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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 9 July 2017
Not sure the science melds very well with the Noir but it's a good attempt.

The characters have some depth to them and Kovacs makes an interesting, flawed hero.

Main problem is the overly complex story and you finding out the little details of what's going on in a very drawn out fashion.

Good first novel though.

In retrospect I've knocked a star off...another reviewer said it wasn't as good asVoice of the Whirlwind, a 1987 cyber punk novel. They're right, having just read that novel, it's not. But more importantly there's a lot of things that are just too similar for me so this book loses points for a certain lack of originality.
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on 7 May 2017
Some parts brilliant, others a bit vague. I'm not sure the plot made total sense at the end. Maybe it wasn't meant too? The future world built up was fantastic, proper cyberpunk stuff. Kovacs is an interesting character. Quite a few questions left unanswered, I guess for later in the trilogy. I will probably read the next book at some point.
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on 6 March 2017
Excellent read and a good story, usually read Neal Asher but recommended this so a nice change and have purchased the rest of the Takeshi Kovacs books to see how it ends.Well worth a read if just for a different take on life in the future and no aliens or long drawn out space battles bit of sex just to keep it real!
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on 3 June 2017
Like to think I'd have enjoyed this as a teenager but The Stainless Steel Rat must be simpler and better.
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on 2 March 2017
Great book. Novel idea and very well written. Kovacs is a great character. Looking forward to reading the next book
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on 16 January 2014
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)
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on 16 June 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. 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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on 9 July 2017
A visionary book whom fails at storytelling. The world which it takes place in is great. There is no more death the normal way because of technology and this also causes human bodies to be used nearly as expensive clothes. It's a fascinated vision of the future of humanity. Still the flaws of the storytelling is too flawed to be ignored. The main character is showed of as an elite soldiers among the elites, but behaves like an amateur misjudging every situation with a tendency to use violence to solve every problem. Only way he ever archives something is because of how the writer makes it so. I quit this book half-way through because it was impossible to ignore it anymore. The main character was just too stupid. I really thought this book would be a future crime novel, and it acts like it. But the main character hardly does any investigation besides stumbling blindly until a firefight or the main villain suddenly invites him home. I only read this book because I saw Netflix was planning to make a TV-show out of it, but now I really hope they do the same as the Jason Bourne movies did to the Jason Bourne books.
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on 18 April 2017
This is Morgan's first book, and we can expect (and forgive) a bumpy take-off.

The first 1/3 of the book or so, the author seems to be searching for his voice, and finding only Sam-Spade look-alikes. Not bad, but a bit overwrought.... One of my great pleasures in reading is watching a first-time author find their own voice, especially if that voice turns out to be a good one, as is the case here: Great rhythm, suitably noir-ish, confident central character, and the most important thing: Morgan clearly loves his characters. It shows.

Throughout this first book, there is mostly good world-building (written in the 2001 non-iPhone-world perspective... Who prints reams of stuff anymore?) Steve Jobs really did change the world completely. You can even discuss pre-iPhone science fiction, but with some pain and disappointment. But I digress...

Takeshi is a tough-guy in the mold of Spade, Marlowe and Bosch (classic already), not beyond cutting corners and offing bad guys when needed, and sometimes losing his temper while holding weapons.

Once past the first 1/3 of the book, the plots deepen, although you may think you have figured out the central mystery a bit (I did). Characters are introduced at a manageable pace, and with enough depth of character to be satisfying in their roles. Fight scenes abound, mostly well-written, but there is an extended torture scene, several pages which are truly awful (which you can skip over without plot-loss).

There are also some pretty graphic sex scenes, not badly handled but perhaps a bit formulaic. Surprisingly, there is some good minor romance between Takeshi and several other characters, some of which is better than average for this kind of mystery/sci-fi. The "Merge Nine" drug scene is nicely erotic, and quite well-written

The big central concept in Altered Carbon is "immortality with a twist", and it's handled very well. Emotional, social and legal issues are addressed by the author, mostly in an engaging way through plot action, mostly not through infodump dissertations. Morgan's style of immortality, "sleeving", enables and deepens his story, an opportunity fully and intriguingly embraced by the author throughout the book.

There is a lot of "Blade Runner" showing in this future world; indeed, Philip K Dick's novel and Ridley Scott's movie wonderfully and deeply inform so much of science fiction today, so it's fine here, just familiar enough to increase your enjoyment of the book.

Around 2/3 through the book, the pacing falters, but not too badly. This is Morgan's first book; be forgiving. It's worth it.

The end of the book involves a bit too much plot explanation, but it's not handled too badly, or too much of an "events unshown" resolution, which I really hate in mysteries.

All in all, I am really pleased with this first effort by Morgan, and will now start reading the 2nd Takeshi book, Broken Angels

Updates below:
66.0% ... boy, Steve Jobs sure does make future sci-if characters look silly when they print off reams of paper to study. Hahahahaaaaha"

60.0% ... Here is a picture of Reileen Kawahara's secret lair, originally built by Francisco Franco in Spain. Fascism & Catholicism merged. Amazing real-world site to update for this book !

Valle de los Caidos
-------

41.0% ... Here is a wonderful quote spoken by Laurens, the 350 year-old murder victim -

"Two hundred and fifty years is a long time... Do you have any concept of what happens to emotional bonds over such a period? ....Your life experience cannot possibly encompass what it is to love the same person for two hundred and fifty years. In the end, if you endure, if you beat the traps of boredom and complacency, in the end what you are left with is not love. It is almost veneration. How then to match that respect, that veneration with the sordid desires of whatever flesh you are wearing at the time? I tell you, you cannot."

40.0% One of the joys of reading an author's first book is that moment when his true voice appears, his confidence and personal style. It's also doubly satisfying to know you've found an author for the long run.

30.0% .... there is a truly sick, extended torture scene for a few pages here. Just skip over it; irrelevant to the plot

20.0% ... the Sam-Spade surplus has thankfully subsided a bit; just enough to maintain the noir feeling of the mystery. The reason Laurens was "killed" seems quite apparent to me already, but I can hope for a better and more complex reason.... *sighs*

10.0% .... very sardonic, almost Sam Spade, but that's okay by me... quote
"The sunglasses were jammed on a nose you could have opened cans on."
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I really like the basic premise of Altered Carbon, the lead character Takeshi Kovacs is an ex-Envoy, an agent who has had training to be able to adjust to having his mind swapping between various different bodies. These agents have been used by the Protectorate to jump between planets solving issues faster than it could take to physically travel there by spaceship. During a police raid he dies along with his friend Sarah and finds he has been downloaded into another body on a different planet forced into a contract to find the murderer of a billionaire who is still alive due to a back up copy of his mind. The idea is fantastic and at times used really well to create an interesting cyberpunk society but I feel like it never reaches it's full potential, for example quoting the synopsis at the top of the page:

"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."

That is more information than the actual novel gives about the universe it's set in, Mars is mentioned in a passing conversation about halfway through the book in one sentence and by the time the book has finished I felt like I knew nothing about the Protectorate, Takeshi Korvac's past, why he is a criminal, who is Sarah? or why Envoy's are that special as characters seem to be body swapping throughout with minimal issue. Quite a lot of the story feels almost vague and from time to time even between chapters I feel like I skipped something in between.

That said I did enjoy it overall. Some of the characters are pretty interesting and the moment to moment scenes of Kovacs trying to solve the case are pretty addictive in a page turning kind of way. There is plenty of action and the book can get pretty dark and sexual in many places which you may or may not like. I wasn't keen, much of it felt very unnecessary. I bought this as the trilogy set so will be reading book two but if it wasn't for that I'm not sure i'd continue. There are good ideas here but sometimes the writing style and many unanswered questions just got in the way of enjoying this detective noir cyberpunk. Hard one to recommend.

+ Fantastic universe premise.
+ Some nice action and detective scenes.
+ Some interesting characters.

- Not enough exposition about certain elements of the Altered Carbon universe.
- Changing chapters occasionally left me feeling disconected from what was happening.
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