Friday, March 13, 2009

"The Steel Remains"

Richard K. Morgan is the acclaimed author of Thirteen, which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award, Woken Furies, Market Forces, Broken Angels, and Altered Carbon, a New York Times Notable Book that also won the Philip K. Dick Award.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Steel Remains, and reported the following:
Meet Ringil Eskiath (something you really wouldn't want to do in real life), retired and forgotten war hero, sexual degenerate (standard issue terminology in this world for gay) and sword wielding hard man non pareil. By the time we hit p. 69 of The Steel Remains, we have already met Ringil a couple of times, but this page (the beginning of Chapter 7 in the US hardback edition) frames him perhaps as well or better than anything else in the book:

"Ringil went home, bad-tempered and grit eyed with the krin"

A state of mind Ringil spends quite a lot of The Steel Remains inhabiting, in fact. "Krin", proper name krinzanz, is a nasty, speedy drug (think Crystal Meth) and a lot of the veterans of this war have developed a taste for it (though it's more likely Gil's taste came from his earlier misspent noble youth) and he uses it a lot. The bad temper, though, cannot be considered wholly chemically induced. Home, for Ringil Eskiath, is not a particularly good place to be.

The rest of p. 69 is largely devoted to a description of the upmarket Glades district of Ringil's home city Trelayne, sunk in pre-dawn gloom and providing:

"a.....palette for his mood - low lying river mist snagged through the tortured black silhouettes of the mangroves, high mansion windows like the lights of ships moored or run aground..........The pale unreal gleaming of the paved carriageway beneath his feet and others like it snaking away through the trees."

There's a slightly creepy, slightly unreal feel to this stuff which I like, and which foreshadows the haunted places Ringil will spend quite a lot of the latter parts of the novel surviving in. And the description (and p.69) finishes with the off-hand explanation:

"this might easily have been any given morning of his misspent youth"

Might have been, but is not. Ringil is older now (though not particularly wiser), paunchier and more weary, and while the book charts his return to some of the haunts and pre-occupations of his youth, what he discovers in the process will only drive him further and more bitterly still from the place he once called home. For Ringil Eskiath, there can be no homecoming, no redemption and no happy end. In fact, he'll be lucky if he walks away from it all in one breathing piece.

Read an excerpt from The Steel Remains, and learn more about the book and author at Richard K. Morgan's website.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue