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Market Forces

by Richard K. Morgan

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1,2992610,405 (3.44)37
What do you buy and sell when the global markets reach saturation point? The markets themselves. Thirty years from now the big players in global capitalism have moved on from commodities. The big money is in conflict investment. The corporations keep a careful watch on the wars of liberation and revolution that burn constantly around the world. They guage who the winners will be and sell them arms, intelligence and power. In return for a slice of the action when the war is won. The reward? A stake in the new nation. It's cynical, brutal and it has nothing to do with democracy and the rule of law. So what else is new? The executives in this lethal game bid for contracts, fight for promotion, secure their lives on the roads. Fighting lethal duels in souped up, heavily armoured cars on the empty motorways of the future. Chris Faulkener has a lethal reputation and a new job at Shorn Associates. Has he got what it takes to make a real killing?… (more)
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The rising power of corporations has been a strong theme in SF since the '80s. It was a key element in cyberpunk and it's central to this novel. This isn't cyberpunk, though - cyber is largely irrelevant, certainly not a key theme or even an important part of the world building. Instead, Morgan extrapolates the trends of corporate power in the international political arena (in fairly conventional ways) and innovates by doing the same for corporate internal politics. These ideas are extreme and hopefully preposterous.

I found it to be a compelling read in that it's full of incident and yet, and yet...the actual plot develops slowly, is a little too predictable and our protagonist isn't a hero. Not even an anti-hero. Just an asshole. Which made it difficult to care - much like Kovac in the sequels to Altered Carbon. ( )
  Arbieroo | Jul 17, 2020 |
In "Market Forces", Richard Morgan imagines a near-future Britain future in which large consultancies make money by sponsoring small wars and then selling arms and services and splitting the spoils. Work is put out to tender via Requests for Proposals but the competing teams literally fight to the death in ritualized street combat to win them. The gap between rich and poor has widened. Road use is restricted to an elite, who use their cars as personal combat weapons, attempting to assassinate or disable each other to win status by taking the conquered person's plastic from their dead or bleeding bodies.

The premise is a deliberate exaggeration but the spirit it embodies reflect my experience of how it feels to work in large elite consultancies.

At first glance, "Market Forces" seems to be a very different book from the body-switching, space-traveling worlds of the Kovacs books that made Richard Morgan's reputation but the themes are the same, they are just a lot closer to home, which I found made them much more disturbing.

As usual, Richard Morgan's writing is taut, his storytelling is compelling, his sex scenes are highly charged and his action sequences are cinematographic.

Yet when I look beyond the up-close-and-personal violence and the gritty sex scenes, I see a book powered by anger. The anger of a man who has clawed his way up into a "winning" position in a society set up to keep him down. He is aware that the price of winning is to turn himself into the sort of person he despises. He understands how shallow and transitory winning is and that he is always one step away from becoming a loser. He is angry at the system, angry at himself for playing the game and for being so damned good at doing this thing that society values and that he abhors, angry at his wife for making him acknowledge that he wants something different but is unable to let go of what he has.

That all felt fairly real to me. On a more muted, boring, socially acceptable scale, I've been there and done that and I recognize the taste it leaves in my mouth.

Morgan's near-future world is a mirror help up to our own and a much more unforgiving and politically charged mirror than most Science Fiction offers. Richard Morgan, who studied history a Cambridge, once said:

"Society is, always has been and always will be a structure for the exploitation and oppression of the majority through systems of political force dictated by an élite, enforced by thugs, uniformed or not, and upheld by a willful ignorance and stupidity on the part of the very majority whom the system oppresses."

In "Market Forces" the thugs are venture capitalists/armsdealers. Faulkner, the main character, has the capacity to be one of the most effective thugs and to reap all the rewards that winning implies. Except, the price seems to be losing the ability to look himself in the eyes in the mirror.

Richard Morgan's book has been criticized for having an unrealistic premise. Sadly, I find the basic economics very credible. In any given year between 1945 and 2007 there have been 30 wars going on somewhere in the world (go here for the details). In 2013, Britain was the world's fifth largest arms exporter, with sales recorded as $1,394m ( go here for the details) but the big money is now with security contractors firms who make billions of dollars from conflict. If you doubt the credibility of Morgan's premise go here to the home page of ACADEMI, formerly Blackwater, who are a leader in their field and who offer:

“stability and protection to people and locations experiencing turmoil.” And it works with “federal, state and local government clients, global commercial customers, numerous law enforcement and intelligence organizations and agencies and allied governments worldwide.” ( )
  MikeFinnFiction | May 16, 2020 |
In a surprisingly plausible near-future Britain corporate finance executives engineer "small wars" for the profit of their investors. The business is fiercely competitive, and often results in automobile race fights to the death.

Chris Faulkner is a conflicted antihero, uncertain whether he can maintain his life of a corporate warrior. Chris remains a compelling and unpredictable character, even as the reader becomes more intimately familiar with his life. His relationships with his wife, clients, friends, and enemies slowly tear Chris apart and restitch him together as a different man.

This book consistently describes brutally violence and personal dysfunction in a way that never becomes comfortable or casual to read. ( )
1 vote wishanem | Jan 27, 2015 |
Reading this book is like being struck repeatedly over the head with a hammer-- both refreshing and unusual in a genre that tends to lean more on the side of entertainment (not a bad thing, necessarily) than issues. ( )
  eaterofwords | Nov 16, 2014 |
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Epigraph
I know-  that the cannibals wear smart suits and ties
And I know - they arm-wrestle on the altar
And I say - don't leave your heart in a hard place


Midnight Oil - Sometimes
If (I asked) the commercial banks, the official creditors, the Bank, the IMF, the TNCs, the money managers and the global elites were happy, who were we to complain?

Susan George - The Lugano Report
Dedication
Market Forces is dedicated, with love, to my earliest fan, my sister Caroline - because she's waited long enough
It's also dedicated to all those, globally, whose lives have been wrecked or snuffed out by the Great Neoliberal Dream and Slash-and-Burn Globalisation.
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Checkout. The shiny black plastic swipes through. Nothing.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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What do you buy and sell when the global markets reach saturation point? The markets themselves. Thirty years from now the big players in global capitalism have moved on from commodities. The big money is in conflict investment. The corporations keep a careful watch on the wars of liberation and revolution that burn constantly around the world. They guage who the winners will be and sell them arms, intelligence and power. In return for a slice of the action when the war is won. The reward? A stake in the new nation. It's cynical, brutal and it has nothing to do with democracy and the rule of law. So what else is new? The executives in this lethal game bid for contracts, fight for promotion, secure their lives on the roads. Fighting lethal duels in souped up, heavily armoured cars on the empty motorways of the future. Chris Faulkener has a lethal reputation and a new job at Shorn Associates. Has he got what it takes to make a real killing?

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