Morgan, Richard: Altered Carbon (2002)

Altered Carbon to be used

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.

deRosnay, Tatiana: Sarah’s Key (2007)

Sarah's Key

Sarah’s Key was lent to me by my sister. Serendipity. I found it a page-turner. No question about it. The author manages to switch from present to past without effort. Tatiana deRosnay is a truly gifted author.

Sarah’s Key is about poor little Sarah Starzynski. The Germans come to collect her family. To protect her little brother she locks him in a cupboard and tells him that she will be back in a few hours. Alas. The fates want it otherwise.

There are two time-lines to Sarah’s Key. The first one, of course, follows Sarah. The second time-line follows the story of the journalist, Julia Jarmon, who delves into the story behind a hidden skeleton. Along follows the secrecy behind Jews in France during WWII.

Some truths are painful for a nation to acknowledge. Nevertheless, healing comes through shining a light on both what we want visible and what we want hidden.

The story is wholly fictional, but as Leo Bretholz (Holocaust survivor) says: “The perusal of Sarah’s Key evoked memories of my own experiences during the war in the Vichy zone of France.” It tells a terrible story, one that has happened over and over again in history. It reminds us of how easily we turn our heads from what is happening around us.


French film-adaptation (Elle s’appelait Sarah) in 2010 by Stéphane Marsil (won two awards and had three nominations)


“Holocaust in France was encouraged by French anti-Semitic trends which created a climate where the French offered assistance to the German forces, who without such aid, could not have carried out, to such ends, the Final Solution in France.” (Elizabeth Ciarrocca)


Use public libraries

%d bloggers like this: