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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An astonishing accomplishment
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...
Published on 16 Jun 2010 by A. L. Rutter

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost excellent
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...
Published 21 months ago by Julius


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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An astonishing accomplishment, 16 Jun 2010
By 
A. L. Rutter "Floor to Ceiling Books" (Portsmouth, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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. Resleeving into new bodies, taking phonecalls in virtual reality, futuristic soldiers that are geared up with neurachem which helps them to respond to combat situations - all of these concepts are written in a manner that is easy to comprehend and very believable.

The story truly grips and does not relinquish that grip until the explosive finale. The pacing is stunning - starting with a bang and only increasing the dizzying speed as each page is turned. And yet this speed of pacing does not detract from the characterisation, which is smooth and very effective. In fact, I was amazed by the skill that Morgan demonstrated in presenting these characters, since their physical attributes were far less important thanks to resleeving - all of his work in developing the characters had to be through dialogue and mannerisms as opposed to merely describing what they looked like (the mark of a lazier author, in my opinion).

When you consider that this was Morgan's first novel, it is truly astonishing what he achieved over the course of five hundred pages. In Takeshi Kovacs we have a genuine anti-hero - a guy who manages to leave a trail of devastation in his wake whatever his good intentions, and who does not mind flouting the law as he does it. The noir thriller within the pages is tautly written and gives great payback. All in all, this was a fantastic accomplishment and a book I most certainly do not regret picking up - in fact, I shall now be seeking out the further adventures of Kovacs in short order. Highly recommended and a great introduction to the sci fi genre.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get to the next screen..., 11 Nov 2003
This review is from: Altered Carbon (Paperback)
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. Although the book deals with futuristic concepts, it is gritty enough and seemingly 'real' enough, to be very accessible (compared to hardcore space opera 'Revelation Space, for example).
I especially enjoyed reading how the Envoy conditioning and Neurachem worked. You almost get to know these augmentations as well as Kovacs himself, and to me they seemed to be likeable 'characters' in their own right, especially when they are struggling valiantly to keep Kovacs upright and fighting on the 'Panama Rose'....
Although packed with technology, gratuitous sexual references and gore, the story deeply explores what it would be like to be essentially immortal, and to have the benefit of a backed-up existence. Morgan clearly associates immortality with hedonism, and it is interesting to see how the more depraved characters satisfy themsleves, given an unlimited timespan to sate these urges. Religion is also explored - if the mind is so easily transplanted, then what requirement is there for a soul?
These concepts are cleverly juggled in various ways to create some of the storys finest moments and twists.
The author, Richard Morgan, has a knack of creating appealing tidbits of information that, if he was inclined to explore them, could probably fill entire books of their own.
I sincerely hope he continues to explore.
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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
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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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4.0 out of 5 stars I left my sleeve in San Francisco, 26 Oct 2014
By 
Philippe Geril (Ostend, Belgium) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Altered Carbon (GOLLANCZ S.F.) (Paperback)
In the future human bodies are just vessels or sleeves of convenience used by humans, the cortex ( or cortical stack) of whom is stored in a chip which can be downloaded in whichever body is available, whichever body can be bought or whichever body can be procured. In this world is forcibly brought Kovacs, a reluctant professional military gun for hire doing time. He has been downloaded from across the universe to earth, into the body of a dishonoured police officer in storage, in order to solve the murder, or suicide of a famous, rich and powerful meth (Methusaleh) host living in the Bay Area. The host cannot remember what happened to him, as his automatically updated and uploaded back-up clone has no knowledge whatsoever to what happened to him. In this Bladerunner like world of low lives and high intrigue where murder, death and sex are just a phase or a commodity. Kovacs fights the forces arraigned against him, using his acumen, advanced technology and a friendly AI hotel called the Hendrickx while dealing with his own troubled past to solve this mystery and trump the myriad of protagonists who come back from corporal death to taunt and kill him, over and over again.
Although the setting of the story is exotic, the plot and reason why is a bit of a let down as it does hark back to previous trodden territory in crime literature, the way on how to get there, however, is surprising and fun in its humour, false leads and sleeves, within sleeves, within sleeves.
The book is a delicious romp of future film noir full of femme fatales, henchmen and juicy cross and double cross. Let yourself be carried away and enjoy it to the full in its graphic depiction of enhanced violence, torture and sex. Certainly a classic in the genre
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Cyberpulp Debut, 17 Mar 2004
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Ever since I saw Blade Runner as a kid, I've been in love with the idea of blending science-fiction with crime, and this is a totally compelling mix of the two. Set about 500 years in the future, the story follows Takeshi Kovacs, a former space marine who has been "resleeved" to investigate a suicide on Earth. You see, in the future, one's mind or consciousness can be digitized and stored in "stacks" implanted in the base of your skull. If you commit a crime, your stack is removed and placed in storage for the duration of your sentence (usually decades or centuries), and then you are "resleeved" in a new body. Of course, resleeving costs, and for many people, a new body is like a new car or new house, with monthly payments to keep up lest your body get repossessed...
The flip side of this is that dying is only a temporary thing-unless your stack has been somehow destroyed and there's no backup, then you're subject to "RD" (real death). And if you've got enough money to get into cloning and data storage, one can live a virtually endless and seamless life. It's one of these "Meths" (after Methuselah, just one example of the excellent creation of slang in the book), who has Takeshi remanded and "needlecast" (digitally freighted) from offworld to investigate his alleged suicide in Bay City (aka San Francisco). Takeshi had been in prison, having been captured as a mercenary in a vibrantly kinetic prologue.
The meth, Bancroft, is one of the future elite, weaving elaborate corporate and political webs with others of his kind. Apparently he committed suicide a few weeks ago, but he's convinced it was murder. He's paid heftily to have Kovacs released and resleeved to investigate his death and what happened in the 48 hours leading up to it-48 hours that elapsed between his last stack backup and his temporary death. This is a great setup, as we have a reluctant protagonist grudgingly working on a case for a sinister Bancroft, quickly getting caught up with Bay City PD, Bancroft's hyper-sexy wife, and all kinds of foes.
It's an extremely convoluted tale, with lots of double-crossing, plot twists, hidden agendas, sexual tension (and outright graphic sex), dry tough guy humor, and excellent action sequences. It's so jam-packed it almost gets overwhelming at times, and one wishes Morgan had been able to trim just a little bit here and there. However, he's built a very intriguing and nasty future earth, where-as one might well imagine-a lot of the technology gets channeled into the sex trade. This is great pulp fiction, with great characters, including my favorite: the AI Hendrix Hotel. It's a hotel that runs itself using artificial intelligence, making for a hilarious, yet plausible, character. This is a great genre-blending debut, let's hope the sequel (Broken Angels) is as good.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Noir sci-fi at its very best, 23 Jun 2003
By 
Amazon Customer "Alexander Kjerulf" (Copenhagen, Denmark) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Good new science fiction writers are far between, but Richard Morgans debut novel "Altered Carbon" is a piece of work that any seasoned SF novelist could be proud of. From a novice, it's downright amazing.
We're in the 26th. century, and minds can be digitized, virtually negating death. Everybody has their mind constantly backed up to a small almost indestructible "stack" implanted in their spine. If your body gets killed, your mind can be downloaded to a new body, one grown for that purpose or one taken over from somebody less fortunate. Spare bodies are not available to the poor. Go broke, and you could easily find your body being reposessed (giving a whole new meaning to that word).
In this world Takeshi Kovacs is one of the toughest, an envoy, specially trained to have his mind beamed across interstellar space and decanted into a new body wherever trouble is brewing. And this time trouble is on earth, where a really tricky murder case involving some of the most powerful people on the planet needs his particular brand of talent.
The story's structure is classic noir detective, with robots, AI's and some very high-tech weapons thrown in. Great ideas and sudden plot twists burst from the pages as Kovacs tries to make sense of the case in the time-honored PI fashion: Thrust yourself in there, and see who takes a hit at you.
And he certainly manages to stir up some trouble, all the while remaining an interesting, likeable and very understandable human being. You're with him and you feel for him all the way.
A crucial feature of the detective story is of course the dames, and they are magnificently present in this book also. Beautiful, strong and always with their own plans, mostly unknown to Kovacs. One police woman is especially interested in his fate, because he wears the body of her boyfriend.
This book is a tremendous page turner, and I certainly swallowed it whole. I is continued in Morgans second novel "Broken Angels", which also has Kovacs as its main character.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An incredible first novel, but still a bit rough and ready, 6 Oct 2002
Altered Carbon is an extremely good example of the rising group of British Cyberpunk novels, as led by the likes of Michael Marshall Smith (this novel is very reminiscent of 'Spares'). It combines a great sci-fi setting and superb eye for intricate detail with breathtaking nihilistic thriller pace. Packed with shockingly violent action set pieces and embittered realistic characters, Altered Carbon is an incredibly involving read.
The novel leads off with a punch, as the cynic Ex-con Takeshi Kovacs and his partner get blown away very violently by the police in a raid. This highly irregular start is solved when the main plot idea of Altered Carbon is revealed: Human minds can now be uploaded into data networks, and then sent across the stars to be downloaded into new bodies.
Due to Kovacs' military background, he gets transported to earth and downloaded into an aging chainsmoker, in order to solve a murder case. An extremely rich three hundred year old businessman has been killed, and after his resurrection cannot remember why he has died. Kovacs is called onto the case, and
is drawn into a sordid mass of sex, violence and drugs revolving around the death.
For a first time novelist, Richard Morgan has done an incredible job in creating a truly believable future world, full of bizarre and intriguing technological wonders and a run-down earth culture that begs for further exploration. The Language and superb prose sear throughout, and although the end is slightly off-pace, the novel as a whole is excellent.
The novel is not a classic, and I don't think itwill end up being considered as Morgan's best work. But it is an extremely good introduction to a solid writer who should be expected to influence the field strongly for a long time to come. He'll produce better, later, but for now Altered Carbon is a great book to start appreciating the up and coming work of Richard Morgan.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A diamond geezer., 30 Aug 2014
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I bought this on the basis of the positive reviews and was not disappointed. Its a solid piece of work that keeps your interest throughout. The main character is a real diamond with few scruples and his actions are 'refreshing' in comparison some other heroes I have followed. Well done Mr Morgan, keep up the good work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost excellent, 11 Feb 2013
This review is from: Altered Carbon (GOLLANCZ S.F.) (Paperback)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sheer Brillance, 3 April 2012
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I'm going to keep this review sweet and simple and to-the-point. Richard Morgan, in my eyes, has created an epic visionary blockbuster of a trilogy that should scale the heights of James Cameron's - Avatar.

Altered Carbon, Broken Angels and Woken Furies are fantastic, they deserve to be topping the "Hall-of-Fame". I don't usually write reviews, so it shows how much I enjoyed Richard Morgans: Takeshi Lev Kovacs Series. Me personally, I gave this trilogy a five-out-of-five, simply because it does what any great novel does, keeps me clinging to my seat the whole time.

I was thrown head first into violence and gritty sex. Heart-pumping, sweat-dripping, fist-punching action. I found myself dumb struck by the scope and detail of the books. Read it and encourage others to do the same. You will not be disappointed.

If you like a bit of ethereal music to accompany the atmospheric scenes and action packed adrenaline soaked fight scenes, it would have to be something by:

- Michael McCann - Icarus (The Clinic Scene) - (Altered Carbon)
- Clint Mansell & Sam Hulick - An End, Once and for All (Martian Dreadnought Scene/End) - (Broken Angels)

Those two scenes really stood out for me, simply because I thought they were just phenomenal bits of writing. I remember having those two songs stuck in my head while reading Altered Carbon and Broken Angels, and for me, they went well together. Happy reading :)
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Altered Carbon (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
Altered Carbon (GOLLANCZ S.F.) by Richard Morgan (Paperback - 4 Sep 2008)
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