Archive for Altered Carbon

Altered Carbon [season 1]

Posted in Books, pictures with tags , , , , , , on April 12, 2020 by xi'an

Following my reading of the rather thin (plot-wise) Thin Air, I took advantage of the virus to watch Netflix Altered Carbon. Which is based, roughly, on Richard Morgan’s book. While I enjoyed watching the efficient series, I failed to see a deeper message beyond the cyberpunk detective story, message that was indeed in the book. The show is very efficient with a well rendered futuristic San Francisco. Reminding me of Blade Runner, obviously. But also of the novels of William Gibson in many ways. Including this transformation of the Golden Gate Bridge into a container community. And the somewhat anachronistic fascination for samurais and yakuzas. A choice leading to repeated (wo)man to (wo)man fights that tend to become repetitive, a fairly high level of cruelty, sadism, gory and graphical episodes, definitely not a family show!, another futuristic and bleaker version of Chandler’s Farewell my Lovely, with the special twist of the murdered investigating his own murder already at the core of the book. But the lack of a deeper political message dilutes the appeal and somewhat the tension of the show, making somehow the existence of characters with a conscience hard to believe. A plus for the AI turned Edgar Poe turned The Raven hotel though! And a minus for the “happy ending.”..

Thin Air [book review]

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 3, 2020 by xi'an

When visiting Vancouver last December [at a time when traveling was still possible], I had the opportunity to revisit White Dwarf Books [thirty years after my first visit] and among other books bought a Richard Morgan‘s novel, Thin Air, that I did not know existed and which was recommended by the [friendly] book seller. As superior to Morgan’s foray into dark fantasy (that I did not dislike so much). As I had really enjoyed the Altered Carbon series, I jumped on this new novel, which is a form of sequel to Th1rt3en, and very very similar in its futuristic pastiche of tough detectives à la Marlowe, dry humour included. A form of space noir, as The Guardian puts it. I sort of got quickly lost in the plot and (unusually) could not keep track of some characters, which made reading the book a chore towards the end. Thanks to the COVID-19 quarantine, I still managed to finish it, while home cycling!, the very end being more exciting than the beginning drudgery and the predictable sex scenes bound to occur in every of his novels. The Martian world in the novel is only alluded to, which makes it more appealing, despite the invasive jargon, however it sounds too much like a copy of our 20th century with car chase and gun/knife fights. Enhanced by an embedded AI when one can afford it. Certainly not the best read in the series but enough to tempt me into looking at the first episodes of Altered Carbon on Netflix. [Note: the book is not to be confused with the bestselling Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, which relates the 1996 Everest disaster, soon turned into a rather poor movie. I had not realised till today that the same Krakauer wrote Into the Wild…!]

Broken angels

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 18, 2011 by xi'an

`Statistically, ‘ she breathed.

`Yeah. You thought of that too. Because statistically, the chances of two expeditions, eighteen months apart both having the bad luck to stumble on deep-space cometary intersections like that?’

`Astronomical.’

Following my enthusiastic trip through Altered Carbon, I read the (2003) sequel Broken Angels within a few days, mostly during my day trip to Shanghai. Not only is it an excellent book, once more!, but Richard Morgan manages to change the plot and the atmosphere so much that it hardly feels as the same character is involved in both. There are a few links with Altered Carbon of course like the past of Kovacs and the reincarnation facilities (resleeving) but so few that the book could read on its own. The setting is very different, in that the main characters try to unearth (!) an artifact from an alien species (rather stupidly, or not?!, called Martians) in the middle of a planet war and in a highly radioactive zone. Apparently no longer sleuth work for Kovacs but a lot of action, even though he needs to uncover traitors, double-traitors and  motivations.  In my opinion, the ancestry of the book once again includes cyberpunks William Gibbson [more Count Zero than Neuromancer, with the predominant role of Voodoo, but still a major role of virtual realities], and Neal Stephenson (Snow Crash), but also Clarke with Rendez-vous with Rama, in that the entry into the Martian vessel is trying to describe an alien culture through its architecture with some degree of success. (In some sense, there is also a link with Greg Bear‘s Blood music, in that the military bioengineers in Broken Angels have designed a self-mutating nanotech device that reconfigures at the molecular level to overcome any new defense it encounters. With overwhelming efficiency. Until it hits the Martian defenses. Something similar to Bear’s blood cells getting progressive control of the Earth…) If I really have to draw a comparison between both volumes, I would reluctantly rank Broken Angels (very) slightly above in that the story was more clearly drawn than Altered Carbon which somewhat suffered from subplots. Today, I found the third Kovacs volume, Woken Furies in my mailbox at Dauphine, so I am looking forward yet another switch in style and background!

Altered Carbon

Posted in Books, Travel with tags , , , , on June 11, 2011 by xi'an

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.