Monday, 29 April 2013

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

This book took forever to read. This is not a remark on its readability or how much I enjoyed it - stuff just kept getting in the way. Books kept bumping it off the list of three books I was currently reading - once because a book came in from the library that had a long line of holds behind it, so I had to read it quickly, and once because it came around to being my turn to moderate a discussion in a group here on Goodreads, and I felt I should, you know, read the book I was moderating the discussion about.

So, through no fault of its own, Altered Carbon languished in limbo there for a while.

But I'm finally done it, and yeah, that was a damn fine book.

It's science fiction noir, and Morgan has a nice touch of both noir phrasing and overly-complicated noir plotting. I really didn't see the intricacies of the story until they were laid out, but it never worried me. I enjoyed being plunged into the confusing world that Takeshi Kovacs wakes up in, with little more information than he had.

Takeshi Kovacs was arrested in a bust. The sentence? Being put "on stack" - to have his downloaded personality put on hold for a sentence of up to 100 years, while someone else gets to use his body to be "resleeved" - to get back corporeality after dying in an accident, or being released from a sentence of their own. Or just for kicks, for the rich, a spare body to wear to fashionable occasions.

Resleeving is the core of this novel, the ways in which it could be exploited, who might be doing the exploiting, the disorientation of waking up in a body you don't know, the ways you might trip over the body's former occupant.

Kovacs finds himself resleeved on another planet - Earth - his time and body bought and paid for by a local rich man who can't believe he committed suicide, and wants Kovacs to get to the bottom of it. Kovacs follows this trail of bodies, treasured, used, and discarded down dark alleys and into sleazy joints, negotiating his new body as he tries to negotiate an entirely foreign world.

The mystery is quite satisfying. But it is the world Morgan creates here, the ethical, religious, and practical considerations of a world where it is very hard for death to be final, and bodies can be disposable. Life is still valuable, but what carries it around might not be.


  1. What on earth did they object to in this review? I have read 'Altered Carbon' and your comments are precise, accurate and would encourage any science-fiction reader to find this book. I commend your courage to strike a blow against corporate conformity.
    John Davis

    1. Thanks for the kind words about the review, John! None of my own reviews have ever been targeted by the powers-that-be, but I have been and continue to take them down in solidarity with my friends who did have reviews deleted, and were threatened to have their memberships suspended if they continued to protest what was going on at the site.