Altered Carbon - Takeshi Kovacs, Bk 1 Author:Richard K. Morgan In the twenty-fifth century, humankind has spread throughout the galaxy, monitored by the watchful eye of the U.N. While divisions in race, religion, and class still exist, advances in technology have redefined life itself. Now, assuming one can afford the expensive procedure, a person's consciousness can be stored in a cortical stack at the bas... more »e of the brain and easily downloaded into a new body (or "sleeve") making death nothing more than a minor blip on a screen.
Ex-U.N. envoy Takeshi Kovacs has been killed before, but his last death was particularly painful. Dispatched one hundred eighty light-years from home, re-sleeved into a body in Bay City (formerly San Francisco, now with a rusted, dilapidated Golden Gate Bridge), Kovacs is thrown into the dark heart of a shady, far-reaching conspiracy that is vicious even by the standards of a society that treats "existence" as something that can be bought and sold. For Kovacs, the shell that blew a hole in his chest was only the beginning...
There is nothing really new in the SF meets noir detective novel. On the noir side, there is the cynical, hard-boiled detective unwillingly drawn in to the machinations of the powerful; there are the beautiful women embroiled in the case in varying degrees, nearly all of whom eventually get bedded; there is the city filled to the brim with drug dealers, whorehouses, and little people being eaten up by the powerful. On the SF side, there are hints of an ancient galactic civilization, now defunct; there are guns and computer programs to do anything anyone could want; there are A.I.s, particularly The Hendrix, which is a fabulous invention; and of course, there is the ubiquitous process of resleeving, by which death has been conquered for the rich. Even the melding of the two genres is not new: it dates back at least to Isaac Asimovs Elijah Bailey/R. Daneel Olivaw novels.
What Altered Carbon provides, however, is all of those familiar elements done up in a superb style. It is an extraordinarily visual book I understood from the first page of the prologue why Joel Silver and Warner Bros. bought the film rights for $1 million. The narrative is fast-paced, the tone is spot-on, and the philosophical musings, while also not ground-breaking in any way, are moments to savor rather than skip over. The mystery is satisfyingly twisty but still fair to the reader, and the final confrontation ratchets up the tension to a screaming pitch then uses the bare minimum of words to choreograph the denoument. Really an impressive first novel, and one I heartily enjoyed.
I do have one quibble, however: I read the author bio in the back of the book first, and two of the three sentences were about the film rights. I found this a tad tasteless, not very informative, and kind of distracting, as I spent the entire novel trying to imagine how someone would film it.
Cyberpunk-inflected SF; dark (the protagonist is more an antihero than a hero) and quite violent, but quite good. This is the first in a loosely connected series of three novels dealing with the same character.
A gritty look into the future where your mind can be stored and downloaded into bodies. Making death no big deal. A gritty noir vibe. First book in the Takeshi Kovacs series. Good plot, lots of twists and action and really creates a world you can get into. Read it.
zade reviewed Altered Carbon (Takeshi Kovacs, Bk 1) on
Helpful Score: 1
Morgan is absolutely the hottest SF/Fantasy writer (he does both) of the 21st century. His work is consistently politically conscious and dripping with the kind of outrage that infects the reader and spurs action in the here and now. You don't have to agree with all his positions to enjoy the book. In fact, you probably won't, but Morgan will make you think and he'll make your heart ache just as well as he gets your adrenaline going. Yes, all of Morgan's books are ultra-violent, but despite what some reviewers say, the violence is *never* gratuitous. Violence is a part of human existence and Morgan refuses to romanticize or glorify it the way so much of pop culture does. Instead, he presents it in its full sickening, repulsive horror. It's a much more honest approach to violence (and sex) than is common and it's not for the faint of heart, but it's the only approach that would work with Morgan's view of the world and of people.
I've read all of Morgan's novels to date and Altered Carbon remains among my favorites. The Takeshi Kovacs series is well worth every second you spend reading; it's always challenging, never predictable, and completely absorbing. Kovacs makes for an interesting hero (anti-hero?) and Morgan succeeds in getting the reader inside Kovacs's skin (or sleeve, as the case may be--read the book if you don't get the reference). Despite Kovacs's violent and criminal approach to life, he has an iron core of morality that makes him the perfect foil for the corrupt and seemingly all-powerful antagonists he encounters in this book.
You can read the Kovacs series out of order and still enjoy them immensely. Each novel takes the reader to a new world (but with the same eye for right and wrong), so each novel is a very different experience to the previous one. Nonetheless, I'd suggest starting here, with Altered Carbon. It's the world closest to our own and gives the reader the clearest introduction to Kovacs and his values.
Final note: Read Morgan's novels. You'll be well entertained and you'll be a better person for it, too.
An engaging mystery set in the far future where you never know who is in the body you are talking to and you might not even know what body you will end up in. This book was a fast read that was mostly enjoyable. There are a few moments in which characters share meaningful looks, nods of agreement, or statements of agreement where I felt like I had missed something in the dialogue but overall the confusion gets hammered out or explained before the book is over.
Be warned that there is violence bordering on sadism perpetuated by the protagonist and a couple of graphic sex scenes.