Richard K. Morgan wrote, possibly, my favorite sci-fi novel, “Altered Carbon.” This is his first fantasy novel. Morgan has ignored many fantasy conventions with “The Steel Remains.” There is a gay protagonist, aliens, and gay sex between the protagonist and the alien. The sex is told with the usual Morgan detail, that is, the sex sections are basically pornography. It’s a very brave route and I applaud Morgan for the bravery, but it also seemed ridiculous – more on this shortly.
It has the other Morgan touches as well – excellent descriptions, prose, structure, and a taste for the ultra-violent.
There’s a mind-bending time-space continuum portion that’s a little over-the-top and goofy, but Morgan again uses a deft writing hand to navigate his readers through it.
Ultimately, my final take is that this is, in many ways, an amazing book, but, yet, I simply didn’t enjoy reading it that much. Ringil (the gay protagonist) is something of an ass and you could argue that it’s because he’s had to be. All the characters seemed a little thin and I can’t completely get past the notion that he’s breaking the rules of fantasy for the sake of breaking the rules. The homosexual/alien dynamic strikes me as goofy even though Morgan executes it well, but only in retrospect. Upon the initial reading, it was a you-have-to-be-shitting-me moment. It’s difficult to discuss the homosexual component – it certainly strikes me as odd, gratuitous and, at first, seemed to detract from the story and seem somewhat implausible. However, in retrospect, it’s a better book than my initial impression. Morgan provides answers and motives. I just wish that Morgan would have written a novel that brings in its readers as well as Ringil crosses swords.