Monday, July 16, 2007

Richard Morgan - Market Forces

A quick Google of the phrase "anti-capitalist science fiction" generates few hits. Perhaps this review will link Richard Morgan's novel "Market Forces" with this rather apt description, even if I do say so myself.

The world of Market Forces is perhaps best described as an extrapolation of our own. The multinational corporations that dominate the world's economies of today have become more power than the nation state. Independent of it even. Their ruthless struggle for profits, plays itself out down to every level. Executives duel in armour plated cars on almost empty motorways for position in the company. Serious promotion can only occur by returning to work "with blood on your wheels". Such methods of "natural selection" mean that senior partners are only those ruthless enough to stamp out competition by any means necessary.

These individual battles play out against a backdrop of poverty, violence and drug-abuse on London's derelict estates. There's no welfare state left, a job marks the ordinary person out for violence, except for a few who live in armed gated communities in terror of the rest of the population.

I was reminded while reading this of some of those films of the 1980s, company executives, drunk on power, prepared to stamp on all opposition to get the money - Morgan's dark satire and humour is an extension of this. An unlikely world perhaps, but not impossible.

We follow one of the executives through the beginnings of a rather complex business deal (a deal that will could mean the lives of thousands being sacrificed) as he $battles personally for control. The novel concentrates on Chris Faulkner (*), as the contradictions of his life open up. His wife hates his violent life, though for a woman with principle, she's strangely tied to her husband. Deep down inside he seems to have princples, though they make themselves known in strange ways (Kneecapping of Nazis for instance).

The plot drifts along, without seeming to go any place simple. There's a lot of gung-ho drinking and fighting, quite a bit of unneccessarily detailed sex scenes and a fair bit of simplistic politics which combines to make a surprisingly intense reading experience.

If you like your anti-heros and you'll like this novel, particularly if you believe in a bleak future for man-kind. Though you don't have to share the author's cynical view of the human spirit.

(*) There's a neat little joke in the novel, when a night-club owner repeatadly jokes about the main character's surname being similar to the famous american novelist. Of course, none of the company executives, supposedly cleverer than the rest of the stupid masses understand the reference.

1 comment:

Resolute Reader said...

I've just re-read this novel and I think it's a lot better than my original review portrays it. As I said, this novel is set in a world that is a logical extension of our own, where the forces of free market capitalism have wrested control from the governments and corporations determine what happens around the world. Wars, famine, assasination they are now part of the corporate stability. The reason its better than some in a similar genre, is that war on the poorest at home, in the richest nations is also real. The choice that Faulkner faces, whether to stay in the race or save his humanity is an interesting one. What he does makes for a great novel.