My rating: 4 of 5 stars
After blowing through the Netflix series, I couldn’t stand the thought of having to wait for another season. As always, as soon as I found out there was a book series, I jumped at the opportunity to throw myself deeper into the universe. It happened to me with A Song of a Ice and Fire, the Vampire Chronicles, and the works of Stephen King. Once I’ve got a taste, I want more and more.
Altered Carbon hits upon all the right buttons for me as a reader. Cyberpunk. Check. Detective-noir. Check. Mystery. Check. Science fiction universe. Check. It caught my attention right away, and I was not disappointed.
Humankind in the distant future has reached the pinnacle of technology. Interstellar travel is possible within minutes. Planets across the galaxy have been colonized. Artificial intelligence has been fully realized. A sort of immortality has been obtained through the implantation of cortical stacks which allow people to be moved from body to body, so long as the stack remains intact. The process of getting “sleeved” into another body is expensive and leaves the person feeling the side effects of being placed into a new body unless the person has been trained to negate these effects like the main protagonist of Altered Carbon, Takeshi Kovacs, a former Envoy.
Kovacs is awakened from his prison sentence at the request of a Meth (the ultra-rich immortals of society named after Methuselah) named Laurens Bancroft to investigate the mystery behind Bancroft’s murder. Having had his cortical stack backed up and extra copies of his sleeve, Bancroft is left without the memory of his death. It is up to Kovacs to discover the truth behind the murder of this powerful elite. Along the way, there is more mystery and intrigue introduced which is ultimately intertwined and resolved nicely and neatly despite being elaborate and complicated.
It is worth mentioning that the setting in which Altered Carbon takes place in is as much as the character of the story as the cast. The world feels lived in with its rich history. Despite the innovation and incredible technology available, this world isn’t pristine or utopia-like. It’s a dark world of brutal violence, sexual deviance, and exploitation. Humans aren’t treasured. All of our vices evolving right along with the technology.
For all the praise I can give this book, there are also a couple of hiccups along the way which I cannot ignore. There is a bit of pacing issue in the middle of the book making it feel like extra padding. It slowed the narrative to a crawl and didn’t contribute much to the overall plot.
There’s also the matter of the sex scenes in this book. They served more as comic relief than arousing. Usually, I wouldn’t criticize this, but it was jarring and awkward enough to knock me out of the narrative. We can’t win them all.
Overall, Altered Carbon was an incredible reading experience and a dazzling one to watch on television. While the television show differs from the source material, it did not hurt to know the show coming into the book, and I don’t believe it would vice versa.
I’m certainly going to continue onward with the series.