Overview (No Spoilers): Altered Carbon was recommended to me by one of my colleagues at my startup company, a neurologist at Michigan State University. Upon overhearing a, animated conversation I was having with his medical students about the books we were presently reading he interjected and insisted Altered Carbon was worth the read, especially having heard that Netflix was turning it into a TV show. Per usual I kept putting off this book, especially having started it three or four different times and progressing only a page or two before I put it down in lieu of something a bit less work. With that being said, Altered Carbon far exceeds the desired quantity of detail I love in world/character development. Alas, the reader is abruptly thrown into this foreign environment and left to fend for themselves, scavenging every little fact to piece together the puzzle presented by this futuristic universe. As is often associated with this level of detail, the text can easily be defined as dense in construct, leading to reader fatigue while processing this strange, fascinating world. Honestly, it has been a long time since I’ve experienced this level of fatigue, which again is a testament to the articulate writing style emphasizing even the most minute of points. Overall, Altered Carbon may not be the easiest or quickest read, however the level of detail and the resulting futuristic world makes this book an absolute must read. I can’t wait to see what Netflix does with this innovative concept.
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):
- In Altered Carbon the human conscious and memories can be downloaded therefore upon continually cloning your physical body, i.e., sleeve and uploading yourself, immorality can be achieved, only for the rich of course. The concept roughly reminded me of In Time, the Justin Timberlake, Blake Lively, and Amanda Seyfried movie where people live forever as long as they have time on their internal clock, again geared toward the rich living forever.
- Our protagonist,Takeshi Kovacs, is of the militaryish variety therefore has lived a long time, in many different sleeves. I couldn’t help but be curious as to his past and the many stories he must have. He reminded me a bit of stereotypical Jack Reacher type male macho character, e.g., escaping seemingly impossible situations at the last moment, always in luck with the ladies, a loner, military history.
- Religion also playing an interesting role in the storyline, with typically everyone having the ability to be resleeved after death (if they have the money to afford a new sleeve), however Catholics view it as against God’s will so they have precautions in place so they will not be resuscitated. This has implications in the story that are worth pondering regarding criminals murdering Catholics and getting away with it or falsify the precautions to make someone appear Catholic after death so they will not be able to be resleeved to testify.
- Technology was at the forefront of this novel. Morgan does an amazing job not only brainstorming all of the little idiosyncrasies that technology will permeate into our futuristic lives but bringing them alive in his text in a way that the reader can easily imagine.