Altered Carbon

I happened to read Richard Morgan‘s Altered Carbon by chance, thanks to a colleague who left it on my desk and I wonder why this 2002 book did not get enough fame for me to have heard of it earlier. It is a fantastic (in the sense of superb, not of fantasy!) futuristic roman noir, set in a San Francisco more than 400 years from now. Altered Carbon is somewhat of a mix between Chandler and Gibson, in that the hero Takeshi Kovacs, is a hard-boiled private à la Marlowe, keeping well-hidden a soft inner core that takes over each time or so he meets a woman [which happens rather regularly in the novel], the whole thing taking place in a cyberpunk universe that reminds me of Neuromancer. In fact, the book has a lot in common with Neuromancer in that it is set in a highly technological universe, involves yakuza-like conglomerates and crime-ridden cities, San Francisco, a corrupted police force, an economy that seems centred on legal drugs and legal prostitution, computer viruses, virtual realities, some lingering influence of a vague Japanese culture, and they are both Philip K. Dick awardees. The major difference with Neuromancer is that the technology is not the point of Altered Carbon, the detective (and muscle) work being the focus. This use of a scifi world and of the possibilities offered by a sort of technological reincarnation makes for a very good plot in that the book does not get mired into endless descriptions but instead provides about the minimum explanation about the way this universe operates. It is delicate to draw the comparison with Neuromancer any further because, first, Neuromancer came twenty-five years ago and, second, Gibson always seemed more interested in the ethical and philosophical implications of this kind of culture. Anyway, Altered Carbon is truly gripping and, while I may have missed some of the intricate details of the plot, I had to rush through it to get the resolution, as in any Chandler‘s story. There are two sequels by Morgan involving Takeshi Kovacs and I am looking forward to them.

4 Responses to “Altered Carbon”

  1. […] that I usually dislike (even in the Wheel of TIme, this usually puts me off!). This must be due to Morgan’s excellence in writing SF… Thus, if you are ready to face more graphic sex and violence,  while hoping […]

  2. Finished it last week: brilliant! I Started Broken Angel yesterday, a delight. Even took it with me at the High Voltage metal festival — although found no time to read it there, I wanted to have it “just in case”.

    • Glad to hear you liked it!! Let see how you perceive the changes in style (at least plot) and setting. I have just ordered a fourth volume for Miami.

  3. At first it might seem impossible that scientists are so sure of this astronomical measurement but this figure has been narrowed by years of research and determined by several paths of inquiry. Also the size of the universe is intimately dependent on its shape age acceleration and total mass so we are very confident in this figure.In 2003 the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe sent back enough data for scientists to publish extremely dependable studies that established two previously unknown facts about the universe.

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