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Altered Carbon [Paperback]

Richard Morgan
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (139 customer reviews)
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Book Description

12 Jun 2003

Compared to James Ellroy for its brutal intensity and to Raymond Chandler for its style and characterisation, this future-crime novel is a breathtakingly fast and violent thriller that carries a weight of ideas and speculative science with graceful ease.

In Takeshi Kovacs it introduces a brooding new hero who propels the vivid strength, violence and singularity of purpose of James Ellroy's best characters into the 26th century.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; New edition edition (12 Jun 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752856464
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752856469
  • Product Dimensions: 17.4 x 11.2 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (139 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,461,680 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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


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 alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
This item has not been released yet and is not eligible to be reviewed. Reviews shown are from other formats of this item.
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 "Modern classic"
Five stars out of five.
Published 1 day ago by Al Tapone
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
I am sorry to say that I found this book to be utter rubbish.
Published 3 days ago by DHR Wisdom
4.0 out of 5 stars sci fi as it should be written
Brilliant sci-fi concept in an approachable and engaging crime-thriller/mystery format. I really enjoyed this - it was in depth but not alienating as created a deeply intricate and... Read more
Published 7 days ago by L. Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars Altered carbon
Excellent read, keeps your imagination going in overdrive. Thoroughly engrossing read very original style
I recommend this author and book to every one
Published 29 days ago by peopleplanter
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent
Excellent hard scifi. Just read it a second time and it's just as good. Shame there aren't more Kovacs novels.
Published 1 month ago by DR ADHAM A KHALEK
5.0 out of 5 stars Any screen writers out there?
A real spell binder! I read it in one sitting.
Totally immersive.
Luckily there is a sequel.
Could make a brilliant movie.
Recommended to modern SciFi fans!
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
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 2 months 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 3 months 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 4 months 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 4 months ago by Bass Man
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