Friday, April 10, 2009

Altered Carbon

by Richard K Morgan

I read Altered Carbon for Carl V’s SciFi Experience but then life got crazy and I didn’t get a chance to write a review. It is hard scifi combined with a classic noir detective novel. (I have seen someone else refer to it as cyber pulp which fits exactly.) Takashi Kovac, a former envoy, gets hired by a very wealthy Meth (a person who lives a very long time) on Earth to find out if he really committed suicide or whether it was murder. The gentlemen isn’t dead in any case because his consciousness is backed up periodically and he has cloned bodies on the ready to slip into but he cannot remember what happened between his last backup and his death.

I really enjoyed it but was a little disappointed that it was really just a detective story that happens to be set in the future. I would have liked a little more emphasis and exploration of the interesting world that the author created and the implications for the new technologies. The memories of a person are stored in a stack and those memories can be resleeved, as long as the stack is not destroyed, either in a clone of your body or a totally different body. Of course for the super rich you can have remote back up of your stack and can go on indefinitely . People no longer have to travel. You can just have your consciousness transmitted and then placed in another sleeve. If you are convicted of a crime your stack is placed in storage and your body can be rented out to others for use. Of course the ordinary deceased citizen may find his family hard pressed to afford either a synthetic body for him or a virtual world to inhabit or be stuck in storage until they can save enough money for you to be resleeved.

I enjoyed the fast paced convoluted plot and the author’s view of the future. The characters were not particularly well developed but then again neither were Dashiell Hammett’s. I especially liked the Artificial Intelligence that ran the hotel in which Kovac stayed. I found the hints about Kovac’s past on Harlan’s world very interesting and was disappointed that the events of the novel were confined to Bay City (obviously San Francisco). It was not quite what I expected but I did enjoy it. Someday I would like to read the sequel, Broken Angels that takes Kovac on adventures outside of earth and supposedly deals with some of his back story.

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