Altered Carbon, by Richard K. Morgan
We discovered this story through the Netflix series, Altered Carbon, which is probably different from the book in a lot of ways. (Isn’t it always!) Still, we were impressed by the series, and we fully expect to feel the same way about the book–a New York Times bestseller–which we just bought for less than the price of a cup of coffee. (We might not live in the age of immortality yet, but you sure can’t beat the entertainment.)
Forgive us if we gush about the series for a minute, but books and film share a few important essentials. Things like story. Character. And while film is often forced to condense the written word, leaving out a ton of inner thought and back story, a series has so much more screen time than you could ever fit into one movie.
Netflix made good use of it with a seriously epic production!
We both love character development, so if you’re a character junkie like we are, give the series (and possibly the book) at least two or three “chapters” before you decide whether you like it. Episode one starts with a lot of disjointed action, so character-driven aficionados might be skeptical at first. Hang in there. It’s worth it.
Matt Biedel (@MattBiedel), who plays the abuela in episode 4 (yep, you read that right, he plays a grandmother) might be worth the monthly Netflix fee all by himself. And we promise–NO SPOILERS EVER–that by the end of the series, all the main characters are fully developed and utterly driving the story, with no shortage of action and wickedly cool sci fi scenery besides.
Trigger warning: the Netflix series contains full nudity, graphic sexual content, a whole lot of violence, and extremely mature themes. While not directly visual, the book probably does too.
But none of that is what drew us to the story. At least, not directly.
What we liked most about it is the same thing we like about all good science fiction. It’s a powerful, two-fold attraction: sympathetic characters who pull you into the story, and a plot (with lots of great twists) that raises profound questions. Questions like what immortality would do to the human mind. Or to the structure of a family. Or to society in general. Questions about our very identities. And what it means to be alive.
From the Publisher:
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NOW AN EXCITING NEW SERIES FROM NETFLIX • The shell that blew a hole in his chest was only the beginning in this “tour de force of genre-bending, a brilliantly realized exercise in science fiction.”—The New York Times Book Review
In the twenty-fifth century, humankind has spread throughout the galaxy, monitored by the watchful eye of the U.N. While divisions in race, religion, and class still exist, advances in technology have redefined life itself. Now, assuming one can afford the expensive procedure, a person’s consciousness can be stored in a cortical stack at the base of the brain and easily downloaded into a new body (or “sleeve”) making death nothing more than a minor blip on a screen.
Ex-U.N. envoy Takeshi Kovacs has been killed before, but his last death was particularly painful. Dispatched one hundred eighty 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.
Praise for Altered Carbon
“Compelling . . . immensely entertaining . . . [Richard] Morgan’s writing is vivid and his plotting inventive.”
—The Philadelphia Inquirer
“A fascinating trip . . . Pure high-octane science fiction mixes with the classic noir private-eye tale.”
“Gritty and vivid . . . looks as if we have another interstellar hero on our hands.”