Thin Air (Morgan novel)

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Thin Air
AuthorRichard K. Morgan
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreDystopian cyberpunk military science fiction
Published2018 (Gollancz)
Media typePrint, ebook, audiobook
Pages544 (1st edition hardcover)
Preceded byBlack Man / Thirteen 
Followed bySequel being written 

Thin Air is a dystopian cyberpunk military science fiction novel by Richard K. Morgan first published in 2018. Set in the same reality as his 2007 novel Black Man (published as Thirteen or Th1rte3n in the United States), it is set "well over a century" later than the earlier novel, with all the action taking place on Mars, whereas Black Man / Thirteen is set on Earth.


Protagonist Hakan Veil was genetically engineered from childhood to be a "hibernoid", who spends 4 months of every [Earth] year asleep. Bred to be a crisis commando, he was fired and exiled to Mars after the failure of a mission and has since worked as muscle-for-hire. When United Nations officials come to Mars to audit political corruption, Veil gets embroiled in violent complications and political conspiracies.[1]

Major themes[edit]

Morgan describes a Mars established as a colony for the benefit of Earth-based megacorporations, where potentially-dangerous industry can occur with minimal risk to humankind.[1] Several streets on Mars are named for Chicago School economists and conservative politicians;[1] in an interview Morgan stated that "neoliberalism has set loose a vast capital investment potential that certainly accommodates the necessary scale and ambition, but it is, of course, utterly rapacious, anti-humane and self-interested at the same time."[2] The protagonist's view of Mars repeatedly critiques the "Martian High Frontier Myth", reflecting a theme common to Morgan's works, of grandness left to decay:

There is a central conceit that I keep ... returning to ... of something grand and worthwhile being abandoned by vicious and stupid men in favour of short-term profit and tribal hegemony. ... So also with Thin Air — the landscape is littered with the markers of a retreat from the grand scheme of terraforming and building a home for humanity on Mars, in favour of an ultraprofitable corporate stasis and an ongoing lie of highly emotive intangibles sold to the general populace in lieu of actual progress.[2]

With Martian terraforming having been partly abandoned, the atmosphere is described as "four percent Earth sea level standard";[1][2] the colonists of Mars are of mainly Andean and Himalayan stock.[1]

Development history[edit]

Morgan has described that some of the vague concept of Thin Air had been in his head since around the time Black Man / Thirteen and that the reference to "a character on Mars, a hibernoid PI who’s hard as nails" in that novel was a template for Hakan Veil.[2] Morgan was embarrassed to describe that new-fatherhood meant that he hadn't found time to read Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy before writing Thin Air, despite having intended to.[2]

Publication history[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Richard Morgan (2018). Thin Air. Del Rey Books. ISBN 978-0345493125.
  2. ^ a b c d e Sara Martín Alegre (2018). "Martian Politics and the Hard-Boiled Anti-Hero: Richard Morgan's Thin Air". Revista Hélice. 4 (11): 84–95. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 October 2018.

External links[edit]

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