Friday, May 28, 2010

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

The violence, sex, drugs, and constant need to inform the reader every time the protagonist has an erection are not gratuitous additions to the plot of Altered Carbon; they are the plot.

The hero, Takeshi Kovacs, a super-soldier(1) with a dark past spent doing dark deeds too dirty for the rest of us to contemplate, has left the military and turned criminal. Sentenced to storage--in the novel's only interesting bit, people are backed up on computer and can be stacked indefinitely in electronic form before being downloaded into new bodies--he's rented out to a wealthy man who wants to know why the police insist he committed suicide; he insists he didn't and wants to know what really happened (see computer backups). Much blowing up of things, some killing, and some sex ensue as Our Hero tries to figure out exactly what happened. In the meantime, his Dark Past comes back to haunt him(2). Everything is ultimately resolved in an explosive climax and Our Hero says goodbye to the girls before heading back home to, one assumes, more mayhem.

I got about a third of the way through Altered Carbon before beginning to skim and skim some more in search of something that might make me want to read the book. I never found it. There is some interesting stuff about identity and its connection to the body woven in there, and Morgan does seem to mix that in without stopping to lecture, but that was not enough to pull me in.

(1)Aren't they all?
(2) You've read this story before, right?


  1. Didn't William Gibson and perhaps Philip K. Dick write that already? ;)
    The concept sounds interesting, at least.

  2. Yes, the concept of body-switching and the complications that go with it are reasonably well-handled, at least, as far as I read. Trouble is, the story they're in...

    I also found it odd that, of all the drugs present in that universe, the only addictive one was nicotine (a habit which Our Hero breaks in short order. He's Just That Good).