Fascinating and scary first contact story that explores the nature of intelligence and consciousness in a way that leaves you questioning your own thought processes.
Is it yet another borderline sociopathic protagonist from Richard Morgan? Yes it is. Carl Marsalis is a “Variant 13” – genetically engineered to match the profile of the aggressive hunter-gatherers before civilization took a proper hold on the hard-wired parts of our psyches. His job: to hunt down other Thirteens, who have been declared illegal. He is recruited by COLIN, the agency behind the Mars Colony Initiative, to hunt down a particularly nasty specimen who has managed to escape from Mars, and is now blazing a bloody trail across the Pacific Rim.
Yes, it’s all a bit screechingly brutal and violent, but I think this is deliberate on Morgan’s part: by stripping his protagonist of social conditioning, he creates a viewpoint with which to coldly evaluate and criticize behaviours and mores that have become acceptable, but maybe should not be.
Or maybe it’s just a balls-out futuristic action thriller with some great characters and spectacular plot twists. Hey, what do I know.