Created by Richard Morgan
Never say die.
Like many P.I./science fiction hybrids, Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon (2002) too frequently gets caught up in pastiche to really come off as fresh and real as the author probably intended. Yet, once you get beyond the obligatory pulpy trappings (the dimestore cynicism, the bleak, "gritty" cityscape, the allegedly snappy patter and the treacherous femme fatale), there is a pretty intriguing story here.
It's a few hundred years into the future, and death is a real bitch, not to mention almost impossible. Seems that in the 25th century, humans (or at least those with enough dough) can get something called a "cortical stack," which is implanted in their bodies at the base of the brain, and allows their consciousness to be digitized and downloaded ("resleeved") into a new body, with its memory totally intact, everytime death occurs. The only way to really die is if that cortical stack is permanently damaged.
And that's exactly the problem rich, pampered aristocrat Laurens Bancroft of Bay City (formerly San Francisco) has. Already centuries old, Bancroft has just gone through his first potentially stack-damaging death, and he's worried. He claims he was murdered, but the official police verdict is suicide. So he hires TAKESHI KOVACS, a former UN soldier with a shady past who's no stranger to resleeving himself, and whose last death was particularly nasty, to conduct a private investigation.
This time he's sleeved into a cop's body to investigate, but it turns out there are other problems. In a previous life, the ruthless (and possibly sociopathic) Kovacs made a lot of enemies at the UN, and worse, he discovers he's developing feelings for Kristin Ortega, the police lieutenant who used to love the body he's been assigned. And then there's that pesky AI that thinks it's Jimi Hendrix. and Bancroft's seductive, wily wife, who seems to have her own agenda.
At first I couldn't really see a way (or a reason) for a sequel, but damned if the author didn't figure out a way to bring the mercenary and unscrupulous Kovacs back. Twice. Broken Angels came out in 2004, and Woken Furies the following year, and the books were popular enough to get a 10-episode Netflix series in 2018.
Not exactly P.I. fare, perhaps, but noir fanswith a taste for 25th century hijinks will not be disappointed.
-- The Orlando Sentinel on Altered Carbon
Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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