Morgan, Richard K. 1965-

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Morgan, Richard K. 1965-


Born September 9, 1965. Education: Attended Queen's College, Cambridge University.


Home—Glasgow, Scotland. E-mail—[email protected]


Writer and educator. University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland, English teacher. Also worked in English Language Teaching (ELT).


Philip K. Dick Award, 2003, for Altered Carbon; Arthur C. Clarke Award nomination, 2005, for Market Forces.


Altered Carbon, Gollancz (London, England), 2002, Del Rey (New York, NY), 2003.

Broken Angels (sequel to Altered Carbon), Del Rey (New York, NY), 2004.

Market Forces, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2005.

Woken Furies, Del Rey/Ballantine (New York, NY), 2005.

Thirteen, Del Rey/Ballantine (New York, NY), 2007.


Black Widow: Homecoming, illustrated by Bill Sienkiewicz, Marvel Comics, 2005.

Black Widow: The Things They Say about Her, Marvel Comics, 2006.


Altered Cargon has been optioned for film; Market Forces has been optioned for film by Warner Bros.


Richard K. Morgan was teaching English in Scotland when his first science fiction novel, Altered Carbon, was published. Mike Snider wrote for USAToday Online that "Morgan has created a world as cinema-rich as those of Philip K. Dick, whose stories were reborn as movies, including Total Recall and Minority Report, and William Gibson's books-turned-to-movies Neuromancer and Johnny Mnemonic." New York Times Book Review contributor Gerald Jonas commented that "if you've ever wondered what kind of science fiction Raymond Chandler might have written for a futuristic Philip Marlowe, check out Altered Carbon." Jonas added: "Morgan has reimagined The Big Sleep as twenty-fifth-century noir."

Altered Carbon takes place in a universe where no one has to die. When a baby is born, it is fitted with a tiny stack at the base of the brain's cortex. The disks that make up the stack are data storage units, from which periodic backups are made. When a person dies, he can be "resleeved" in a new body, losing only recent memories—that is, unless the stack implanted on the spine and the backups are destroyed. Criminals are no longer incarcerated. Instead, they are digitally captured and their bodies sold. When they have served their time, they are downloaded into whatever sleeve is available. Interplanetary travel is achieved by sending the mind across space into a new sleeve, and the minds of soldiers are downloaded into bodies at the site of conflict.

Resleeving is very expensive, however, and not everyone can afford it, including the protagonist, Takeshi Lev Kovacs, a former interplanetary commando with the UN Protectorate. Like many envoys who have been trained to kill, Kovaks has turned to a life of crime and is gunned down in the opening scene. Because Kovacs has retained the extraordinary powers his training and neurochemical enhancements have provided, wealthy 357-year-old Laurens J. Bancroft of Bay City (formerly San Francisco) pays the price of the procedure for the former commando, who now finds himself on Earth in a new sleeve. Bancroft can't remember his most recent death because of the small gap since his last update. He was told he died by his own hand, but he isn't sure, and he looks to Kovacs to solve the mystery.

Kovacs has a love interest in Kristin Ortega, a police lieutenant who is in charge of the Organic Damage Division. Ironically, he has been resleeved in the body of her former boyfriend, Ryker. Kovacs also has a relationship with Mrs. Bancroft, a possible suspect in the death of her husband.

Rob H. Bedford wrote in a review for SffWorld that "something else Morgan skillfully incorporates into the story is class delineation." Bedford elaborated: "As the centuries have passed, the racial lines are blurred, but there are still class lines. Due to Bancroft's wealth, he has a limitless supply of cloned bodies he can use and rotate at will, while those with less financial power can only be downloaded when bodies are ready."

D. Douglas Fratz reviewed Altered Carbon for, writing that it "is more believable, and more mature, than most of the books and movies that have been spawned by the genre. There are no teenage techie savants, and no villains whose only motivation seems to be the desire to be evil. The characters' motivations are logical and understandable, and the sex and violence are integral to the plot and themes." "The body count is high, the gadgetry pure genius, the sex scenes deliriously overwrought, and the worn cynicism thoroughly distasteful: a welcome return to cyberpunk's badass roots," according to a Kirkus Reviews contributor.

SF Site contributor Victoria Strauss called Altered Carbon "an extremely well-crafted piece of fiction. For all the ultra-violence, there's no American movie-style overkill: the furious pace is balanced by contemplative passages, giving the reader a chance to take a breather. The writing is skillful, with elegant prose that lifts even the most gruesome scenes above the ordinary." Altered Carbon was optioned by Warner Brothers for Matrix producer Joel Silver, enabling Morgan to write full-time.

Broken Angels, the sequel to Altered Carbon, leans more heavily on science fiction. Here Morgan looks more closely at Kovacs' life as an envoy in the Protectorate. He also reveals how the Martians left the clues to the dozens of other worlds that have become colonies.

"Broken Angels is a novel of pain and guilt," wrote Gerald Jonas in the New York Times Book Review, also noting that "what distinguishes Morgan's second novel is his persuasive reimagining of the familiar as filtered through the character of Kovacs." A Wisconsin Bookwatch contributor referred to the author's sophomore effort as a "two-fisted, double-barrelled sci-fi thrill ride."

In his next novel, Market Forces, Morgan features Chris Faulkner, a young investment banker in the not-too-distant future who is part of an investment company that makes its profits by investing in what it hopes is the "right side" in regional wars. Faulkner is one of the corporate gladiators who help the company in its cold- blooded business, which includes killing executives from competing companies if that is what is required. Faulkner, however, still has traces of a conscience left, and his wife is trying to bring it to the forefront and redeem him in order to save their marriage. "Richard K. Morgan is one of science fiction's bright young lights, a crisp stylist who demonstrates equal facility with action scenes and angst," wrote Andre Leonard in a review of Market Forces in the New York Times. Booklist contributor David Pitt noted that the author is successful at "making … [this future scenario] feel like a natural outgrowth of today's corporate chicanery."

Kovacs returns in Woken Furies, which a California Bookwatch contributor called "a satisfying read." This time Kovacs becomes involved with a mysterious woman whom he rescues in a bar on Harlan's World when she is attacked by some so-called holy men. It turns out that the woman has a checkered past and many powers, which may include housing the soul of a revolutionary martyred centuries ago. Soon, Kovacs is fighting bio-machines gone wild as he looks for a centuries-old missing weapons systems and is hunted by a younger, stronger version of himself. Referring to Woken Furies as "powerful," a Publishers Weekly contributor also noted that the author "develops a baroque … complicated setting." A Kirkus Reviews contributor referred to the novel as "hammering cyberpunk action, with an occasional detour for a stirring speech against religious fundamentalism."

Morgan once again leaves Kovacs behind for the stand-alone novel Thirteen, which takes place following a century of genetic experimentation gone wrong. The book focuses on Carl Marsalis, a black man. In a world where sub-humans have been created to do a variety of tasks, most often those that normal humans do not want to do, a variation of these sub-humans known as variation thirteen were genetically engineered by the U.S. government to be ruthless fighters for the U.S. military. Although the genetic experiments were eventually scuttled when the supersoldiers were thought too dangerous by the public, the variations still exist in exile on a Mars colony. Marsalis is one of these genetic mutants who has found his way back to earth and is working as a bounty hunter when he ends up in prison. However, he is offered his freedom by the government if he will track down a ruthless criminal, another of the "thirteen" genetic variations. In an interview for Fantasy Book Critic, Morgan commented that the novel's setting is a time when "an otherwise fairly successful global (and extra-global) community is struggling to come to terms with the legacy of the human damage done over the previous hundred years," adding: "I suppose you could draw a parallel with the way in which we now struggle with the human consequences of previous centuries of colonialism."

Once again, Morgan received numerous favorable reviews. "The prose, as always, is hard-edged and often violently graphic, and the dialogue punchy and realistic," wrote David Pitt in a review of Thirteen in Booklist. Sara Rutter, writing in the Library Journal, noted that the author "effectively explores questions about human behavior, motivations, and altruism."



Booklist, February 1, 2004, Regina Shroeder, review of Broken Angels, p. 956; January 1, 2005, David Pitt, review of Market Forces, p. 834; September 1, 2005, Elliott Swanson, review of Woken Furies, p. 75; May 1, 2007, David Pitt, review of Thirteen, p. 40.

California Bookwatch, January, 2007, review of Woken Furies.

Chronicle, June, 2005, Don D'Ammassa, review of Woken Furies, p. 33.

Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2002, review of Altered Carbon, p. 1741; December 15, 2003, review of Broken Angels, p. 1430; July 1, 2005, review of Woken Furies, p. 714; May 1, 2007, review of Thirteen.

Library Journal, January, 2004, Jackie Cassada, review of Broken Angels, p. 167; February 15, 2005, Jackie Cassada, review of Market Forces, p. 123; August 1, 2005, Jackie Cassada, review of Woken Furies, p. 76; June 15, 2007, Sara Rutter, review of Thirteen, p. 62.

MBR Bookwatch, January, 2006, Diane C. Donovan, review of Woken Furies.

New York Times Book Review, June 15, 2003, Gerald Jonas, review of Altered Carbon, p. 15; March 7, 2004, Gerald Jonas, "Science Fiction," p. 14; April 10, 2005, Andrew Leonard, "The Office," review of Market Forces, p. 16.

Publishers Weekly, February 24, 2003, review of Altered Carbon, p. 57; February 9, 2004, review of Broken Angels, p. 63; August 22, 2005, review of Woken Furies, p. 41; May 14, 2007, review of Thirteen, p. 36.

Wisconsin Bookwatch, June, 2005, review of Broken Angels.


Comic Book Resources, (March 9, 2007), Dave Richards, "Graphic about Novels with Richard K. Morgan."

Fantasy Book Critic, (April 2, 2007), "Interview with Richard K. Morgan."

Richard K. Morgan Home Page, (February 11, 2008)., (July 9, 2003), D. Douglas Fratz, review of Altered Carbon.

Scifi Dimensions, (April 3, 2003), John C. Snider, interview with Richard K. Morgan.

SffWorld, (July 9, 2003), Rob H. Bedford, review of Altered Carbon.

SF Signal, (May 4, 2007), review of Thirteen.

SF Site, (July 9, 2003), Victoria Strauss, review of Altered Carbon.

Stephen Hunt's SF Crowsnest, (July 9, 2003), Stephen Hunt, interview with Richard K. Morgan.

Stranger than Truth: Science Fiction Society of Northern New Jersey, (July 30, 2007), review of Thirteen.

USA Today, (March 24, 2003), Mike Snider, review of Altered Carbon.