, I do have to admit that the book does work as an extreme hard-boiled thriller. The over-the-top action and ever-wrought relationships do pull the reader along.

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