Altered Carbon

July 4, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

carbonAltered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan


Altered Carbon is one of those books I’ve had for a while, based on its reputation. Once Netflix announced they were working on a show based on the book, I decided to bump it up my list so I could be familiar with the story before the show began. It took a while to read, in part because it’s lengthy, in part because the plot is complex, and in part because it’s very, very dark. It’s hard to be eager to return to the world of Altered Carbon when it’s so full of torment, torture, and cruelty.

The story is tightly plotted, with every detail from the story playing some role in its conclusion, and Morgan captures the characters and the mood of his story very well, so it’s not that this is a bad story, or even a good one that’s poorly written. It’s clear that Morgan is a talented writer, but this book isn’t comforting in any way. I saw one review of the book that praised it as a return to cyberpunk, but if this is what cyberpunk is about, then I might have to write off the genre all together.

Of particular note is that I started this book shortly after finishing Lafferty’s Six Wakes, which also handled cloning and transferring consciousness to new bodies, so I kept imagining that system whenever the process was referenced in Altered Carbon. It didn’t hurt the book, but I do wish I had waited a bit longer between books to let one technology settle in my mind before tackling another one. Then again, I don’t read a lot about books I want to read, so I didn’t even realize that was a core part of the story.

I waffled between three and four stars for this book, and I settled on three, because the book wasn’t a “good time” read. I’ve read dark, nihilistic fiction before and liked the stories (Chalk by Paul Cornell is one), but Morgan’s angle is a bit too dark for me. I had intended on reading the other two books in the Kovacs series, but after the dismal look into the future that is Altered Carbon — and the similar hopelessness of Market Forces and Thirteen — I think I’ll quit after the first book. I just don’t want to have to enter that world again.

Started: May 13, 2018
Finished: May 30, 2018

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