Altered Carbon (GOLLANCZ S.F.) Paperback – 9 Sep 2002
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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 EchoSee all Product description
Top customer reviews
Re-reading was fun, it's an innovative sci fi that has enough out of reach but believable tech to keep nerds happy, enough violence to keep a football hooligan salivating too much, enough gumshoe to please Dashiell Hammett and enough sex to rekindle bored marriages.
The tale is slick, reviewing the plot itself would do it an injustice. It glistens with blade runner rain without ever becoming pastiche, at times it feels like it lost a little direction but hey, this was a first novel.
Like sci fi gumshoe? Buy it now. You'll blow your stack.
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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Most recent customer reviews
The characters have some depth to them and Kovacs makes an interesting, flawed hero.Read more
The first 1/3 of the book or so, the author seems to be searching for his voice, and...Read more