Ahoy there mateys! Though the First Mate and I have very different reading tastes, occasionally we do recommend books to each other. Books the first mate introduced to me included xom-b, holes, and the perks of being a wallflower. He and I both read the following:
altered carbon (Richard K. Morgan)
We read and talked about the book and I enjoyed his viewpoint so I
ordered asked him to write a review. So you get one from me and a bonus additional review from me crew. Please note that I write like I talk and the first mate writes like he thinks. Hope you enjoy!
From the Captain:
I wanted to read this because it was categorized as cyberpunk noir. A billionaire rich dude has backups of his brain so he can get replacement bodies. He wakes up from what he was told was a suicide with no memory of his last 48 hours like he should have. Rich dude claims it was murder and hires the main character to take the case. This should have worked for me due to the concept, cool tech, and mystery. I, however, could not stand the writing style and abandoned ship pretty quickly. I didn’t read much of it but what I did read, I certainly didn’t like. Arrrr!
From the First Mate:
This one didn’t work for me, and I noped out about halfway through following a fairly graphic and misogynistic torture scene.
Altered Carbon seems to be merging a post-cyberpunk aesthetic with some of the sensibilities of Peter F. Hamilton’s Event Horizon Greg Mandel trilogy. Basically it’s a world where extreme advances in technology have allowed the rich to become even more powerful, mobsters to become even more gruesome and violent, and the only way justice is carried out is with a gun. Everyone’s corrupt and our hero, Takeshi Kovacs, is an ex-military fixer / detective / criminal who’s got a lot of skeletons and misdeeds to supposedly balance out his carefully honed sense of honor. I hated him.
No, maybe “hated” is the wrong word. Kovacs, like virtually every other character I encountered, is so minimally described that it’s difficult to get any real sense of him other than the broadest outlines. And those outlines are boring. All of the paperthin characters are boring in this. Morgan doesn’t seem to care enough to develop the characters, and I don’t care enough about them to try to figure them out either.
If Altered Carbon has one point of interest it is the technology that’s presented in it. The primary driving tech is that of a mind-computer interface that most people have which records the person’s consciousness, allowing their consciousness to be put into a new body in the event of their death. Not the first time I’ve encountered that particular technology, but Morgan puts it to some interesting uses through the half of the novel that I read. He also
introduces the idea of autonomous hotels that are run and owned completely by the AI that controls them, which I thought was kind of cool.
Published in 2002, the novel feels more like it was written in the mid 90s. It’s highly misogynistic, cartoonishly violent, and driven almost entirely by what cool thing will appear next. There’s a murder mystery that Kovacs has been hired to solve, but since I didn’t care about any of the characters I didn’t care if he ever solved it. As said, by the time we got to an extended and graphic torture scene, I decided that this novel wasn’t for me.
As I understand it, Altered Carbon was turned into a Netflix series, though I haven’t heard if it improves on the books or not. Of note is that Dichen Lachman is on the cast list, and she’s always awesome, so I suppose I may take a look at it someday. The book certainly didn’t make me eager to see an adaptation.
I guess I’d recommend this to someone who liked Peter F. Hamilton’s early work and was looking for more of the coarser elements but with thinner characters. Everyone else should just avoid it.
Goodreads has this to say about the novel:
our hundred years from now mankind is strung out across a region of interstellar space inherited from an ancient civilization discovered on Mars. The colonies are linked together by the occasional sublight colony ship voyages and hyperspatial data-casting. Human consciousness is digitally freighted between the stars and downloaded into bodies as a matter of course.
But some things never change. So when ex-envoy, now-convict Takeshi Kovacs has his consciousness and skills downloaded into the body of a nicotine-addicted ex-thug and presented with a catch-22 offer, he really shouldn’t be surprised. Contracted by a billionaire to discover who murdered his last body, Kovacs is drawn into a terrifying conspiracy that stretches across known space and to the very top of society.
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