Richard K. Morgan’s stand-alone novel Thin Air (2018) is set on Mars in the universe of his novel Thirteen. His protagonist, Hakan Veil, is a disgraced “enforcer” who’s just been dumped on Mars by the corporation to whom he had been indentured since childhood. They recently fired him. Hakan would love to get back to Earth, but that’s nearly impossible these days because it costs too much to get there and Earth lets very few people in. Mars is a hostile and decadent world with a populace made up of many criminal elements.
Fortunately, Hakan still retains some of the genetic enhancements his company supplied before cutting ties with him. This makes him a total badass. Corporate enforcers spend much of their time in cryo until they’re needed by their company, so when they get activated for a job, they are super-charged with extra strength, speed, and cognitive abilities. Therefore, when Hakan gets dumped on Mars, he’s “running hot” and ready for revenge.
To keep him busy and out of confinement, a local police detective gives him a job protecting a woman who has come to Mars to investigate a missing persons report. Normally something like this should be easy for Hakan, but the woman he’s charged with protecting, the beautiful and intelligent Madison Madekwe, may not have been completely forthcoming with her revelations about the job and herself. When Madison gets kidnapped, suddenly it looks like Veil may be in over his head. And he can’t expect anybody on the corrupt planet of Mars to help him set things right.
There were many things I loved about Thin Air. I loved the world Morgan created on Mars. It’s so vivid with many lovely little details such as the Code Flies that keep stinging Harkan to update his software, and the amusing place names such as the city of Bradbury. Despite its lawlessness, I loved its frontier feeling, its residents’ anti-authoritarian bent, and its fierce independence from Earth.
Fans of Richard K. Morgan, who know what to expect, and readers looking for an intense, foul-mouthed, high-octane thriller with an aggressive super-powered badass hero will probably love Thin Air. I liked the fast pace and twisty plot, and I liked Hakan (though I didn’t care too much about what happened to him) but the story was a little too intense, angry, raw, and violent for me. Even the sex was brutal and graphic. I realize I’m a wimp, but Thin Air was just too uncomfortable for me. I would recommend it for Morgan’s fans, though. I think they know what to expect.
The audio version of Thin Air was produced by Random House Audio and narrated by Colin Mace. Sounding like a world-weary cynic, Mace was perfectly cast and gave a great performance. The audiobook is 18 hours long.