Altered Carbon is a science fiction hard-boiled crime novel by Richard Morgan, published in 2002. The story takes place 500 years in the future where human consciousness can be stored permanently on a transplantable piece of hardware called a stack, and placed into new bodies referred to unceremoniously as "sleeves." While killing a body won't result in real death, destroying the stack in a person's neck will. However, those who are extremely wealthy can afford to have their stack backed up remotely on a regular basis, and have their bodies cloned, effectively making them immortal.
One of these rich immortals, Laurens Bancroft, has apparently committed suicide, at least that is the local police's official position on the matter. Though, since he has remote storage that automatically restores his consciousness to a clone when he dies, suicide is entirely pointless, leading Bancroft to believe he was murdered. However, since his consciousness is only backed up every 48-hours, he has no memory of what happened. So, he hires Takeshi Kovacs, a convict serving time, and places him in the sleeve of a corrupt police officer. Kovacs is told his prison sentence will be eliminated and he will be paid extremely well if he can solve the mystery, an offer he can't refuse.
Upon searching for clues, Kovacs uncovers various unsettling problems, all of which is made more difficult by various people that want him to leave well-enough alone, or that just want to kill the body he's wearing.
I read this book because it was ranked high on a list of best science fiction. I thought it was pretty good, but not exceptional. I finished it in 2016.
I do not own this book, but have listened to the audio book read by Todd McLaren.
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- Overall, I found the story interesting and fun, and the characters quite likable.
- Using a set of created terminology (stack, sleeve, Meths, etc.), rather than generic terms, was a nice touch.
- I liked the idea of Meths slowly becoming less human.
- The sex scenes were very erotically described without going blue.
- The incorporation of the abuse of religion into the story made it mesh better with reality.
- Like James Bond, Takeshi seems to find himself too easily the target of sexual advances from women.
- I wasn't very invested in trying to solve the mystery beforehand as the futuristic setting made it too difficult for me to foresee solutions.