Altered Carbon

Following a thread over at Chez Worstall on sci-fi novels, I acted upon the recommendation of two commenters to take a look at Altered Carbon, a 2002 novel by Richard Morgan.  I’m not a huge sci-fi fan and when I tried reading some of the classics I found them too dated.  Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers was an exception, but I couldn’t finish Stranger in a Strange Land.  However, I enjoyed Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, but that might be because I could visualise it better thanks to Blade Runner.

But one of the chaps who recommended Altered Carbon described it as “a sort of blade runner crossed with Sam Spade”, which was enough for me and so I bought it for my Kindle.  I found to my delight that the description was absolutely spot on, and I was hooked immediately.  I am rarely very impressed with modern fiction, with the last book that really held my attention being Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian for which I shunned all in-flight entertainment on a long-haul trip between Nigeria and somewhere.  Altered Carbon had the same effect, and then some.  I can’t recommend it highly enough, and I am looking forward to reading the sequels.  I was also excited to hear that Netflix is making a TV series of it, which if done properly ought to be brilliant.

That’s why the Worstall Arms is the most popular pub in town.  Come for the economics, stay for the comments.


10 thoughts on “Altered Carbon

  1. I’ve a similar problem with sci-fi: the classics haven’t dated well (in many cases), and the newer novels seem bogged down in their central concept or concept and forget to do anything with the plot.

    I read (and enjoyed) Alastair Reynolds absolution gap, but the other books in that continuum have failed to grab me.

    I seem to consistently enjoy Stephen King’s fantasy work (Think Insomnia, and much of the Dark Tower) though, so perhaps- for me- that scratches the itch that many have scratches for them by sci fi

  2. What I liked about Altered Carbon was the same as I liked about Starship Troopers: it was basically an old-fashioned military/detective yarn with sci-fi elements thrown in, rather than – as you say – a central concept in which you can get bogged down. If I could find more stories like this, I’d read ’em.

    That said, I also liked Ctrl-Alt-Revolt which I also took from that thread at Tim Worstall’s. But I liked it mainly because it was a wonderful snark at progressives and the PC culture.

  3. All of Morgan’s sci-fi is good actually. And his fantasy is similarly enjoyable (and for similar reasons).


  4. Simon,

    No, I didn’t. I have it on my Kindle and was choosing which to read first between that and Stranger in a Strange Land. I ended up trying the latter which, as I said, I couldn’t finish and so assumed The Moon is a Harsh Mistress would be much the same.

    What are your thoughts?

  5. It’s different again from either of the other Heinlein books mentioned. It’s perhaps a bit closer to “Troopers”, since it’s a story about a (partly military) conflict – a colonial revolt on the Moon.

    Bits of it will seem dated – especially anything related to computers.

    Personally, I loved it so much that I took my online name from it (but obviously, you might not share my tastes).

    If you have seen (and enjoyed) the TV series “Firefly” (and/or its cinematic sequel, “Serenity”), then I think there’s a good chance that you might enjoy it.

  6. Simon,

    Thanks for that…I think I’ll give The Moon is a Harsh Mistress a try, then.

    I love Firefly…but every time I watch it I am crushed by the disappointment that there are not another four or five seasons. 🙁

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