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Altered Carbon (GOLLANCZ S.F.) [Paperback]

Richard Morgan
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Aug 2007 GOLLANCZ S.F.

Four hundred years from now mankind is strung out across a region of interstellar space inherited from an ancient civilization discovered on Mars. The colonies are linked together by the occasional sublight colony ship voyages and hyperspatial data-casting. Human consciousness is digitally freighted between the stars and downloaded into bodies as a matter of course.

But some things never change. So when ex-envoy, now-convict Takeshi Kovacs has his consciousness and skills downloaded into the body of a nicotine-addicted ex-thug and presented with a catch-22 offer, he really shouldn¿t be surprised. Contracted by a billionaire to discover who murdered his last body, Kovacs is drawn into a terrifying conspiracy that stretches across known space and to the very top of society.

For a first-time SF writer to be so surely in command of narrative and technology, so brilliant at world-building, so able to write such readable and enjoyable SF adventure, is simply extraordinary.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; New edition edition (2 Aug 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575081120
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575081123
  • Product Dimensions: 2.9 x 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 264,566 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Morgan is 39 and was, until his writing career took off, a tutor at Strathclyde University in the English Language Teaching division. He has travelled widely and lived in Spain and Istanbul. He is a fluent Spanish speaker.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Richard Morgan's debut SF thriller Altered Carbon isn't for the faint-hearted. Its noir private-eye investigation races through extreme violence, hideously imaginative torture and many high-tech firefights.

In 2411, death is not forever. Afterward, they can read your personality from an implanted "cortical stack" and upload you into a new body--at a price. Hero Kovacs has worn many bodies on different worlds as a former member of the UN Envoy Corps, programmed killers to a man. Now the incredibly rich Bancroft brings him to Earth to investigate a killing... of Bancroft himself, restored from his digital backup and rejecting the police theory of suicide.

Half the vice-lords of 25th-century San Francisco are soon chasing Kovacs with futuristic surveillance, drugs and weaponry. Virtual-reality interrogation means they can torture you to death, and then start again. There's a bleak slave trade in rented or confiscated bodies--and Kovacs finds his current borrowed face is all too well known to both police and underworld.

Ultraviolent set-pieces follow, sprinkled with philosophical asides such as this reflection on a stungun: "It was the single forgiving phrase in the syntax of weaponry I had strapped around me. The rest were unequivocal sentences of death."

There are some James-Bondian implausibilities, such as Kovacs's final confrontation with the villain he's sworn to kill: rather than shooting and leaving fast, he discusses the plot for 10 pages until... but that would be telling. This is high-tension SF action, hard to put down--though squeamish readers may shut their eyes rather frequently. --David Langford --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


The run-up to the publication of the Altered Carbon paperback has been very busy for Richard. With the sale of his novel to Joel Silver, the producer of The Matrix, interest in this book has doubled. During the period that this story was all over the news Richard's book reached number 1 on the Amazon genrechart. TV:Richard appeared on BBC BREAKFAST to talk about the book and film deal. Features/Articles:Front page of THE DAILY MIRROR in Scotland was plastered with Richard and his film deal. A smaller version of the story ran in theEnglish version. Half page news article with extract in THE GUARDIAN. News article on film deal in THE SUN 7 Days feature piece in THE SUNDAY HERALD. Small piece on the film deal ran in september issue of DREAMWATCH and STARBURST.Interviews:A full interview will run in the September issue of STARBURST. The WH Smith website will run an extract and an interview. An interview with Richard should run in THE SUN on publication on the paperback. Events:Richard'swas interviewed by Ken McLeod on Tuesday 15th October at Waterstones Edinbirgh. Apparently the event went spectacularly and both authors sold many copiesof their books. Attendance was good and they are eager to organise a signingfor the new book, Broken Angels. Richard's appearance at Dead on Deansgate went very well. He managed to fend off the cynicism (mainly from Martina Cole)to hold his own on a panel of crimewriters. He even sold some books afterwards having obviously picked up a few fans. Reviews: Writers NewsDorset Echo --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An astonishing accomplishment 16 Jun 2010
I have read The Steel Remains, the same author's foray into fantasy, and enjoyed it so I figured it was high time to test out the genre which he apparently writes his best work in!

Altered Carbon is the first in a series involving Takeshi Kovacs, a former Envoy, which is a futuristic version of an SAS trooper - designed as a combination of shock troop, spy and assassin. This is a world where people are "resleeved" using their stacks; essentially as long as their stacks are intact at the moment of death, they can be brought back into a free body:

"Poor Death, no match for the mighty altered carbon technologies of data storage and retrieval arrayed against him. Once we lived in terror of his arrival. Now we flirt outrageously with his sombre dignity..."

At the start of the novel Takeshi is resleeved into the body of a former cop and hired by a 'meth' (long-lived humans who retain the same body for centuries through cloning techniques) called Bancroft to investigate the circumstances surrounding his death. From there Takeshi is thrown into a far-reaching mystery that he has to solve before he and those dragged along with him are terminated with Real Death.

One of the reasons I have hesitated in the past about picking up science fiction novels is because I wasn't sure I would find it easy to understand the science element in the book. I am pleased to report that in this book Morgan deals with some extremely interesting scientific concepts, but in every case they are couched in terms that could realistically occur in a near future of our world.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get to the next screen... 11 Nov 2003
This is probably one of the best books I have read in recent years, because it manages to blend a number of my favourite genres into one great tale. As a measure of how well the book has been received, I understand (from an interview with Richard Morgan) that Altered Carbon has been optioned by Hollywood, and has joined the select ranks of books which might make it onto the big screen.
Altered Carbon mixes equal measures of hardcore action, political intrigue and detective story with welcome dashes of wry humour (and even a little porn).
Set in a future where humanity has colonised the galaxy and death is no longer something to be feared, individuals are fitted with ubiquitous 'stacks' which can backup consciousness, allowing that person to be 're-sleeved' (at a cost) in a new body if their own is damaged beyond repair.
The central character, Takeshi Kovacs, is a renegade from the Envoy Corps, an elite branch of troopers who are conditioned to have superior combat skills. Killed while working as a mercenary on the colonised planet of Harlan's World, Kovacs wakes to find that he has been 'needlecast' (digitally freighted) and resleeved by a mysterious 400 year old benefactor called Laurens Bancroft. Kovacs is coerced into investigating Bancrofts recent 'death', which appears to be an open-and-shut suicide, only Bancroft refuses to accept that. We follow Kovacs as his investigations lead him into serious jeopardy, where more is at stake than the superficial death of just one man.
Altered Carbon contains some fantastic sci-fi conventions, most of which have been done before in some form or another, but never quite this slick.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pleasant surprise 3 Jun 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Unusually, a pleasant surprise to find a new (to me) SF author who is worth reading. Having learned a little sense in my old age, I now download a free taster before paying; often before I've bought on the basis of good reviews and been sadly disappointed.

Richard Morgan has managed a feat unique in my experience: a credible detective story set in an SF future where technology seemingly allows anything to be possible. Attempts I've read before always come to grief because the technology allows rabbits to be pulled from hats at will; here the who-dunnit aspect isn't sacrificed to convenient whizz-bangery.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost excellent 11 Feb 2013
By Julius
Hard-boiled detective genre meets sci-fi.

Though the writer has you hooked in the first few chapters and keeps you entertained throughout, I felt the story lost it's focus slightly in the last third. This isn't to say that the ending was weak, just that the nicely paced neo-noir narrative fades as the resolution of the story goes into solid sci-fi territory towards the end.

What Richard Morgan has done superbly here is craft a thriller that not just merely 'uses' a futuristic society along with the technology in it that the writer comes up with - the story actually NEEDS these sci-fi elements to work. You don't for one second get the impression that the techno-talk could just as easily have been dispensed with, it is quite simply inherent to the plot.

My only gripe is that the final third feels more like a sci-fi movie than the hard-boiled mystery the first 2 thirds of the story give you - but that's just a matter of taste I suspect.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars definitely a must read
Absolutely love this book. Brilliantly written. Have been looking for a book like this for a while and thismis just perfect. I hope there are many more to follow.
Published 17 hours ago by mr b p gough
4.0 out of 5 stars If you like complexity, and I for one do.........
Totally immersive world with exceptional depth. The only reason I am not giving it 5 stars is that I want some more back story!!
Published 20 days ago by Wes Ramm
4.0 out of 5 stars Cracking story
This is a pacey enjoyable sci fi with some original concepts. Excellent novel that will appeal to all cyberpunk fans!
Published 1 month ago by jj mcintyre
4.0 out of 5 stars Great stuff, not perfect (see Leviathan wakes) but very good quality
I love the style of this book and the fact that it is a mystery story as well as a violent action thriller in a thought proving future. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Bass Man
5.0 out of 5 stars Very quick arrival
This book was a present and arrived very quickly the recipient was very happy and i will be looking out for more. Thanks
Published 2 months ago by Jean Ryan
5.0 out of 5 stars Altered Carbon
Very smart and believable future with "a who done it" to test Poirot. Highly recommend this book and Richard Morgan in general.
Published 2 months ago by Tim
5.0 out of 5 stars impressive
I gather this is a 1st novel. Bodes well for the future. Good story, well written.
(my 1st five star for a new [to me] author)
Published 2 months ago by Graeme
4.0 out of 5 stars good but..
I quite enjoyed this but felt it probably went on a bit and at some points kinda lost track of characters. Overall a good story but feel like it just lacked something. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Kingpin Em..
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed this.
Good solid science fiction detective story, exploring the possibilities and moral dilemmas of copying personalities from one body to another. Read more
Published 5 months ago by kimoneil
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Innovative, intelligent and captivating book, I highly recommend it.
This book is brilliant, do buy it as it could be the best read of your life!
Published 5 months ago by Hilscooper
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