Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
With my sinus allergies kicking my butt, I don't have the energy to write a really long review, so I'll keep it simple. I thought this was an excellent book, though not really a comfortable book. I don't think this book is for everyone. The language is very coarse, to be honest. Liberal use of the worst word for women in written language is employed. It starts with a 'c' and ends with a 't', and I think you can fill in the blanks. I winced just about every time. Despite this, and the fact that this story deals with prostitution and horrible abuse of women in a disturbingly intimate manner, I don't feel that Mr. Morgan showed misogynistic tendencies in his writing. In fact, some of the most strongest, most three-dimensional characters in this story were women, and each one was different. I particularly liked Ortega, and her relationship with Kovacs. Trepp was interesting, as well. Miriam was somewhat standard noir fair. You know, the bodacious vixen who also happens to be the wife of the victim, who seduces the PI? Yeah, that's in this book.
This book was fairly violent, although not quite what I'd call gratuitous. Not gratuitous in the sense that the whole book wasn't violent. But, yeah, there are some pretty in your face scenes. Let's just say I would be looking away on quite a few scenes if this was a movie. There's a fair amount of sex, too. I thought it was tasteful and well-written, despite all the nasty inferences to particularly 'icky' sexual practices. That was all off-scene, thankfully.
The worldbuilding was very good. The whole concept of sleeving (changing bodies), and stacking (digital storage of consciousness) was a bit disturbing for me. They have figured out the key to immortality in the 25th century, and that immortality is not a pretty one, at least to me. Bascially, if you have enough money, you can have your consciousness continually transferred to different bodies as the old ones wear out, or your present body is prematurely damaged. Let's just hope you do have the dough to spring for a new body. If not, well, I guess you get to hang out in a digital storage bank, for eternity. Yikes. I did like the tech, some aspects that made it clear this was a future setting, but not so much that I got bored. I did have some issues getting used to the vocabulary; but I soon fell into the stream of things.
This book gave me some things to think about. My feelings about what gives a person her or his identity. Is the soul what they are storing, or is it merely the consciousness? What happens to the soul? How can you be unique if you can download your consciousness into more than one body at a time? Mr. Morgan doesn't try to answer these questions, so I'm still pondering it, left to draw my own conclusions. In this future world of Earth, the Catholics definitely don't agree with digital storage of consciousness, and they fight it. Unfortunately, that makes Catholics a particular target for people who don't have respect for human life.
That was another theme this book touched on. There are some people (powerful ones) who don't seem to value human life; since, well, you can just buy a new body when the old one is not working anymore. And people who are not worth anything in society, they are simply disposable. One of the major bad guys comes right out and says this. It made me think that even today, when we don't get replacement bodies, people have the same attitude. Life isn't sacred, if the person isn't worth anything in the material sense. Kind of sad to see that things haven't changed.
Kovacs was a protagonist that had layers. He was a ruthless killer. But, he was also a principled man, who had limits to what he would and wouldn't do. A man who cared about people, capable of loving and being loved. But, also a man who could kill remorselessly and does. He doesn't seem to have an issue with sleeping with another man's wife, but he doesn't like prostitution. Using drugs is not something he's against, either (I hate drugs, so I didn't really care for that). He's in over his head, several times. He gets hurt, badly. So, even though he's clearly a very dangerous man, he's not invulnerable. You really don't know if he'll make it through some of the sticky situations he ends up in. You see this crazy world through his eyes, and it's not pretty.
One thing that surprised me, was that the environment wasn't screwed up. I had expected that this would be an issue in the far future. But, not so much. I guess, with all the bad stuff that was going on, why throw in environmental catastrophes?
To sum up things: This was a very good read. I'd like to read more stories with Takeshi Kovacs, and more of Mr. Morgan's writing.
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