Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan – Review

Cover- Altered Carbon

Published: February 28, 2002

Publisher: Gollancz

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Takeshi Kovacs #1

Pages: 416 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 2.0/5.0



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.

I picked up Altered Carbon out of my sometimes unwise desire to read/listen to the book prior to watching movie or tv adaptation. I still haven’t checked out the show for a few reasons, one being lack of time, and the other being that I was practically BORED TO TEARS listening to this. While I didn’t entirely hate this book, I definitely won’t be reading the others especially since this is supposed to be the best of them. I could end my review here and it would be sufficient, but I won’t. I’m going to attempt to break it down for you.

First and foremost, I would like to point out that this book has SO many things that I would typically enjoy in a book. Altered Carbon is set in a future where humanity is basically backed up on a hard drive inside your head – the “stack” as it’s called is an upload of you. If someone dies/get old/gets injured (provided they have the money) they can be put in a new body in a process called resleeving and carry on. Our MC, Takeshi Kovacs (pronounced Kovatch) is a former UN Envoy, which seems to me like a combo of super soldier and spy with a smidge of actual diplomatic function thrown in for good measure. He’s pulled off stack and resleeved on Earth to investigate the death of a prominent member of society named Laurens Bancroft who is several hundred years old. By all accounts, it looks like a standard suicide, but Bancroft (who was just resleeved) claims that it was not the case at all. He would never do such a thing. So here we’ve got an awesome sci-fi future, a gun toting MC with tons of skill, and a mystery – all things I love in a book… so where did it fall flat?

Thing fell flat when I realized I couldn’t wait for the book to be over. I didn’t care AT ALL for any of the characters, whether it was a minor character or Takeshi himself. I mean, I think I liked the AI hotel better than Kovacs – it popped out heavy weaponry and obliterated some murderous thugs a few chapters into the book. Honestly, there was just so much dithering around and so much talking and I just wanted Kovacs to shut his mouth and shoot people. And then he did, and I still didn’t care. I actually skipped through the last two chapters of this book because I was about to go full thousand-yard stare and drool on my keyboard.

I don’t know if it was just not the right book for my mood or what, but Altered Carbon was magnificently underwhelming. It’s been quite a while since an audiobook has been that disappointing and I think it’s just me because this book had a solid rating on Goodreads and obviously it was cool enough to get picked up by Netflix for a tv show. Which I still want to watch by the way, despite not liking the book. The show may very well be an epicly wild ride that I want to binge watch. Who knows. All I’m saying is that I didn’t like it, but if you think it sounds cool then give it a go.

8 thoughts on “Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan – Review

  1. When the show aired I felt curious about the book, then my curiosity cooled considerably because while the screen version was visually stunning and it held my attention because I wanted to discover the truth, the story itself was somewhat depressing and the pace felt uneven. The level of physical violence did not help either – and that from someone who reads and watches GRR Martin without a qualm!
    Curiously enough, the only character I truly liked was indeed the hotel AI manager – which is saying a lot 🙂


    • I watched the first episode yesterday and it’s well done visually. The only character I liked was Ortega, though I missed a little bit while I was cooking. Will watch episode 2 this evening!


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