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Altered Carbon (Takeshi Kovacs Novels) Paperback – March 4, 2003

4.2 out of 5 stars 532 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This fast-paced, densely textured, impressive first novel is an intriguing hybrid of William Gibson's Neuromancer and Norman Spinrad's Deus X. In the 25th century, it's difficult to die a final death. Humans are issued a cortical stack, implanted into their bodies, into which consciousness is "digitized" and from which-unless the stack is hopelessly damaged-their consciousness can be downloaded ("resleeved") with its memory intact, into a new body. While the Vatican is trying to make resleeving (at least of Catholics) illegal, centuries-old aristocrat Laurens Bancroft brings Takeshi Kovacs (an Envoy, a specially trained soldier used to being resleeved and trained to soak up clues from new environments) to Earth, where Kovacs is resleeved into a cop's body to investigate Bancroft's first mysterious, stack-damaging death. To solve the case, Kovacs must destroy his former Envoy enemies; outwit Bancroft's seductive, wily wife; dabble in United Nations politics; trust an AI that projects itself in the form of Jimi Hendrix; and deal with his growing physical and emotional attachment to Kristin Ortega, the police lieutenant who used to love the body he's been given. Kovacs rockets from the seediest hellholes on Earth, through virtual reality torture, into several gory firefights, and on to some exotic sexual escapades. Morgan's 25th-century Earth is convincing, while the questions he poses about how much Self is tied to body chemistry and how the rich believe themselves above the law are especially timely.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

In a society in which death has been rendered practically obsolete, suicide and murder take on different significances. After a particularly brutal offing, former UN envoy Takeshi Kovacs finds himself "resleeved"--that is, his consciousness has been put in a new body--and hired as a private investigator by Laurens Bancroft, one of twenty-fifth-century society's old rich in Bay City (formerly San Francisco). Bancroft claims he was murdered, but the police say it was a suicide. After Kovacs gets hit at his hotel within hours of being resleeved, he sees the possibility that Bancroft was, in fact, murdered, and that someone wants to keep it very hush-hush. As he investigates, he uncovers a far-reaching conspiracy with ties to the most unsavory characters in his generally unsavory military and criminal past. This far-future hard-boiled detective story is a lovely virtual-reality romp distinguished by a conspiracy whose strands have the potential to generate several successful sequels, which is just what its publicity promises. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Series: Takeshi Kovacs Novels
  • Paperback: 375 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; 1st edition (March 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345457684
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345457684
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (532 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,207 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
Ever since I saw Blade Runner as a kid, I've been in love with the idea of blending science-fiction with crime, and this is a totally compelling mix of the two. Set about 500 years in the future, the story follows Takeshi Kovacs, a former space marine who has been "resleeved" to investigate a suicide on Earth. You see, in the future, one's mind or consciousness can be digitized and stored in "stacks" implanted in the base of your skull. If you commit a crime, your stack is removed and placed in storage for the duration of your sentence (usually decades or centuries), and then you are "resleeved" in a new body. Of course, resleeving costs, and for many people, a new body is like a new car or new house, with monthly payments to keep up lest your body get repossessed...
The flip side of this is that dying is only a temporary thing-unless your stack has been somehow destroyed and there's no backup, then you're subject to "RD" (real death). And if you've got enough money to get into cloning and data storage, one can live a virtually endless and seamless life. It's one of these "Meths" (after Methuselah, just one example of the excellent creation of slang in the book), who has Takeshi remanded and "needlecast" (digitally freighted) from offworld to investigate his alleged suicide in Bay City (aka San Francisco). Takeshi had been in prison, having been captured as a mercenary in a vibrantly kinetic prologue.
The meth, Bancroft, is one of the future elite, weaving elaborate corporate and political webs with others of his kind. Apparently he committed suicide a few weeks ago, but he's convinced it was murder.
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Format: Paperback
This is one of the best new SF novels I've read in the last ten years.

It's enough of a treat that Richard Morgan can _write_. The author bio indicates that he taught English as a second language for some fourteen years; he can teach a thing or two to us native speakers as well. His narrative and his dialogue are clean, crisp, and focused, with that sense of heightened reality you get from really good fiction; there's not a word out of place, and there's none of the mannered artificiality of e.g. Frank Herbert's _Dune_.

But it's even better than good writing. Morgan has applied his craft to a brand of fiction that one of the cover blurbs describes as a cross between hard-core cyberpunk and hard-boiled detective fiction. That's an odd description of the genre and makes it sound newer than it is, but it's true that there hasn't been a lot of SF detective fiction. And Morgan's contribution advances the ball considerably.

If you're at all familiar with the genre, you're already thinking of Larry Niven's ARM stories (and maybe, though less aptly, of Asimov's _The Caves of Steel_ and _The Naked Sun_). Well, Morgan's world does owe something to Niven's, but he's got very much his own spin. His main character (Takeshi Kovacs), though arguably more Mike Hammer than Hiro Protagonist despite the snowcrashy backdrop, will remind longtime fen of the wisecracking tough-guy heroes that have populated SF since at least the days of Keith Laumer (not to mention Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat). But he's not just a carbon copy (even an altered one).
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Format: Paperback
Morgan writes one of the most stunning new SF books in some time, bringing us a noir thriller in an exotic yet frighteningly familiar future. The tone is firmly set not in the halls of Science Fiction, but in the legacy of 1930's hard-boiled crime fiction, full of plots, counterplots, seamy locales, seamier people, and above all, sex, violence, and death.

This is a world where no one dies for good, where bodies are cloned and personalities held in cortical "stacks" sleeved into them. A rich man "died" by apparent suicide, and when revived calls in a renowned offworld criminal to investigate. What Takeshi Kovacs finds are unhelpful cops, people and gangs out to hurt or kill him, bewildering events, lies everywhere, and dead bodies showing up around every corner. Every ally is a potential enemy, with the exception of the hotel he stays in.

After being chased, shot at, beaten, burned, tortured, and nearly killed many times, he slowly realizes that behind it all is another of the ancient power players of the world, one with whom he has an old history. Only then Kovacs tries to get the upper hand, methodically manipulating events to a final showdown.

The perspective is gritty, hardened, and not a little bitter. Kovacs is an antihero more than willing to take whatever measures he feels are necessary, including killing - permanently. He is a seasoned Envoy, a long-time criminal (though just how is hazy), and has been through many bodies and many worlds. No one is particularly likable, but many are somehow sympathetic. The combination of hard crime thriller with many unique SF elements - Science Fiction, and San Fransisco - works well. The author has done a great job here.

There are deeper ideas floating around. What is death?
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