Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Richard Morgan - Altered Carbon

Four hundred years from now mankind is strung out across a region of interstellar space inherited from an ancient civilization discovered on Mars. The colonies are linked together by the occasional sublight colony ship voyages and hyperspatial data-casting. Human consciousness is digitally freighted between the stars and downloaded into bodies as a matter of course.For a first-time SF writer to be so surely in command of narrative and technology, so brilliant at world-building, so able to write such readable and enjoyable SF adventure, is simply extraordinary.

Comment: Years ago I got interested in this book after reading about it in a forum now erased. I liked how some people have mentioned different elements I was not used to seeing in books and I was immediately sold on it. It took me a long time to eventually get it but I found a Portuguese edition and that was the one I bought and read. Obviously, it got stuck in the TBR pile and only days ago I finally picked it up.

Sci-fi is always a matter of chance, one can like it or not but the plot is definitely interesting. 
In the future, people can come back to life quite easily (if not cheaply) and use different bodies if they can or want. Takeshi Kovacs is a man from a different planet who comes to Earth to occupy a body and investigate a murder. The killed man is very rich and his new "body" demands to know how he was killed because he doesn't believe in the suicide theory the police has concluded was how it happened. However, the reasons behind this murder are a lot more extended than Takeshi imagines at first...

When it comes to imagination, this author certainly has it in spades. The world building and the ideas surrounding the plot and characters aren't easy things to define and describe but I was surprised by all this. It's not that difficult to imagine how the humankind will change the future, how adjustments and innovations will change the way we live and see things but if the future will turn out to be something like this author imagined here, then life won't be easy nor sweetly pink.

After finishing the book I guess what makes me not give this a stronger grade was the confusion I still felt at times. I can't really tell if it was the plot that just didn't make much sense all the time or the sci fi elements that made everything confusion in those more weird times. The problem is a mix of both I'd say... the hero would go from one idea to the other in a way that was meant to be clever and dynamic and that showed his abilities but it wasn't until the end I really got some of those decisions. Yes, in mysteries we are supposed to need to guess but with all the different elements, the amount of details to bear in mind, things got really confusing and it's very easy for the reader to feel lost. Regarding the mystery plot I was left a bit disappointed because when the final explanations were revealed I was left thinking...meh. Yes, the process to get there was fast paced and violent but didn't have a twist incredible enough to make me feel amazed.

Apart from the sci fi elements, which are innovative and creative, we have the characters. This is what makes the novel feel  interesting. Takeshi, the hero, is that sort of take-no-hostages man that goes all the way to the bottom of the problem to solve it without caring about how he gets there. The interesting bit was how he managed to keep the most human side of his automatic actions very easy to sympathize with so..we kind of want him to succeed.
In terms of personality, it was more difficult to get him because using the body of others makes it too easy to blend the user and the body and that can be also confusing to read about.
The other characters had their moments but of course the real interest here is to see how people behave in such a different set but maintaining some of the real life characteristics we would recognize everywhere. 

The moral and social elements are truly special and I really appreciated the dichotomy between the violent world presented and the more human responses the characters had facing everything. This is probably why the novel can be rad by all kinds of readers.
I liked the book overall but yes, lots of violence I didn't always think had to exist and lots of confusing situations. After years of wonder, it wasn't as daring in the aspects I thought and offered things I didn't always think were all that necessary. Still, it does provide a provoking read.
Grade: 6/10

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