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.
'Brilliant. Unputdownable. And lots of similar blurb-writing clichés, only in this case all true. I loved it.' -- Adam Roberts
'Carbon-black noir with drive and wit, a tight plot and a back-story that leaves the reader wanting a sequel...' -- KEN MACLEOD
'Hits the floor running and then starts to accelerate. For a first novel it is an astonishing piece of work.' -- Peter F. Hamilton