Monday, July 1, 2019

Altered Carbon

Altered Carbon (Takeshi Kovacs #1)
Richard K. Morgan
Del Rey, 2018, 544p, Science Fiction

Originally published in 2002, Altered Carbon won the Phillip K. Dick award for Best Novel in 2003 and was made into a Netflix Original TV show in 2018. This science fiction novel takes place in a future where human personalities are stored like computer data and downloaded into whatever body (called sleeves) happens to be available. This storage allows mankind to travel the stars, to change appearance on a whim, and even to live forever. With enough money, anyone can backup their mind so, if they die suddenly, they can come back to life with all the memories they had before their most recent backup.  Takeshi Kovacs, a highly trained soldier turned mercenary, is revived from criminal storage, placed into a new body, and hired by Laurens Bancroft (who was revived from a backup after his murder) to investigate the murder of the most recent version of Laurens Bancroft, who died a little less than 48 hours after the previous backup.

In six weeks, Takeshi has to work on Earth, a planet he's never been to before, among a society that is very different from the one he comes from, and he has to do it in a body addicted to cigarettes. Everything seems to point to the murder being a suicide, but with the help of an AI hotel named Hendrix, a hacker named Irene Elliot, and a police lieutenant named Ortega, Takeshi is able to navigate through the streets of San Francisco and find out that the murder isn't just a murder. His past literally comes back to haunt him forcing him to ultimately choose between protecting his own potential future or destroying a vile part of his past.

Those who like Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, William Gibson's Neuromancer, or the movie Blade Runner, will enjoy this cyberpunk-infused story that actively asks the question: What kind of people would we become if we could live forever?


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