I like mysteries. Anything from Agatha Christie to Richard Morgan. They’re all the same, in a sense. Some crime happens and the detective (police or private) comes on the scene and (usually) miraculously solves the crime. The route from A to B varies, but in essence they’re all the same. That’s why they’re so fun.
Add mystery to cyber-punk. Cyber-punk tends to be cynical and dark. Altered Carbon sticks to that kind of tone. Maybe the whole concept of having our personalities stored and ready to be placed into new bodies is a theme that lends itself to exploitation and conflict. Imagine what a person holding immense power, such as the leader of a mega-corporation, could do with access to both bodies and personalities. The lure of power is what keeps the “baddie” of Altered Carbon doing their terrible deeds.
When Takeshi Kovacs, former United Nations Envoy and a native of Harlan’s World, is killed on Harlan’s World (humans now live on various planets in our galaxy) his personality is beamed from Harlan to Old Earth (good old Terra) for a mission where his only choice is do or die (or even do and die).
There he is expected to solve the mystery of what really happened to Laurens Bancroft. Laurens Bancroft is a Meth (Methusalem from the Old Testament). As the name indicates, Mehts live an incredibly long time through resleeving their personality into new bodies. Imagine living like that and the effects time would have upon you. I imagine that in order to choose such a path and to stay on it for centuries you would have to be somewhat of a psychopath. Otherwise you would probably go insane from every one else around you dying. Insane or not Mr. Bancroft’s death has the verdict of suicide. The reason Kovacs has been revived is due to disagreement about the verdict. Here we arrive at the who-dun-it.
Takeshi Kovacs is an enjoyable character. His past haunts him and being in a new body takes some getting used to. There is explicitness in Altered Carbon. I don’t mind that, but then I am 49 years old and not 15.
I like that Mr. Morgan has kept Kovacs alive past Altered Carbon. He is a character well worth knowing – complicated.
Altered Carbon won the Philip K. Dick Award for best novel in 2003
Movie rights have been bought but the film has not been released yet. Updates on IMDB.