Altered Carbon (a review)

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The Journey
There I was, casting about on Netflix and I ran onto a new series: Altered Carbon. So I watched it and it was ok, but there were parts that I found a bit over the top. Still, I’m always in the market for a good novel and I found the the series was based on a book. The book, written in 2003 by Richard K. Morgan won the coveted Phillip K. Dick award for Science Fiction. Awards don’t blow my skirt up but it had 650 reviews (+/-) and most of them were positive, so I got closer to pulling the trigger on the Kindle version on 
The Book – Altered Carbon
Then I bought the book even though I did not and have not moved past episode 1 on Netflix. And I really liked it. There was something in the story that resonated for me and I found myself laughing, which I seldom do while I read. Don’t get me wrong, this is NOT a comedy. It’s a murder mystery set in the 25th Century, and it’s very well written. Here’s the plot: Netflix Tag Line: In the distant future, human consciousness can be digitized and downloaded into different bodies. Brought back to life after 250 years by Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy) the richest man on Earth, ex-Envoy soldier Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman / Will Yun Lee) must solve Bancroft’s attempted murder for the chance to live again in a world he doesn’t recognize. (trailer)
The Sequel – Broken Angels
The main character is the same, but the story is different. It’s a war story and the same brittle edge that I found appealing with Altered Carbon was there in Broken Angels. Some reviewers didn’t like the change in plot from detective novel to futuristic war novel, but it’s a unique view of “the future” while being an interesting commentary on warfare without being preachy.
The Current Read – Woken Furies
I just downloaded this story which is third in the series and I’m possibly a quarter of the way into it. You will either get totally sucked in and miss days of your life, OR you will run screaming. I can’t say what your reaction will be, but these books on Kindle are $12 each and I usually don’t spend that much on a digital book. But the previous two were worth it. And this one is very good so far.
Will you like the series? I can’t venture a guess, but think on it – you might like it.

20 thoughts on “Altered Carbon (a review)

  1. I might stick my head in and see what it is all about, but I would rather start reading a book by some gifted author centering around a pirate from the wooden ships and lofty sails era. You think it will be around someday?

  2. Read all three, cheerfully recommend them to friends of similar interests. But – the Kovachs books are set far enough into the future that Morgan's politics aren't intrusive, and he's professional enough not to insert them. Reading his new book 'Th1rte3n' may give clarity about them, and the effect on the world building destroyed any interest in the book. It's only one data point, I'll probably try his next book just to check. But it's unlikely I'll pay for it.

  3. Loved the series on Netflix, now there are books you say? Oh dear, more stuff to read, but I can do this. Thanks LL!

  4. I'm about 65 pages into the "pirate book" and it's coming along. Thank you for asking. I've been doing what research that I can into pirates along the North Carolina Coast circa 1700 (before the "Blackbeard era"). As you know, the book features Blackbeard-the-Pirate as a young boy. I'm enjoying writing this one and want to get it 'right'. Time will tell. Meanwhile, there is Old NFO's new book and the author (above).

  5. Thank you for your comments. I agree that the politics aren't shoved hard into the story but there are 'politics' – set into the 25th Century – which would indicate that Morgan doesn't think that humans will ever grow out of being who we are. And I agree.

  6. In some books, it's genuine science. In this case the science is make-believe, and you have to suspend 'reality'. The key to good science fiction isn't necessarily good science as it is good fiction. I think that you might actually enjoy this series. I'm sure that they have the book in the local library. Check it out and see what you think?

  7. Absolutely. Human nature is what it is, and part of the fun of good SF is seeing how it responds to the changes brought forth by new challenges. To quote Niven & Pournelle, "There are a lot of ways to be human."

  8. Most SF is not particularly "sciency". (And the recent SWJ stuff is definitely not science-based.) Personally I enjoy the character-driven books way more than the Aspie, technology obsessed ones. I'd say that several popular series (e.g. David Weber's Honor Harrington books [basically Horatio Hornblower in space], David Drake's RCN series [Aubrey and Maturin in space], and Lois Bujold's Barrayar books) are MUCH more about persons, and how we interact properly and honorably, or not, than science. In particular, space travel is handwavium-based "tech". You MUST have some way to get your people flirting from star system to star system within a lifetime, after all. Also artificial gravity.

    Authors such as Poul Anderson did their level best to world-build realistically as possible, but still needed some handwavium. I am a big fan of Anderson, by the way. You (and other LL readers) might like H. Beam Piper's Terrohuman Future History (Little Fuzzy, Space Viking, Ullr Uprising, etc — much available free on Gutenberg, btw) books. Jack Campbell's Paul Sinclair books [junior officer in US Space Navy gets stuck with collateral duty as the ship's legal officer, more interesting than it sounds] you might also like. JAG in space has no artificial grav, is limited to within Solar system, and is probably more "realistic" than most SF, but the books are VERY character driven.

    Stuff like StarWars (imnsho) is not SF at all. It's some sort of archetypal fantasy with a veneer of scienciness.

    Anyway, I'm on a plane eating up my phone battery instead of working as I ought to be. So enough of that!

  9. You might like Michael Z. Williamson. His early stuff is uneven and sometimes libertarian-preachy, but the good parts I thought were very good and the bad — weren't bad. I kept reading and enjoyed them all.

  10. I've reviewed The Expanse series beginning with Leviathan Wakes (Also a TV Series) by James S. A. Corey (two authors writing under one pen name). I enjoyed that series – again, better than the TV series. The author(s) dealt with gravity, and with the general problems associated with doing things in space better than most authors who 'magic' their way through solving problems.

  11. There has yet to be a book that leaves me running screaming. Maybe you could write that, LL?

  12. It won't be the pirate book, but I'm thinking on a horror story that will out horror Stephen King.

  13. I've heard the argument made that the difference between progressives and conservatives is that progressives think that man is perfectible – that you can make an ideal society with flawless people – and conservatives don't.

    In other worlds, conservatives live in the real world, and progs live in some idealized future world. Suddenly the identification of SJW's as a type of religious zealot makes more sense.

  14. If you want to look for clues in a book's description to the type of SF it is, look for "Hard SF' or 'Adventure'. Hard SF are the guys who insist on keeping the science as real as possible while making the story work, and used to insist on explaining it, because the readers liked it. Space Adventure is more the sort of thing you found in the old pulp SF mags, where the science is secondary to the story. Space Adventure is much more common than Hard SF these days.

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