Ex-U.N. envoy Takeshi Kovacs has been killed before, but his last death was particularly painful. Dispatched 180 light-years from home, re-sleeved into a body in Bay City (formerly San Francisco, now with a rusted, dilapidated Golden Gate Bridge), Kovacs is thrown into the dark heart of a shady, far-reaching conspiracy that is vicious even by the standards of a society that treats "existence" as something that can be bought and sold. For Kovacs, the shell that blew a hole in his chest was only the beginning.
©2003 Richard K. Morgan; (P)2005 Tantor Media, Inc.
"This far-future hard-boiled detective story is a lovely virtual-reality romp." (Booklist)
"Fast-paced, densely textured, impressive....Morgan's 25th-century Earth is convincing, while the questions he poses about how much Self is tied to body chemistry and how the rich believe themselves above the law are especially timely." (Publishers Weekly)
Sex, violence and drugs become a strange brew in this futuristic novel with the premise that what we are can be contained in a small device implanted into any body. The hero, Takashi Kovacs, is a detective (of sorts). His neural systems are enhanced.
When people die in this future, except for Catholics, they can be brought back in another body if their device (called a stack) is not destroyed. Catholics do not have stacks.
So Kovacs, who is disliked by almost everyone in the novel, is called by a rich man, who believes his suicide was murder.
With more plot twists than a tub full of snakes, the story unfolds complete with some of the nastiest villans around.
If you like plenty of violence and strange machinations, read this novel. The writing is colorful and interesting and the plot moves along wihtout undue burdening by explantion of the science, politics and culutres involved.
The ending has a twisted nobility that I found appealing.
This is not high art, but it is darn good listening.
The Takeshi Kovacs (pronounced Kovotch) novels have revitalised interest in the long-dormant cyberpunk genre. Mr. Morgan has created a believable future, with a wonderful anti-hero in the tradition of Philip Marlowe, Holden Caulfield, and Yancy Slide. This story has all of the action you'd expect from a work like DaVinci Code, but less slipshod and implausible. It's harder and more brutal than the early woks of Gibson, yet it maintains a three-dimensional quality rarely found in the sci-fi.
OK, for those who do not like sex in their reading leave NOW. It's not a major point of the story (this is not debbie does sci-fi), but it is integral to intereactions of a few characters and it shows the mentality of people who have many different versions of reality and the culture they are in. Basically, if you can get passed the fact the book actually shows how normal people are and act (ie we all curse and have sex), then you will find very interesting characters and a really good who done it sort of story. If you follow on to the other two books like I did, you will find an interesting universe that is severly self referential (pay attention in the book because things will come up later!).
I happen to really like the job this narrator did on the books as well (not the same guy on all three but this guy is my favorite Takeshi Kovachs), and I really think he was able to give life and personality to a story that is in essence, a recap of past events. It felt like someone was telling me a war story over drinks in a bar at times, and for me that's a good thing.
I really enjoy my sci fi scruffy and unrefined. If you do too then you will love this series.
PS. For those who shrank at the torture scene please realize that if you don't feel the weight of the torture it stops being the abborant act it truly is. So your gut reaction is exactly what the author was going for.
Brilliantly imagined, carefully worked out, and intensely detailed, Morgan's somewhat Philip-Marlowe-ish future is gripping. His core premise is that death has been (mostly) conquered; most deaths can be undone by re-"sleeving" the dead person's consciousness, or "stack," in a different body. He's worked through a consistent vision of how much (and how little) that alters society, conduct, and people -- exactly the sort of exercise good sci-fi does best. If you like Sam Spade and thoughtful SF, you'll like Altered Carbon.
I really enjoyed this book and recommend it. It is a Raymond Chandler-esque sci-fi private eye story. A couple of caveats. It was graphically violent. The violence was appropriate but close going over the top at some points. In the beginning I worried the book was going to be none-stop blood and smashed faces and I considered stopping, but I'm glad I didn't. There is very graphic sex as well, which isn't unusual, but somehow it feels funny having a guy read it to me! The book is so long that I wished I had a cheat sheet of the cast of characters, as sometimes he'd start talking about someone and I wouldn't remember who it was for quite a while. Overall, I'd call this Blade Runner meets The Big Sleep.
This author was recommended in a magazine article, which doesn't often carry much weight given the unknown differences between the writer and the reader of the article. But I needed a book for my Next Listen so I gave it a shot. Am so glad I did. If you are not a sci-fi fan, you can stop reading now, as this is a heavily weighted sci-fi version of a noir detective novel. Unlike many sci-fi authors who take pains to give background on the "new" world in which the story takes place, Morgan seems to take pleasure in teasing the reader with a flurry of words, concepts, historical events, and images that are unexplained and (often) confusing. As the story unfolds, however, bits and pieces are dropped so that the puzzle comes together slowly in the reader's consciousness. Maddening, and yet wonderful at the same time. The story rockets along with breathtaking action, steamy sex scenes, and gut wrenching violence, all described tastefully (yeah, I know--that seems unlikely, but it's true) under the circumstances. In the middle of this swift-flowing plot, Morgan casually drops a concept, or an image, or a reference to a historical event that the reader must store away for when it is explained later. Sometimes it isn't so much explanation as understanding by inference. This book was the most challenging in that regard since Anthony Burgess' Clockwork Orange (I didn't find the glossory in the back until I finished). It takes a bit of surrender to not let the unfamiliar stuff knock you out of the story flow. I have now downloaded 2 more of Morgan's works and look forward with a mixture of excitement and sadness to the end of Altered Carbon--sorry for it to be over, and excited to move on to another of Morgan's novels. Like Orson Scott Card's stuff, this is excellent writing that just happens to be science fiction. It may not have the extensive character development of a Card story, but it is hell on wheels in the action department. BTW, the narration is top flight as well, and provides an excellent immersion int he noir environment.
An exciting read to unravel a unique crime. The story exposes us to a wide slice of future life, the "have" and the "have nots" and how their lives are incredibly differentiatied through technology. If you want to find deeper meaning, the story allows you to explore what makes an individual unique, and whether or not being in someone elses body changes who we are. We're also dragged through the gutter numerous times, so prudes or those seeking a sheltered existance beware. Good, but gritty sci-fi.
As one who normally only reads reviews, I would feel remise at not rating this one. Having started the book in it's written incarnation, I expected a pretty good listen. What I found instead was a fantastic listen! The story itself of course holds your attention throughout, but listening to the cool,cynical voice of the reader, I could picture myself there in 25th century Bay City. The presentation reminded me of those hard boiled detective novels read over the radio in the 40's. You gotta get this one! Here's hoping that Audible publishes Takeshi Kovacs's newest adventure (Broken Angel)in the very near future.
Richard K Morgan has achieved a near-perfect blend of plausible science, characters devoid of cliches, and a narrative that is tightly woven and intricate--like a hand-made Japanese wall hanging in silk--Altered Carbon is masterful.
Todd McClaren, the sole narrator, surpasses the challenge of this book, one filled with countless major characters who are all quite varied and distinct human beings. He excels with his multiple voice characterizations, and his performance, too, deserves 4 stars or more, if possible.
Richard K Morgan describes his people in details both subtle and broad, and motivates them with a story line generously crafted. The author assembles his players complete with all their necessary history, desires, passions, loves, violence, rage, despair, and human compassion.
Altered Carbon is intricately plotted, which compelled me to follow the narrative very closely; consequently, it necessitated many rewinds.
In addition to hard Sci-Fi, this story is also a first-rate murder mystery and thriller, with clues foreshadowed most believably and, although set in future Earth, with unusual devices, and digital-human relationships that will blow your mind, the narrative is painstakingly tight, and designed to also sate many devotees of the best mysteries and thrillers.
The human civilization which Mr. Morgan paints in his trilogy is an intriguing place. While the concept of moving personalities body to body is not new, the way he approaches the subject matter is interesting, as are the underlying moral issues that are touched around the edges. I found myself thinking of the film noir genre, complete with the world weary detective who has nothing left but the job. The two jarring notes are the narrator, who makes a valiant effort to characterize, but falls short. The second are the graphic, nearly pornographic sex scenes. While the sex is not gratuitous, the graphic detail using the vulgar speech is jarring in the flow of the novel.
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