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.
I really liked this book. In the future, you can download your consciousness to a new "sleeve" (body), which is used to transport people to new worlds (since you are digital, you have no mass -- a nice way to bypass the speed-of-light problem).
The story follows a private detective, Takeshi Kovacs, and his investigation of his wealthy client's death (who had his consciousness backed up nightly). All the clues point to suicide, but the client cannot imagine a motive, since he knows he is backed up nightly.
Good story, great characters, believable science, and a fun ride. Gets a little out-of-control near the end, but it regains control for the ending. I'd recommend to any Sci-Fi reader.
Over sized Paperback book published March 2003, first printing.
In the twenty-fifth century, humankind has spread throughout the galaxy, moniotored by the watchful eye of the U.N. While divisions of race, religon, and class still exsist, advances in tech have redfined life itself. Assuming one can afford the expensive proceedure, apersons conscious can now be stored in a cortical stack at the base of the Brain and easily downloaded into a new body (or "sleeve") making death nothing more than a blip on a screen...unlesss...(this is hard core cyberpunk, and a hardboiled detective tale all rolled into one.)
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.
A good solid cyber punk detective novel. The sex and violence can get a bit extreme at times, but it still serves the plot. There are a few things I think an editor would (or should) have helped clean up as well, but overall a good read. Recommended.
A fast moving, violent and engrossing tale of a sci-fi/cyberpunk mystery. A specialist is brought back to earth from another world to solve a unique problem. FWIW, there is a blend of descriptive sex, language, violence, and some very different sci-fi themes and ideas. Great writing and well worth the read.
Richard Morgan's "Altered Carbon" is a action-powered trip into a future world where warrior Takeshi Kovacs's identity is pulled from one world into another and "sleeved" into a body with a history. His mission is to save himself and his girlfriend by figuring out why a man of power, who has body replacements, had one of his bodies murdered. Morgan takes the reader into a world of novel and brilliant futuristic concepts. His world is like being in a foreign country, one that leaves it to the reader to figure out over time what the technologies and terminologies he employs actually mean. Reading the book is like walking into a country with no understanding of its culture and language. It takes time to ultimately build a mental picture of what is happening in this book. Perhaps this was the author's purpose. I cannot tell. However, my singular criticism of this book is the author's writing style -- one that relies on short choppy sentences and minimal punctuation. It's almost as if his editor said the book was too long and he resolved the problem by the wholesale removal of words and punctuation. That said, the book did win the Philip K. Dick Award and was widely lauded. I think a great deal of praise has to go to the author's ability to imagine a world that captures fragments of today and whirls worth such a vivid tomorrow 300 years into the future.