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Takeshi Kovacs #1

Altered Carbon

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It's the twenty-fifth century, and advances in technology have redefined life itself. A person's consciousness can now be stored in the brain and downloaded into a new body (or "sleeve"), making death nothing more than a minor blip on a screen. Onetime U.N. Envoy Takeshi Kovacs has been killed before, but his last death was particularly painful. Resleeved into a body in Bay City (formerly San Francisco), Kovacs is thrown into the dark heart of a shady, far-reaching conspiracy that is vicious even by the standards of a society that treats existence as something that can be bought and sold. For Kovacs, the shell that blew a hole in his chest was only the beginning.

526 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published February 28, 2002

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About the author

Richard K. Morgan

74 books5,282 followers
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Richard K. Morgan (sometimes credited as Richard Morgan) is a science fiction and fantasy writer.

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5 stars
37,618 (36%)
4 stars
40,649 (39%)
3 stars
18,672 (18%)
2 stars
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1 star
1,619 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 6,875 reviews
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
554 reviews60.5k followers
December 21, 2018
I haven't DNFed a book in a while but I just can't seem to get into this one.

I don't need to know that the character's penis is getting hard while staring at the boobs of the woman he's interviewing about the death of her husband (twice in 3 pages!).

I don't need to know he's half-ass masturbating back in his hotel room.

I don't need to know about the boobs of every female characters, especially if you're going to call them "elusive globes".

I don't need a cringy sex scene and all of this before page 120. I just don't.

This was sold to me as a great sci fi book with clones but it read like a bad porn written by a 15yo.
Not for me.

For more salt: https://youtu.be/LcjKU0o9f3c?t=352
Profile Image for Patrick.
Author 36 books233k followers
January 5, 2012
Folks have been recommending I read Richard Morgan for years. But I've got a to-read stack longer than my arm, and my reading time is rather precious. It's a big risk to try a longish book by an author I've never read before.

In a nutshell. I loved it. About halfway through the book I looked it up online and saw that it won a bunch of awards. It deserves them.

I don't read as much Sci-fi as I used to, but I'm no newbie. The world is unique and fresh. Good characters. Interesting mystery.

Yeah. Good stuff. I'll be reading his other books shortly.
Profile Image for Kevin Kelsey.
412 reviews2,220 followers
April 4, 2020
"I walked beside the woman I had killed last week and tried to hold up my end of a conversation about cats."

A solid neo-noir cyberpunk detective story that plays out in a fascinating science fiction universe. If you’re a fan of the genre, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up. It's pitch-black dark, brutally ultra-violent and fun as hell. I particularly loved the concept of “sleeving” and the method by which characters undergo interstellar travel. This is a cold, difficult reality in which Kovacs exists, and it feels lived-in, with a lot of backstory beneath the surface. I’m hoping that backstory is explored later in the series, because it’s seriously intriguing.

The pacing feels a little slow around the 80% mark, but that could just be a symptom of how fast paced it is everywhere else. There's also a chapter near the end that feels almost entirely superfluous. Personally, I think the book would've been better without its inclusion. This book also contains the most unintentionally hilarious sex scene I’ve ever read. Ever. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you get to it. It’s.. interesting.

The novel has a fairly complicated plot that comes together almost flawlessly in the end. I could see this being even better on the second read. I'll definitely be reading the rest of this series.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,999 followers
February 22, 2019
Confusing books lead to bullet point reviews. It's the best way for me to gather my thoughts.

3 to 3.5 stars

I liked the book, but I didn't love it. I had been hoping to like it much more than I did. My wife and I are reading it at the same time with plans to follow it up with the Netflix show. After reading, I may not be rushing into watching it.

- Very unique and creative. While it does have some shades of other dark/gritty sci-fi I have read or seen, the concepts were fresh and intriguing.
- To expand on the last bullet point, there were scenes throughout the book that were very fascinating. The futuristic possibilities, technologies, devices, politics, etc. expanded upon by the author are pretty freaking cool.

- Some may say that this is an intelligent novel that makes you think. For me, it was just a very confusing novel. Every time I thought I knew what happened, there would be some weird shift seemingly out of left field and I was lost again. Often I was not sure where they were or what they were doing. Then, as before I would start to think I knew what was happening and the shift would happen again. Maybe this is appropriate for a book where people keep switching bodies.
- I was a theater major in college and had to take a class on naked vs nude in art. Naked being gratuitous and mainly for shock value and nude actually advancing the plot and increasing the artistic value. The sex and violence in this book are very heavy on the naked side. Not that I mind a little gore or some steamy hanky panky, but it was kind of extreme in this book and I am not sure it was truly needed for the plot.
- Audiobook - this part is not really a complaint about the book, so I tried my hardest not to include it in my overall impression, but it is hard to separate. The audiobook was not great. The narrator was monotone and whispery. Half the time I could barely hear him. The other half of the time I wondered if he cared all that much. Definitely not at the top of my audiobook suggestions.

- He compares getting your nose broken to biting into a stalk of celery. So there is that . . .

Recommended for:
- Fans of dark and gritty Sci-fi stories
- People who must read the book before watching the series
- Lovers of complex, twisty, out-there plots

Avoid if:
- You are confused easily
- You don't care for gratuitous sex and violence
Author 1 book19 followers
July 23, 2013
I hate this book. Hate, hate, hate it. I hate the characters, I hate the plot, I hate the cover, I hate the way it smells, and I hate the way it knocked over a lamp when I frisbeed it across the room in a fit of literary angst. It came to me highly recommended by a number of friends, good friends, caring, kind, and well-read friends who share with me a love of speculative fiction. We all love Snow Crash and Neuromancer and Babylon 5, and we all hate football and direct sunlight. We are all science or engineering majors, and therefore we spent our socially-awkward, bespectacled childhoods sitting in the back of French class, surreptitiously reading The Lord of the Rings under our desks while Monsieur Charpentier tried to teach us the subjunctive mood. What I'm trying to say is that yes, I have a certain amount of nerd cred, and come from a background well-suited to an appreciation of cyberpunk. So when I heard about Altered Carbon, I didn’t hesitate to pick it up.

My main problem with this book can be summed up as everything.

Seriously, everything. Every single aspect of this book conspired together to instill in me a strange mixture of despair, anger, and boredom. To call the characters one-dimensional would be an insult to the number line. The plot is convoluted and nonsensical. The protagonist, Takeshi Kovacs, is an Envoy, a sort of highly-trained, elite interstellar soldier, and one of the most blitheringly stupid morons I’ve had the displeasure of reading about. New technologies are condensed out of thin air to arbitrarily move the plot along. Every character to whom the reader is supposed to be sympathetic is either an unlikable asshole, an idiot, or both.

Choose two: Incompetent, unlikable, cliché. Bam, you’ve described a character in Altered Carbon.

And then there’s the violence. Now, I thoroughly enjoyed The Repossession Mambo (renamed Repo Men after the movie came out), a book so blood-soaked that it’s practically a biohazard. Somehow, Morgan has managed to craft a work of prose so exquisitely brutish that it made me uncomfortable. That’s actually kind of impressive. Good job.

Morgan also seems to have a fascination with the word “enzyme.” It gets a little weird.

At the end of the day, I ended up putting this book down six-sevenths of the way through because I found out there was a sequel, dashing my hopes that Kovacs would permanently die in a horrible way on the last page. By around the halfway point, I was literally reading Altered Carbon out of pure spite. I hate this book, I hate Richard Morgan, and I hate you. Not because you deserve it -- you are probably a perfectly fine human being, or a reasonable facsimile thereof -- but because any time I think about Altered Carbon I am unable to experience any emotion but unending, bitter, sobbing hatred. I read (most of) Altered Carbon and came out the other side a changed man, and not for the better. Please, for the love of all that you hold dear, don’t read this book. And if you do, don’t tell me that you enjoyed it or I might just vomit all over you and/or punch you in the solar plexus before you have a chance to say “postmodern.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to hug a cat and watch a Pixar movie. If that doesn’t cheer me up, I’ll probably be forced to check out every copy of Altered Carbon from a library, light them on fire, throw the ashes into a river, and listen to Smile Empty Soul songs until I can’t feel emotions anymore.
Profile Image for carol..
1,576 reviews8,232 followers
November 18, 2016

A fun and fast-paced thrill ride, almost impossible for me to put down. Picture a hard-boiled noir, the solitary, weary worldly detective, blunted emotional skills, stepping on toes as he investigates. Merge that plot and character with innovative science fiction–digitized personalities that can be downloaded into new bodies with the right reasons or enough cash, and the result is eminently readable.


Full review posted at:



Profile Image for April.
146 reviews259 followers
January 18, 2018
Hearing that Netflix new series is based off this series made me want to read this even more. Only hope the show is as good as the book is.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,883 reviews16.6k followers
January 23, 2020
Gritty neo-noir, post-modern cyberpunk, sexual, violent and more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

Richard K. Morgan’s 2002 introduction to BADASS Takeshi Kovacs was to literature as a triple bacon cheeseburger is to fine cuisine – a guilty but fun throat punch and kick to the groin.

First of all Morgan’s world building is TASTY. Check this out: to get around faster than light travel or generational ship logistics consciousness can be downloaded to a chip and then uploaded to a waiting human shell, called a “sleeve”. And that’s just where the fun starts, a sleeve isn’t necessarily some grown for that purpose clone, this can be a criminal or victim whose consciousness has been stored and then the body is available for purchase. So you can hang out with your neighbor, friend or lover – except it’s not them, just the body walking around with someone else looking out through the old eyes. Morgan doesn’t let this scenario go unplumbed either.

Built around a weird murder mystery – except the “victim” is trying to solve his own death – and you know what, I’m not even going to try and explain that, you just gotta read it – BUT I will say that the victim is a tool called a Meth, short for Methusaleh, meaning rich folks who can afford to live forever. Morgan doesn’t let this scenario go unplumbed either.

Anyway, fun, fun, fun. Speculative fiction fans will want to don some latex gloves, grab a tetanus shot and curl up with this NASTY bit of make believe.

Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
3,005 reviews10.6k followers
February 10, 2011
Takeshi Kovacs is killed on an another world and re-sleeved in Bay City in the body of a disgraced cop. His mission: find out who killed Laurens Bancroft, a Meth (short for Methusaleh) billionaire. Bancroft and is offering Kovacs his freedom as a reward. Only a lot of people don't want anyone to know why Bancroft killed himself. Can Kovacs get to the bottom of things before the demons in Bancroft's private life get him?

I bought this for a buck and it languished on my shelf for a couple years. Was it worth a buck? Damn right it was!

Kovacs' quest takes him through the seedy underworld of the Bay City sex trade, among other places. The supporting cast, namely Ortega, Miriam Bancroft, Kadmin, and Trepp, keep the plot going fairly smoothly. The action is fast and furious and the sci-fi elements enhance the mystery rather than being set pieces. The mystery itself has so many twists and turns that it was hard to keep track. I like when a mystery surprises me this much. Kovacs wouldn't be out of place in any number of crime novels. Bay City is a like a futuristic, and dirtier, San Francisco and is fairly well realized as a setting. It's hard to believe this was Morgan's first novel.

"But, Dan?" you ask. "Why only a three? Why not a four or even a five?" Well, I liked this book but I sure wasn't in love with it. First, the sex scenes were unnecessary and, frankly, kind of repetitive. Let's just say 69 is a popular number in the future. Also, for what the book was, it seemed slow in the middle, like fifty to seventy pages could've have been lost without missing much. The plot zigged and zagged so much I'd nearly forgotten about the Bancrofts by the end. Other than that, I've got no complaints.

If you like your sci-fi with an action bend and/or are a fan of crime novels, this should keep you occupied for a few hours.
Profile Image for Anne.
4,062 reviews69.5k followers
September 30, 2021
I had no idea this was a book until someone here on Goodreads mentioned it to me.


Now, they mentioned it because they were giving an example of a book that had an annoying amount of sex. And I can now attest after reading this one that, yes, I also could have done without all the juicy scenes.


Honestly, this story just didn't work for me. I thought it was far too long, the plot was really convoluted, the characters were kind of wooden, and the sex scenes were unnecessary. <--not being a prude, they just didn't add anything but length to an already dense book.


The gist is that in the future you are re-sleeved into new bodies of varying quality when you die thanks to a disk thing implanted in your neck that downloads your consciousness. Or if you can't afford to be re-sleeved, you get shelved until...well, until. It's a cool concept and Morgan did a good job exploring the ins and outs of how something like that would work. There's a religious faction that's against resleeving, the new dilemma of death vs real death, and (of course) lots of ways to porn it up with cheap sleeves.


The ideas are very interesting. But. This thing just dragged on and on and on with a resolution that was just so incredibly unsatisfying.
There are a few more books in this series, but I don't really think this is my cuppa, so I'll more than likely stop here.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,109 followers
February 27, 2018
Re-read 2/27/18:

I had to pick this up again and hop on to the second and third books mostly because I was guilted into it by the Netflix production. :) I really enjoyed the show and found myself misremembering some plot points.

It turns out I didn't misremember. The tv show was close to 90% faithful. :) The other bits might be reveals pulled forward from the subsequent books which I haven't read! I honestly don't know. And that's why I'm doing the re-read. :)

So did I enjoy it more the second time around? Yep, I did.

I really appreciate the whole concept of post-cyberpunk societies running with the technological development and getting established darkly. We're all just meat suits. No one really dies unless you get your implant destroyed or your backups corrupted, but in the meantime, you can get a new meat suit. Or if you have a religious outlook that prevents it, you can't. :) Starting from there, it's a great crime drama, a private PI with a dark past, and enough twists and turns to turn most regular mysteries into cheap trash. :)

So do I recommend? Hell ya. :)

Original review:

Great genre writing, even if it is a perfect mix of noir and post-cyberpunk. I know, I know, cyberpunk is generally associated with noir 50's style tough guy private-eye pulp, only with the shiny.

This is different because it is POST-cyberpunk in the great tradition I love to associate with Brin's Kiln People or any of the hard-sci Stross or some of the best of Stephenson. You know, the sci taken to the second or the third steps, and then twisted and here you've got a stock character thrown into this really messed up science fiction world and it all depends on how well the story is written, and yes, oh, yes, it is written very well and is very enjoyable. :)
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,406 reviews11.7k followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
May 19, 2018
I am half way into this and I think I am just going to stop before I get any more annoyed by it.

This is, IMO, a rare case when a TV show is MUCH better than the book. Even though the show is full of nudity and violence, on the whole, it is a more progressive story than this novel, at least it takes care to treat its female characters as people (albeit people who get naked a lot). Altered Carbon, published in 2002, feels incredibly dated and is the kind of man-written book I just don't care to read anymore. The narrator is too much dick-driven (literally and figuratively), women he encounters are defined by the size and shape of their breasts, there is that icky sexualized violence against women that seems gratuitous and unnecessary. (I was especially irked when Kovacz was tortured in virtual reality and for some reason he was in a woman’s body, I guess so that he could describe the breasts and be hurt in that special way. Ugh.)

A perfect illustration of
#describeyourselflikeamaleauthorwould. Do not want.
Profile Image for Peter  Drummond .
31 reviews10 followers
April 2, 2019
It's weird for me disliking a story so full of things I enjoy. Morgan goes out of his way to tackle compelling notions about life and morality at the intersection of technology. He asks about the nature of what makes us human. He challenges the idea that memory and experience solely define us. The pages are practically bursting with genre favorites like Cyborgs, gun-play, hovering vehicles, and bionically enhanced assassins. Assassins, who by the way, can be needle-cast from colonized world to colonized world in an instant. An army of souls sleeved in flesh they’ve never worn to keep the peace, using some sort of tactile telepathy to recognize whose side they're on.

That sounds cool as hell.

I want to know more about all of those grand notions, don't you? Then, why is the story itself set on earth? Earth is clearly a relic world, a shithole careening through space while humanity flourishes among the stars - I wanted to adore this book so much!

But, wishing it doesn’t make it so, this book still sucks!

Written in the first person, which is usually a turn off for me, Morgan is quick to exhibit exactly why I'm not a fan of this narrative style. From the unlikable inner longings of the main character to the sex scenes that are more awkward and uncomfortable than lurid. Imagine having your mother overshare the details of your conception while using the word c*nt - it's like that. If this unfortunate pressing of the flesh happened only once in the story, I might have been able to overlook it…

It didn’t, so neither will I.

Morgan jumps from profoundly cool concepts to silly tough guy posturing, but these scenes are equally poor in their execution. The main character is a stereotypical hard man, cussing and throwing his weight around, but it’s mostly caricature. Takeshi Kovachs comes off like a terrified High Schooler trying to be hardcore: content to simply fake it and hope no one takes notice, bullying his way from scene to scene with little more than the inertia of intent.

Passable for a private dick in our distant past, but really, really stupid, for an intergalactic god stompingly badass member of the Envoy Corps in the distant future.

There is a whole lot of intrigue in this book, and I still can’t put my finger on what it is all for. Everyone is reprehensibly dirty and beyond pity or affection; their sole purpose is to serve as set dressing to prop up interesting ideas that are not integral to the narrative. Characters run round and round while their supporting cast - who are way cooler and decidedly more kick-ass than Kovachs ever got the chance to be - drop like flies.

And, in case I have undersold my dislike, here, let me spell it out for you: This was a book that was as hard for me to get through as it was for me to like, and it had cyborgs!
Profile Image for Felicia.
Author 46 books128k followers
May 27, 2009
Liked these books a lot. Misogynist but whatever, hardboiled sci-fi was fun :)
Profile Image for Frank Hidalgo-Gato Durán.
Author 10 books221 followers
May 10, 2021
“La esencia misma del control es mantenerse oculto”.
Este libro es una joya! Me encanta como escribe el autor.
Magnífico libro! Un policiaco futurista de primera línea. Me he enamorado de la historia y la manera de escribir de Morgan.
Una trama dinámica, que te engancha de tal forma, que apenas te das cuenta, llevas disfrutándola más de dos horas y es que aún así no deseas parar.
Una pluma elegante y a su vez un estilo de contar la historia tan natural como la vida misma.
Todo encaja, y el derroche de conocimiento y convencimiento propio sobre la tecnología que emplea para engancharte, es magistral.
El final incluso me ha acongojado cual si un melancólico “Adiós”. Veré cómo sobrevivo esta despedida,la que espero tan solo sea momentánea. 😆
Apenas pueda, me hago con la continuación 👌
Profile Image for Lo9man88.
130 reviews45 followers
November 4, 2018
When i watched the TV show in Netflix i had to read the book, it was like a compulsion, and boy was i rewarded, i haven't felt this greatly about a neo noir cyberpunk since Red Rising. Takeshi is a fascinating central character , the plot is tight and witty , full of action,mystery and betrayals, the background is rich, the technologies are awesome.
I won't be forgetting "sleeving","needlecast" or dozens of other terms anytime soon.
Profile Image for Kathy Ahn.
54 reviews12 followers
March 29, 2008
Hmmm...I can't remember why I picked up this book. I think I read about it on a friend's blog. I read most of it today and finished it off. But it was sort of painful at times -- the last 50 pages were sort of agony to read, but by that point, you just have to finish the damn thing.

Not spectacularly written, but hardly unusual for a book in this genre. It was interesting enough for me to plod through it, and at one point I enjoyed it briefly, but I thought it was full of logical flaws and jumps and not very original. The idea of "sleeving" into new bodies is interesting. The idea of "consciousness" or whatever you want to call it being nothing more than data you can download is interesting, but neither is an original idea.

I particularly disliked that discussion he has with himself about his father -- completely out of context and forced into the narrative. The discovery of Sheryl Bostock felt forced and came out of the blue, too.

I finished the book with a sort of relieved sense that it was over and don't have much good to say about it. There was nothing unique about it. And you could've ignored its inelegance if there'd been a sense of joy and wonder in reading the book, but I didn't feel that. I don't think the narrative was cohesive and the only thing that keeps you going is that you want to know how all the details of the plot -- even if it's a poorly rigged one.

However, it did get me thinking about interesting things -- about how much of who we are is the biochemical and neurological wiring of our physical selves and what it'd be like to separate that body from our stored memories. What happens to a person when their stored memories are downloaded into a different physical body? How does the new "self" react to someone else's neurological mappings? I think I'll probably be mulling over ideas out of that book for a while. So I'm glad I read the it, but I couldn't recommend it with good conscience.
Profile Image for Gavin.
886 reviews400 followers
February 13, 2018
Altered Carbon is one of those sci-fi books that lingered on my to-read list for years. It was the arrival of the Netflix TV adaptation that finally gave me the push to pick it up. I'm glad it did as this exceeded my expectations and turned out to be one of the best noir detective stories I've ever read!

In a future where the human mind has been digitised and can be downloaded into a new body a criminal, Takeshi Kovacs, is pulled from prison (or cold storage as it is in this futuristic sci-fi world) and offered a catch-22 deal by a powerful businessman. He can solve a murder or return to serve out the rest of his long term prison sentence. The murder is that of the businessman himself! The police have closed the case and ruled it a suicide but Laurens Bancroft, re-sleeved in a new body with no memories of the night he died, does not believe the verdict. Soon Takeshi is caught up trying to solve a murder case that no one seems to want solved except the murder victim!

The story was a good one. The mix of mystery and action worked well and the sci-fi setting was cool and interesting. Morgan's writing style was direct but very compelling. The whole story was told in the first person from Takeshi's POV and despite being a bit of an anti-hero he proved easy enough to root for. He was also a fairly charming narrator and his cynical and snarky outlook on life made for plenty of fun moments.

This was 100% a sci-fi noir detective story. It was a very good one but did still suffer from an occasional overdose of the genres typical tropes which I did find a little annoying. The worst of them being the vaguely misogynistic tint to the whole story! On the plus side the mystery was a good one and held my interest until the very end. Morgan's sci-fi world was also quite fascinating and it was packed with a ton of cool futuristic sci-fi technology. The story also had a bit of depth to it. Morgan did not linger too long on any single issue but he touched on a whole bunch of interesting topics that are perhaps even more relevant today than they were when Altered Carbon was written.

All in all I enjoyed Altered Carbon a lot and rate it as one of the better sci-fi books I've read in the last few years and possibly the best sci-fi I've read with a noir detective theme. It had a few flaws for sure but on the whole they did not really hurt my enjoyment of the story.

Rating: 5 stars. I was thinking about just going with 4.5 stars due to the tropey nature of some of the happenings but I'm just giving it the whole 5 stars since it was so addictive and fun to read!

Audio Note: I think Todd McLaren did a good job with the audio. His general narration was good and he seemed a good fit for both the story and Takeshi as a character. He was not without flaws though as while he dealt well with the male voices he did struggle quite a bit with the female ones.

Profile Image for Overhaul.
320 reviews706 followers
June 14, 2021
"El ojo humano es un instrumento maravilloso... Con un pequeño esfuerzo no es capaz de ver las peores injusticias"

Carbono Modificado también muy conocido como Carbono Alterado. Y sobretodo por la famosa serie de Netflix, Altered Carbon que tuvo mucho éxito y ahora que he leído el libro procedo a verla. Llegue a este libro a través de la saga de grimdark del autor, Tierra de Héroes. La cual recomiendo encarecidamente, al menos su primer libro y autoconclusivo, "Solo el Acero". Ahí me llamó bastante la atención la manera de escribir de Richard Morgan es muy crítico, su mala leche y dureza no se corta un pelo a la hora de escribir y describir muchos actos, situaciones y dado que me estoy metiendo de lleno en la CF me dije pues vamos a por ello. He salido de esta lectura contento y bastante satisfecho una vez más con Richard Morgan. Aunque esta saga llamada "Ciclo de Takeshi Kovacs" esté compuesto por tres títulos son libros independientes, el segundo, "Ángeles Rotos", no tiene nada que ver con este. En este primer libro la historia y la trama que nos plantea queda cerrada. El único hilo que conecta esta trilogía es su protagonista, Takeshi Kovacs. Una buena lectura. Desde luego seguiré con la saga.

"Había sido un hombre de poder, y como todos los hombres de poder, cuando hablaba de precios que pagar, uno podía estar seguro de una cosa: era otro quien pagaba"

En un futuro en el que se ha vencido a la muerte alcanzando cierta "inmortalidad" en el que la mente, conciencia y el ¿alma? humana se ha digitalizado y se introduce en algo llamado pila y esto se puede poner en un nuevo cuerpo, llamados fundas, saltando de funda en funda. A lo largo del libro te plantea preguntas y dilemas. Sin ir más lejos por ejemplo, al cambiar de cuerpo ya no una o dos veces sino muchas más. ¿Realmente conservas tu conciencia, tu personalidad, tu mente sigue intacta, eres la persona que eras? Aquello que llamamos alma ¿Se mantiene?, ¿Donde está?.

Esta tecnología ha generado una cultura mucho más tolerante hacia la muerte, la tortura y varios fetiches. Por supuesto todo esto sigue una escala social, cuanto más dinero y poder tengas más oportunidades tienes, hasta de escoger la funda que quieras usar, o clones con todo tipo de mejoras bioquímicas, haciéndolos efectivos en el combate y muchas más cosas. Acabo de meterme en la CF y no puedo valorar con el mismo criterio o experiencia lectora que muchos, pero me parece que tiene un buen toque original y muy bien llevado. Sobretodo te hace preguntarte, ¿Lo harías tu, vivirias cientos y cientos de años, quién sabe quizás miles o cientos de miles hasta que por alguna razón todo reviente? ¿Pondrías esa pila que es tu propio ser de funda en funda para vivir más?, ¿Serías la misma persona?.

(Cyberpunk no voy a negar, ni me da verguenza decirlo que bueno empezando recientemente en la CF no tenía ni idea de lo que era, aún habiendo escuchado este término muchas veces, incluido en videojuegos. El ciberpunk es un subgénero de la CF, conocido por reflejar visiones distópicas del futuro en las cuales se combinan la tecnología avanzada con un bajo o muy bajo nivel de vida.)

"La esencia misma del control es mantenerse oculto"

Tenemos un arranque de trilogía interesante que traslada los códigos de la novela negra a un futuro tecnológico, extremadamente violento y que explora sin concesiones los límites físicos, sociales y psicológicos del ser humano. Una mezcla de un buen escenario de CF con toques de cyberpunk, unido al misterio de un asesinato que debe resolverse dando lugar a muchos más misterios, varias intrigas y complots añadiéndole acción y violencia, todo esto en su conjunto, funcionó bien. El estilo de escritura de Morgan también es algo que disfruté una vez más, directo como siempre. No tiene ningún problema en usar ciertas palabras o críticas sin cortarse un pelo, con sus característicos toques de brutalidad y crudeza, sangre y escenas de sexo explícitas, quizás en este caso ya no tanto como se pueden encontrar en Solo el Acero. Pero obteniendo un resultado muy convincente y no cargante.

"Siempre habrá imbéciles como ésos tragándose dogmas enteros para no tener que pensar por sí mismos"

Tenemos una historia policíaca/detectivesca con cierta profundidad y totalmente imbuida en la CF. El misterio no estuvo nada mal. Mantuvo mi interés hasta el final, logró engancharme desde el principio algunas cosas las ves venir, sí, pero otras muchas no. A lo largo de las páginas, Morgan va colocando elementos, objetos y personajes que terminarán por jugar un papel esencial en la resolución del rompecabezas. Tenemos un mundo fascinante y repleto de mucha tecnología. Y tenemos unos buenos personajes, principales y secundarios.

"Será mejor que se vaya, teniente. Todos estos prejuicios me dan dolor de cabeza"

La historia es contada en primera persona desde el punto de vista de Takeshi Kovacs. Es un tio majo pese a su vertiente un poco vengativa. Es muy poco paranoico para la cantidad de peligros a las que se enfrenta. Sin ningún problema en joder a gente con mucho poder. Un duro entrenamiento militar que le hace tener poco respeto por la vida de sus enemigos. Su voluntad flaquea como la de los demás ante la tentación. Pero que a su vez apoyas sus acciones y decisiones. Un buen narrador. Su personalidad y su visión cínica y sarcástica de la vida dio varios momentos divertidos. Nos deja buenas frases o citas. También preguntas y dilemas de que está bien o que está mal en ese futuro con la tecnología de la que disponen. Takeshi Kovacs es un soldado y antiguo emisario de las colonias, había sido juzgado, condenado y almacenado. Pero ahora ha sido transmitido a la Tierra por petición de un particular millonario que desea que se investigue su reciente muerte. La policía lo ha catalogado como suicidio y cerrado el caso. Pero el "muerto" enfundado ya en otro cuerpo, considera que ha sido un asesinato. Kovacs tiene que averiguar que ha pasado.

"Todavía tengo una conciencia haciendo ruido en alguna parte. Sólo que me he olvidado de dónde la dejé"

Una trama policíaca donde Kovacs sigue las últimas cuarenta y ocho horas de vida de la persona que lo ha contratado, descubriendo un mundo imbuido en las drogas y todo tipo de prácticas sexuales muy consumidas por la población. Mostrando asi una ruptura de toda vergüenza o tabú sobre la sexualidad, la violencia sin reparos y el placer efímero. Un mundo consumido por el vicio. En el que nuestro protagonista, Kovacs se encontrará con adversarios y gente con intenciones ambiguas, todos con el gatillo fácil que llenarán el libro de escenas de acción.

Con los personajes secundarios, Morgan ha hecho un buen trabajo. Cada uno tiene su función en el libro. Es lo que más me ha gustado de ellos. Poseen algún toque personal o momento llamativo que te permite diferenciarlos, esto hace que el lector recuerde rápidamente de qué personaje se trata. Esto lo considero un punto a favor ya que es un libro que cuenta con muchos personajes.

Me ha llamado la atención, la IA que del hotel Hendrix. De hecho es de mi favorito. Tiene un curioso código de lealtad basado en quién está hospedado en su hotel que ha despertado toda mi curiosidad en este tema ya que estoy empezando en el género de CF. Se que las IA (Inteligencia Artificial) es un recurso muy usado en el género pero gracias a Hendrix me han entrado ganas de leer más sobre ello.

"Hombres y mujeres no son más que simples mercancías, como todo lo demás. Acomódalos, flétalos y trasvásalos. Y por favor.. firma aquí abajo"
Profile Image for Milda Page Runner.
300 reviews234 followers
November 29, 2016

Less humorous, darker and deeper than I expected - nevertheless I absolutely loved this book. Sci-fi blend with detective noir and inevitably cynical main character – it was my cup of tea from the start. What I loved the most about it is noir atmosphere, good balance between action and philosophy, darkness and intrigue of the investigation.

With explicit sex scenes, torture, and exploration of the darker side of human nature – this is certainly a read for adults. Don’t expect to get out unscathed. Like good grimdarks often do – it leaves you thoughtful and bruised.

Recommend for readers looking for a though provoking sci-fi. A must-read for noir and grimdark fans.
Profile Image for Sandi.
510 reviews279 followers
July 21, 2008
Wow. It’s no wonder Richard K. Morgan became such a phenomenon in the science fiction world so quickly. His first novel, “Altered Carbon” is so well crafted that it bears no hints of being a first novel. His imagination and story telling is absolutely amazing. Although it is absolutely full of graphic violence and has a few X-rated sex scenes, every part is so well written, it all fits. This book should have completely offended me. I can’t stand gratuitous sex and violence. But, the way Morgan writes it, the sex and violence come off as being necessary to the story and the characters. I don’t think I’ve ever run across such plausible characters and actions. The plot is a standard noir detective thriller, but it’s so well done that the mystery remains a mystery until the very end.

One thing Morgan handles very well is his technology. He really goes into the various implications of a transhuman world where people can upload their thoughts, memories and personalities to different bodies (sleeves), depending on their ability to afford the costs. The truly rich can afford to live for hundreds of years, switching to young versions of themselves when their bodies get too old for their tastes. Poor people just get the consciousnesses (known as stacks) stored until someone is will to pay the price to get them reactivated in a new sleeve. The quality of one’s sleeve is an indication of their wealth. Without ever going into lecture mode, Morgan shows us how nearly every aspect of this transhuman society works.

To keep my conscience clear, I will state very strongly that this is at least R-rated material. A few scenes are X-rated. Some readers may be very turn-off by the brutality of “Altered Carbon.” It's also quite difficult to follow, with a lot of twists and turns in the plot. More than a few times, I found myself wondering where a certain character came from or how we found ourselves in a certain scene. If you can handle the violence, sex and complicated plot, it is an excellent read and well worth the time and effort.
Profile Image for Caro the Helmet Lady.
773 reviews349 followers
February 24, 2018
Hard-boiled and hard-balled cyberpunk novel, which is also a noir detective story. I really liked all the sci-fi entourage, although I could use less violence and more humour, which could probably happen if it was written by Roger Zelazny. But I also liked the philosophical side, the twisted psychological side and basically limitless possibilities of the Kovacs' world. Who himself was almost a superhero, with a decently human softer side. He reminded me strongly of my favourite cyberpunk heroine, major Motoko Kusanagi (he even had an invisible suit, you guys!). In general, it all gave me a strong Ghost in The Shell deja vu feeling, but not in a bad way.

Half star off for too many "deus ex machina" moments. Will I read next book in series? I definitely will.

UPDATE 2017, July. I just learned Netflix is making a tv series and it's pretty much on the way to our screens. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2261227/ I hope they don't screw it up!
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews806 followers
December 4, 2017
This book is legendary among cyberpunk fans, I do not really count myself among them as I have read too little from this sub-genre to qualify. However, it is very frequently recommended in the excellent PrintSF forum I frequent. A few years ago I went through a phase of reading crime fiction almost exclusively because I felt like a change from decades of reading sf/f. One of the best practitioners of crime fiction is Michael Connelly, whose most famous creation is detective Harry Bosch. If Mr. Connelly had put Detective Bosch in space (and cyberspace) he may have ended up with something like Altered Carbon (if he is lucky).

Altered Carbon takes place in a universe where human personalities can be digitized and transfer to different bodies (called sleeves), artificial or natural but unoccupied. Takeshi Kovacs' consciousness was in storage when he suddenly finds himself in a stranger's body and tasked with solving a mystery for a millionaire whose life was recently restored from backup after he has apparently committed suicide. His backed up consciousness has no memory of this alleged suicide because it occurs after the backup was made and he insists that he is not the suicidal type.

The story is not difficult to get into due to its linear timeline and a single first-person narrative. It took me a while to warm up to the protagonist Kovacs because like most fictional hard-boiled detectives he is a pain in the nether regions until you get to know him. The other characters are interesting enough without leaving much of an impression, one exception being an AI character named after a legendary guitar hero.
Richard K. Morgan's prose seems more American than English, which surprised me a bit given that he is British, but the style goes with the noir territory I suppose. The prose style is in the tradition of Raymond chandler / Dashiell Hammett. Visceral and lean with the occasional surprising passages of contemplative and even lyrical narration. The nature of "the self" and reality is thoughtfully ruminated upon.

I have read several reviews that mentioned that this book would make a great action film, one review even describes it as a Schwarzenegger film. This may well be the case if they cut out all the thoughtful elements and just concentrate on blowing shit up real good. I wonder how pleased the author would feel with that?

I would rate this novel at 4.6 stars, it does not quite reach the emotional core for me (though it is not far off), it falls just a little short in the poignancy department. Still, it is a fantastic sf book with plenty of food for thought and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone in search of an excellent sci-fi read.

science line

• This book makes me question the "immortality by cloning" sf trope. The idea is understandable but somehow does not jibe with me. There is an interesting discussion of the idea here.

• I just realized that I have not touched upon how virtual reality is cleverly used in the book as an interrogation tool, now I don't know where to discreetly fit it into the review!

Update Jan 23, 2016: Netflix has picked up a 10-episode series based on Altered Carbon.

Update Dec 5, 2017:

Trailer for Netflix's Altered Carbon, airing Feb 2018.
Profile Image for Jilly.
1,838 reviews6,247 followers
February 9, 2019
It took me a while to read this one because I needed to put it down occasionally and read something light during a break. It's dark, bloody, and very deep.

This is a mystery novel set in a very high-tech future where humans are basically downloaded into a hard-copy file, called a stack, from the time they are a year old so that their bodies become "sleeves" that are hosting human consciousness. So, if someone's body is killed, their stack can be put inside another body, or the stack can be accessed in virtual reality, or it can even be placed inside of a synthetic body- like an android type of thing. Seems like a cool idea, yeah?

With my luck, this would be the only robot body I would be able to afford:

"Who put the fucking banana peels on the floor again? It wasn't funny yesterday, and it isn't funny today!"

The problem is somewhat reasonable. There are two basic laws in life that you can count on:

1. People aren't meant to live forever.

2. The rich will always find a way to fuck-over the poor.

Yeah, so the rich can afford to house clones of themselves with back-up cloud service on their stacks so that they have an endless supply of themselves available. Great. Just what we need, an endless supply of rich assholes. And, of course, since they live forever, they get bored, and what the hell, they might as well kill people for sport. I mean, they can always buy that person a new body after they get a sick thrill from killing the old one. So, hey, don't be a baby! Let the rich man pay to torture, rape, and kill you. He'll totally replace you.

“You live that long, things start happening to you. You get too impressed with yourself. Ends up, you think you’re God. Suddenly the little people, thirty, maybe forty years old, well, they don’t really matter anymore. You’ve seen whole societies rise and fall, and you start to feel you’re standing outside it all, and none of it really matters to you. And maybe you’ll start snuffing those little people, just like picking daisies, if they get under your feet.”

So, our hero, Takeshi, is a type of soldier-ish, and he is sleeved onto Earth to help a rich dude try and figure out who tried to kill him. There are plenty of people who would want to, I mean, he's a rich asshole. But, it is almost impossible to accomplish this task.

There also are a lot of people who are trying to kill Takeshi, and we aren't sure why. He's not rich at all. Still, the guy gets tortured, maimed, and beat up throughout the book. It gets pretty brutal during the torture stuff. I had to skim a bit.

This book had all of the amazing future-stuff that I love, including those flying cars that I always talk about. I know you all are sick of me whining about wanting one before I die. My goal is to die IN a flying car. I refuse to die until I can go out that way.

Close enough.

There are a lot of heady ideas in the book too, about what makes up a human. Souls and stuff. But, it's combined with enough blood and gore and action that you don't get too philosophical.

I would say that you will like this book if you love future sci-fi and gory mystery and maybe a bit of noir. And darkness. This isn't a ride on the happy-train. But, I liked it. I'm getting back on the happy train for my next book, as a palate cleanser, but it was worth it.
Profile Image for Geek Furioso.
99 reviews3,195 followers
April 17, 2018
He tenido Carbono Modificado cogiendo polvo en mis estanterías casi seis meses y aún con todo, decidí que mi primera toma de contacto con Takeshi Kovacs fuese en la serie de Netflix. Fue un grave error.

Con esto no quiero decir que la serie de Netflix creada por Laeta Kalogridis sea mala, ni mucho menos, pero es un producto muy distinto de la novela de Richard Morgan. Carbono Modificado, el libro, es una historia llena de entresijos y detalles, que se toma su propio ritmo para construir el gran misterio que ronda el aparente asesinato de Laurens Bancroft. Es una novela calmada, donde las conversaciones tienen mucha más importancia y peso que los tiroteos y las peleas. El misterio, que es al fin y al cabo para lo que hemos venido, está perfectamente hilado, y Morgan logra esa satisfactoria sensación de que unamos las piezas al tiempo que Kovacs y que apretemos los dientes, dándonos cuenta de las pistas que estaban allí todo el rato y no vimos en un primer momento.

Carbono Modificado también tiene un fuerte mensaje y una parte de ese vitriolo que siente Morgan hacia los ricos y poderosos, al cual dio rienda suelta en Leyes de Mercado. No obstante, mientras Leyes de Mercado era una visión de un capitalismo brutalizado e inmisericorde, Carbono Modificado habla de la ruptura de límites éticos y morales de una élite que ya no tiene nada que temer, ni siquiera la muerte.

Una de mis mejores lecturas del año.
Profile Image for Lawyer.
384 reviews841 followers
February 11, 2013
Altered Carbon: Richard Morgan's Cyber-Punk Future

“The human eye is a wonderful device. With a little effort, it can fail to see even the most glaring injustice.”
― Richard K. Morgan, Altered Carbon

It takes something special for a book to keep me burning through the pages until 3 a.m. Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan is a helluva read.

 photo PhilipKDickAward_zpsdc49fc96.jpg
Winner of the Philip K. Dick Award for Best Novel, 2003

Morgan is a wicked blend of Philip K. Dick and William Gibson. There is even a touch of Gene Roddenberry's various Star Trek series. But the beneficent Federation is replaced by a universe governed by the United Nations, a tough bunch, whose prime directive is to do what it takes to get what you want or think you need.

Our protagonist/anti-hero--your choice, pushed to the forefront of the story is Takeshi Kovacs, raised off-world on Harlan's World, a colonized by the Japanese and East Europeans. Introduced to violence at a young age through gang participation, Kovacs is a natural for military service. And he is natural to become a U.N. Envoy, the best, and the most brutal in carrying out the U.N. "Protectorate's" directives.

Set five hundred ,and counting, years in the future, science has mastered the art of defying the principle of you only go around this life once. No. You can grab all the gusto you'd like, time after time, through the development of Digital Human Forms called sleeves. Even the mind can be digitized and backed up in case something untoward occurs to your current self.

The wealthier you are, the more of your selves you can keep in storage. Theoretically if you've got the money and the power, you could live forever. Those that choose to do so are called "Meths" by the younger and poorer citizens of Earth and the other off-world colonies.

Now your first thought might be, why this is no dystopia. This is utopia!

But there are a few problems with that. Imagine being married to the same person for three hundred years, and having all the money it takes to support the theory that variety is the spice of life. The preceding statement does not reflect the views or opinions of the reviewer. My wife reads these things. Got it?

Enter Laurens Bancroft and his lovely wife Miriam. To say that they have become a bit jaded is more than a bit of understatement. Bancroft enjoys slumming in the myriad sex clubs available, from the lowest to the most exclusive. Miriam enjoys her own tête-à-têtes, but prefers much more tasteful surroundings.

Bancroft is murdered, so he says, upon being re-sleeved in one of his copies. The Bay City Police Department rules it a suicide. Members of the department have little or no sympathy for Meths. They have better things to worry about.

Consider this. Morgan writes:

“You live that long, things start happening to you. You get too impressed with yourself. Ends up, you think you’re God. Suddenly the little people, thirty, maybe forty years old, well, they don’t really matter anymore. You’ve seen whole societies rise and fall, and you start to feel you’re standing outside it all, and none of it really matters to you. And maybe you’ll start snuffing those little people, just like picking daisies, if they get under your feet.”

So it is that Bancroft hires Kovacs to investigate his murder. As he tells Kovacs, "If I had wanted to commit suicide I wouldn't be standing here talking to you." Maybe so. Maybe no.

Not only do denizens of Morgan's world routinely resort to the F-Bomb in conversation, they enjoy engaging in the actual activity. Morgan includes enough gratuitous sex scenes to appeal to most prurient interests. Of course Miriam Bancroft seduces Kovacs not only through her perfect body but by the secretion of a sexually enhancing chemical from every pore of her body. Erectile dysfunction is NOT a problem in Morgan's world. Nor do Miriam and Kovacs end up in separate bath tubs. I've never understood that Cialis commercial anyway. Have you?

 photo Cialis_zps0928885c.jpg

Of course, Miriam would like to see Kovacs close the case, making her a prime suspect. But Morgan supplies us with a host of other likely suspects, whom I will not reveal for fear of disclosing too much of the plot.

Let's just say this re-sleeving business is a huge money maker, along with virtual and actual prostitution a lucrative concern as well. There is little justice for those without money or power.

Morgan intriguingly plots his novel around the question of when does science cross the line of morality and religion. Not every citizen wants to be re-sleeved, particularly those of the Catholic faith who see multiple lives as keeping them from the opportunity of ever getting to Heaven.

At the heart of this twining and twisting plot is the question of Resolution No. 653, to be decided by the U.N. Protectorate. Can one opt out of being kept digitally stored and re-sleeved?

Catholics have taken to having themselves tattooed with the equivalent of a do not resuscitate code. That proposition makes them likely targets for murder, especially when it comes to snuffing an unwilling prostitute.

Winner of the 2003 Philip K. Dick Award for Best Novel,
Altered Carbon is an addictive page turner which should engage the lover of not only hard-boiled detective novels, but cyberpunk as well. If it's not on your to read shelf, add it.

Now, just one thing about this Methuselah business...it would be nice to read forever.

 photo methuselah_zps0615aace.jpg

Profile Image for Manny.
Author 30 books14k followers
July 11, 2023
"So what are you going to do?" I asked, as the synth began strapping me into the coffin. My mind raced through the possibilities. Perhaps the Sharya interrogation scenario. Though they'd tried that last time and I hadn't cracked.

The synth smiled its unconvincing smile. "Nothing," it said.

Oh shit.

"Percival Everett fan?" I said brightly. But my heart wasn't in it, even the synth could tell. It smiled again and closed the lid. For a moment, I lay there in total blackness, listening to the blood circulating around my body. Then


Total sensory deprivation was already an effective technique in the primitive analogue era. Now, with direct access to my stack, it reached a different level. I was truly experiencing nothing. No light, no sound, no touch, no proprioception. I checked to be sure, and my internal sensorium had also been switched off. I tried to bring to mind Miriam's breasts, the way they had looked and felt, but I could only find the words. The accompanying images were gone as though they had never been.

For a moment I was close to panic, until the Envoy conditioning kicked in. I could no longer hear Virginia Vidaura in my head, but I could remember her lecture as pure, disembodied words.

"Philosophy. That's what you need when you're in the Blank Tank. You need to convince yourself you still exist. The philosophers have the techniques. Study them. Make them your own."

She'd recommended Descartes. I tried him, but I couldn't get with the God bit. If God's anywhere in this universe, He's keeping a pretty low profile. Wittgenstein was more my kind of guy. Time to get started.

"Die Welt ist alles, was der Fall ist."

Jimmy said it was perverse to learn it in German, I told him it carried more authority that way. The world consists of that which is the case. Not what I can see or hear or imagine. That which is the case. Alles, was der Fall ist. I was already calmer.

"Die Tatsachen im logischen Raum sind die Welt."

Facts in logical space. That was my world. If old Ludwig could have seen me now. I was up and flying, hardly even thinking about the blankness, the emptiness, the nothing. I still had logic. I carried on. By the time I'd got to "Die Substanz der Welt kann nur eine Form und keine materiellen Eigenschaften bestimmen", I was almost enjoying myself. I kept going.

After an unknowable time, I realised something was distracting me. It took a moment to remember. Of course, perceptions. That's what they were called. My visual cortex was picking up signals again. I could see.

I processed the signals and aligned them with my thoughts. The synth was looking at me. There was audio too.


I connected the sounds to thought and memory. Surprise. Yes, that's what it was called. Astonishment, even.


I remembered I could speak too.

"Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen."

It came out harsh, I must have been under a while. The synth stared at me.

"If you haven't got anything to say," I translated loosely for its benefit, "then shut the fuck up."
Profile Image for Nancy.
557 reviews786 followers
January 30, 2009
I abandoned it after about 100 or so pages. I liked the future setting and the advances in technology that change the concept of life and death. Unfortunately, it read like a script for an action movie. Some good ideas, but too much senseless action and violence ruined it for me.
Profile Image for Megan Baxter.
985 reviews664 followers
May 19, 2014
It's science fiction noir, and Morgan has a nice touch of both noir phrasing and overly-complicated noir plotting. I really didn't see the intricacies of the story until they were laid out, but it never worried me. I enjoyed being plunged into the confusing world that Takeshi Kovacs wakes up in, with little more information than he had.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
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