C. G. McGinn

Writer

Ramblings about Books and Writing

Altered Carbon by Richard K Morgan

Altered Carbon is the first book in a trilogy centered around, Takeshi Kovacs--all around heartless badass. Kovacs is a unique strain of humanity known as an Envoy. Being an Envoy basically means he can read a person very well, all the while knowing a billion-billion different ways of killing them amidst the backdrop of a 25th Century future.

In the 25th Century, the soul, the human consciousness, the thoughts and memories that make you, well you, are downloaded into a cortical stack, which lives in the base of your spine. This is what they look like outside of said spine:

 Altered Carbon, Netflix 2018

Altered Carbon, Netflix 2018

The stack can then be placed into a sleeve. A sleeve is a human body, grown or cloned. Some bodies are synthetic, others are flesh and blood. Envoy's are unique in that their conciseness can be transmitted through space from one planet to another, into a body built, primarily for starting or stopping wars. Again, Kovacs is something of a badass. 

This series takes place in a world similar to Blade Runner and Neuromancer in regard to high technology, colonization of various planets outside of Earth, and a galaxy-spanning gap between the have's and the have-not's. It's dark but littered with all sorts of shiny toys, drugs, and virtual experiences to try.

What makes this series different from the two titles mentioned above is the sex--for which there is lots of it. And it's very descriptive sex, which is cool, and something of a trend in these newer stories that fit into this sub-genre. Autonomous by Newitz had it's share of sex in it, and on the fantasy side of things, Game of Thrones is pretty much all sex and horrible horrible ways to dies, and sex. It seems the current formula for a grim and dark, story is to throw in heaping piles of intercourse. Again, not a criticism--simply an observation.

As a rule I try not to consecutively read an entire series. I like to break them up with different titles. The reason for this is getting burnt-out on one world, one author, one specific style. I broke my own damn rule this time around. I got burnt out. I probably have some biases when it came to book 2 and 3.

That being said...

Book 1: Altered Carbon is the strongest in the series. It's a detective story that breaks the detective story formula half-way through. It's the only book in the series that takes place on Earth, so there is familiar ground for the reader. I felt I best understood Kovacs's motives in this first book, and since the series is told from the 1st Person POV, I should have at least some idea of what the character is thinking. Books 2 and 3--not so much.

Todd McLaren read the audio book versions of Books 1 and 2, and William Dufris read Book 3. Both did a wonderful job, however Dufris's pronounciation of the "Kovacs's" name sent me right over the edge. Here is an excerpt from Page 10 of Altered Carbon:

 Altered Carbon, Morgan, p10

Altered Carbon, Morgan, p10

Book 3 takes place entirely on Harlan's World. And yet, the reader, who is speaking as Kovacs, mispronounces his own damn name, over and over again. And since everyone he comes into contact with is also a resident of Harlan's World, and would know the pronunciation of Kovacs the same way we might know how to pronounce "Smith" or "Jones", it was criminal in my opinion, for this mispronunciation. There should have been a note passed to some mucky-muck at whatever audio book company produced this. Learn your main character's name, damnit!

I'm going to go and watch the Netflix series based on the first book now. I might have more to say on this after I've watched the show. I didn't love the books. But it wasn't awful. The technology in play was solid--probably the most well thought out tech system I've run across in recent reads. I recommend reading the first book. From there, it's entirely up to you if you want to continue.