Altered Carbon - Richard K. Morgan - New
In the novel's quasi-cyberpunk and somewhat dystopian world, human personalities can be stored digitally and downloaded into new bodies, called sleeves. Most people have stacks in their spinal columns that store their memories. If their body dies, their stack can be stored indefinitely. Catholics have arranged that they will not be resleeved as they believe that the soul goes to Heaven when they die, and so would not pass on to the new sleeve. This makes Catholics targets for murder, since killers know their victim will not be resleeved to testify. A UN resolution to alter this legal position forms one strand of the novel's plot, in order to allow the authorities to temporarily sleeve a deceased Catholic woman to testify in a murder trial.
Most people cannot afford to get resleeved more than once per lifetime, so while some people can live indefinitely, only the wealthy are able to acquire replacement bodies on a continual basis. The long-lived are called Meths, short for Methuselahs. The very rich are also able to keep copies of their minds in remote storage, which they update every so often. This ensures that even if their stack is destroyed, they can be resleeved.
One such Methuselah--a man named Laurens Bancroft--has apparently committed suicide. He is resleeved from a backup, but his other stack was destroyed. Because his stack is on a 48 hour back-up schedule, he has no memories of his actions during the previous 48 hours. He believes his apparent suicide was actually a murder and hires Takeshi Kovacs to investigate his death.
Kovacs was an Envoy, a member of a military unit formed to cope with the challenge of interstellar warfare. Faster-than-light travel is only possible by transmitting a digitally stored consciousness across space into a new sleeve. Transmitting normal soldiers in this way would severely inhibit their effectiveness, since they would have to cope with a new body while fighting. To combat this, Envoy training emphasises mental techniques necessary to survive in different bodies over physical strength, and the sleeve in which they are transmitted has special neuro-chemical sensors which amplify the power of the five senses, intuition and physical capabilities. The effectiveness of the Envoy Corps' training is such that Envoys are banned from holding governmental positions on most worlds.
Kovacs, killed in the novel's prologue and stored in digital form, is downloaded into a sleeve formerly inhabited by Bay City (formerly San Francisco) policeman Elias Ryker. The plot unfolds through Kovacs' narrative. Kovacs eventually solves the mystery, but only after great personal suffering which he is able to bear only because of his Envoy training.
About the Author Richard K Morgan
In 2002 Richar K .Morgan's first novel Altered Carbon was published, combining elements of cyberpunk and hardboiled detective fiction and featuring the anti-hero Takeshi Kovacs. The film rights for the book sold for a reported figure of ,000,000 to film producer Joel Silver, enabling Morgan to become a full-time writer. In 2003 the U.S. edition received the Philip K. Dick Award. In 2003 Broken Angels was published, the sequel to Altered Carbon, again featuring Takeshi Kovacs and blending science fiction and war fiction in a similar way to his cross-genre début.
Market Forces, Richard K Morgan's first non-Kovacs novel, is set in the not too distant future. It was originally written as a short story, then as a screenplay (both unpublished). After the success of his first two works, it was released as a novel and has also been optioned as a film. Morgan's third, and he has stated final, Kovacs novel Woken Furies was released in the UK in March 2005 and in the U.S. in September 2005.
Richard K Morgan wrote two six issue miniseries for Marvel Comics under the Marvel Knights imprint. His first story, Black Widow: Homecoming published monthly in 2004 was followed by a second, Black Widow: The Things They Say About Her published monthly in 2005; both are now available in collected editions. According to Morgan's official website the series was "an artefact of limited appeal" and is unlikely to be continued, although he has other comic projects in development. Black Man (known in the USA as 'Thirteen') was released in May 2007 in the UK and June 2007 in the USA. According to the author, the book is about the constraints of physicality and the fact that you are locked into who you are and there's not a whole lot you can do about that. These are things he couldn't deal with in the Kovacs universe, because for Kovacs and people like him mortality is avoidable: you just skip into a new body. The novel subsequently won the 2008 Arthur C Clarke Award.
Richar K Morgan's current project is a fantasy trilogy, the first volume of which has the title A Land Fit for Heroes (The Steel Remains in the UK) and was published in August 2008 in the UK and is due to be published on January 20, 2009 in the United States. His current writings feature heavily on the theme of autonomy in science fiction and escapism in fantasy.
Altered Carbon - Richard K. Morgan - New
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