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Altered Carbon

Richard Morgan

Average Review Rating Average Rating 9/10 (2 Reviews)
Book Details

Publisher : Victor Gollancz

Published : 2002

Copyright : Richard Morgan 2002

ISBN-10 : PB 0-575-07322-5
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-575-07322-7

Publisher's Write-Up

In the 26th century mankind has spread through the galaxy, taking its religions and racial divisions out into the cold arena of space. While tensions exist and small dirty wars flare up every now and then, the UN Protectorate maintains an iron grasp on the new worlds, aided by its very own elite shock troops: the Envoy Corps.

Meanwhile, what religion cannot guarantee technology has already delivered; when your consciousness can be stored in a cortical stack and routinely downloaded into a new body, even death has become little more than an inconvenience. As long as you can afford a new body...

Ex-UN Envoy Takeshi Kovacs has been killed before; it was a hazard of the job, but his last death was particularly brutal. Needlecast across light years of space, re-sleeved into a body in San Francisco on Old Earth and thrown into the centre of a conspiracy that is vicious even by the standards of a society that has forgotten how to value life, he soon realises that the shell that blew a hole in his chest on Harlan's World was only the beginning of his problems.

Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon is an SF novel of extraordinary vision and depth. This fast-moving, breathtakingly violent thriller carries a weighty cargo of ideas and speculative science with graceful ease.

Richard Morgan is a tutor at Strathclyde University. This is his first novel.

'Carbon-black noir with drive and wit, a story that leaves the reader wanting a sequel like another fix.'

Ken Macleod

'Hits the floor running and then starts to accelerate. Intriguing and inventive in equal proportions and refuses to let go until the last page.'

Peter F. Hamilton
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Reader Reviews

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Review by Chrissi (011202) Rating (9/10)
Review by Nigel (011102) Rating (9/10)

Review by Chrissi
Rating 9/10
Right, where do I start? This was chosen for me to read by my darling husband, because he said that I no longer read anything recommended by him and he thinks that this is a form of neglect. So I got this to read, right after he had finished it and was still full of enthusiasm for this particular debut novel. (PS I must have liked it as we have a copy for my brother for Christmas, but don't tell him if you see him, otherwise it will not be a surprise!!)

As you well know, true, hard-core science fiction is not my taste, my preferences being the rather less technologically advanced science fantasy. That said, the technology of this book is just there, it required very little understanding on my part, once I had figured out the (d.h.) (as written, in the brackets after someone's name,) meant digitised human. The premise of the story is that a very wealthy man either was killed or killed himself using a weapon that only he or his wife could have accessed, and the last hours of his life are missing. He is not very happy about this, and drafts in Takeshi Kovacs, who has until this point been maintained in a digital prison without a body for some crime.

Now the theory goes that people are all surgically fitted with a memory device at birth, and if you die then you can have a new body, subject to money or circumstances, providing that the data on your hard drive is safe somewhere, so it is possible to inflict real death on someone, and that is a rather nasty offence, which results in your being disencorporated and stored for a period of time until you see the error of your ways. The downside of this is that you cannot be sure that your body will still be there when you are released.

Kovacs is pulled from his storage facility and, as he is only a digital form, he is broadcast back to earth from some remote human outpost. Back on earth, he wakes up in some other person's body and is taken to meet his new employer who makes him an offer that has got to be better than being stored for a long period of time.

The investigation conducted by Kovacs into the death/suicide of his employer leads him around the Earth, which has become a very stagnant society, and into the rather base tastes of some of its denizens. On the way, we see what has become of the Catholics in the future, and a passage that (if Morgan is not a catholic himself) probably quite amused him in an anarchic kind of way.

It is strange to say, that you kind of know what happened, you are just waiting for the answers to why. Both Nigel and I guessed what really happened, but at the end of the day, the story is not spoiled because it is the surrounding plot which is so much more important.

The plot itself is magical, so simple and yet so elegantly executed. If this man brings out another science fiction novel like this, then I will read it, I really liked Takeshi Kovacs and think that he could really have a future, Richard Morgan, on the other hand, definitely has a future, and I hope that it will be huge.
Chrissi (1st December 2002)

Review by Nigel
Rating 9/10
I would put money on Richard Morgan having read Greg Egan's work. This is not an accusation or criticism but an observation. All good ideas should propagate and evolve and the cortical stack and virtual worlds presented in Altered Carbon are so reminiscent of Greg Egan's copies it would perhaps stretch coincidence a little too far. However, enough idle speculation.

Altered Carbon is quite simply a breath taking debut. It mixes brilliant thought provoking ideas with a murder mystery in an almost sublime way. The use of technology never overpowers the story, it is just there in the same way cars, phones, planes, etc., are there in any current day thriller. This may not seem like much but it is a hard trick to pull off this well.

Takeshi Kovacs is brought out of storage and given a rented body to do a job; his choices are simple, accept the terms or go back to storage. Laurens Bancroft, wealthy and very long lived, is his 'employer'. Having apparently blown his own head off and destroyed his cortical stack he has been re-sleeved from a backup 48 hours old. He also doesn't believe he would take his own life, especially as he knows he would be restored so easily and therefore believes he was murdered. Unfortunately, all the evidence points to suicide and the Police are no longer interested. Enter Kovacs - reluctant investigator with borderline psychopathic tendencies - given the task of finding out what happened in those 48 hours and find the killer.

If you are a SF fan this book is going to blow your mind. It is good in so many ways... a must read book that was very nearly a 10/10.

It would also make a great film in the hands of the right director. If you have the money buy the rights now (if they haven't gone already), as it would make a killing.
Nigel (1st November 2002)

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