Altered Carbon [NOOK Book]

Overview

"In the twenty-fifth century, humankind has spread throughout the galaxy, monitored by the watchful eye of the U.N. While divisions in race, religion, and class still exist, advances in technology have redefined life itself. Assuming one can afford the expensive procedure, a person's consciousness can now be stored in a cortical stack at the base of the brain and easily downloaded into a new body (or "sleeve"), making death nothing more than a minor blip on a screen." Ex-U.N. envoy Takeshi Kovacs has been killed before, but his last death was
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Altered Carbon

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Overview

"In the twenty-fifth century, humankind has spread throughout the galaxy, monitored by the watchful eye of the U.N. While divisions in race, religion, and class still exist, advances in technology have redefined life itself. Assuming one can afford the expensive procedure, a person's consciousness can now be stored in a cortical stack at the base of the brain and easily downloaded into a new body (or "sleeve"), making death nothing more than a minor blip on a screen." Ex-U.N. envoy Takeshi Kovacs has been killed before, but his last death was particularly painful. Dispatched one hundred eighty light-years from home, resleeved into a body in Bay City (formerly San Francisco, now with a rusted, dilapidated Golden Gate Bridge), 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 to be bought and sold. For Kovacs, the shell that blew a hole in his chest was only the beginning.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In the futuristic world of Altered Carbon, consciousness is a downloadable product that can be easily "re-sleeved" in a new body when the old one gives out. In such a renewable realm, where death is seen merely as a passing technological glitch, Takeshi Kovacs is an unwelcome oddity; a man who asks too many questions about the moguls of this brave new world. As he searches for answers in the seedy underworld of Bay City (formerly San Francisco), Kovacs learns that the price of failure is death. Final death. This first novel by Richard K. Morgan blends science fiction and crime noir in an unusual and appealing way.
The New York Times
If you've ever wondered what kind of science fiction Raymond Chandler might have written for a futuristic Philip Marlowe, check out Altered Carbon, by Richard K. Morgan. In this rousing first novel, Morgan has reimagined The Big Sleep as 25th-century noir. — Gerald Jonas
USA Today
In Altered Carbon, first-time author Richard K. Morgan has created a world as cinema-rich as those of Philip K. Dick, whose stories were reborn as movies including Total Recall and Minority Report, and William Gibson's books-turned-to-movies Neuromancer and Johnny Mnemonic. — Mike Snider
Publishers Weekly
This fast-paced, densely textured, impressive first novel is an intriguing hybrid of William Gibson's Neuromancer and Norman Spinrad's Deus X. In the 25th century, it's difficult to die a final death. Humans are issued a cortical stack, implanted into their bodies, into which consciousness is "digitized" and from which-unless the stack is hopelessly damaged-their consciousness can be downloaded ("resleeved") with its memory intact, into a new body. While the Vatican is trying to make resleeving (at least of Catholics) illegal, centuries-old aristocrat Laurens Bancroft brings Takeshi Kovacs (an Envoy, a specially trained soldier used to being resleeved and trained to soak up clues from new environments) to Earth, where Kovacs is resleeved into a cop's body to investigate Bancroft's first mysterious, stack-damaging death. To solve the case, Kovacs must destroy his former Envoy enemies; outwit Bancroft's seductive, wily wife; dabble in United Nations politics; trust an AI that projects itself in the form of Jimi Hendrix; and deal with his growing physical and emotional attachment to Kristin Ortega, the police lieutenant who used to love the body he's been given. Kovacs rockets from the seediest hellholes on Earth, through virtual reality torture, into several gory firefights, and on to some exotic sexual escapades. Morgan's 25th-century Earth is convincing, while the questions he poses about how much Self is tied to body chemistry and how the rich believe themselves above the law are especially timely. (Mar. 4) Forecast: With film rights optioned by Warner Brothers and Joel Silver (The Matrix), this book could itself achieve a kind of immortal shelf presence. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Killed in a brutal firefight on his home planet of Harlan's World, former UN Envoy Takeshi Kovacs awakens on Earth, his consciousness "sleeved" in the body of an expoliceman. Hired by Laurens Bancroft, one of Earth's most powerful individuals, to prove that Bancroft's recent "death" was not a suicide, Kovacs finds himself embroiled in a multilayered conspiracy that brings him face to face with old enemies and new and unexpected allies. Set in a far future in which consciousness can be downloaded into new bodies, thus rendering "death" a temporary state of being, Morgan's debut novel, the first in a series, combines noir mystery with ultra-high tech science to create a complex sf thriller. Featuring a hard-nosed antihero with his own sense of personal honor and ethics, this is highly recommended for sf collections. Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A cyberwarrior from another planet is reborn on Earth to do a rich man’s bidding and is none too happy about it. Takeshi Kovacs is a hard-case kid from the colony-planet Harlan’s World (guess which two ethnic groups comprised the majority of its settlers) recently decommissioned from the Envoys—overtrained, amoral shock troops that enforce the laws of the galaxy laid down by the United Nations—and more recently turned to a life of crime. A police raid leaves him and his accomplice/girlfriend dead, but that’s not an immediate problem, since in the 25th century the dead are simply taken to clinics where their "stack" (a small metal tube embedded in the spine that contains a backup of their personality, memory, DNA, etc.) is then loaded into a new "sleeve," or body. Resleeved and woken on Earth, Kovacs finds himself summoned to the Bay Area home of Laurens Bancroft, a filthy-rich member of the class known as "Meths" (for Methuselah) because they could afford to be continuously resleeved over the centuries. Bancroft thinks that when someone shot him in the head the other day and ruined that sleeve, somebody was trying to murder him, though the local cops think he was just trying to kill himself and doesn’t remember because his stack hadn’t been backed up yet. His only choice being to return to Harland’s World, Kovacs is sent off to find his new boss’s killer. The way ahead is quickly littered with the bodies of the unsavory types he comes across and with enough juicy future-detail to make any veteran SF scribe jealous. The body count is high, the gadgetry pure genius, the sex scenes deliriously overwrought, and the worn cynicism thoroughly distasteful: a welcome return to cyberpunk’s badassroots. Film rights to Joel Silver/Warner Bros.
From the Publisher
“This seamless marriage of hardcore cyberpunk and hard-boiled detective tale is an astonishing first novel.”
—London Times

“AN ASTONISHING PIECE OF WORK . . . A wonderful SF idea . . . Altered Carbon hits the floor running and then starts to accelerate. Intriguing and inventive in equal proportions and refuses to let go until the last page.”
—PETER HAMILTON

“AN EXCITING SF/CRIME HYBRID, with an intricate (but always plausible) plot, a powerful noir atmosphere, and enough explosive action to satisfy the most die-hard thriller fan.”
—SF Site

“AN EXHILARATING AND GLOSSY ADVENTURE . . . What makes Altered Carbon a winner is the quality of Morgan’s prose. For every piece of John Woo action there is a stunning piece of reflective description, a compelling sense of place, and abundant 24-karat witticisms.”
—SFX Magazine

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345457707
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/1/2003
  • Series: Takeshi Kovacs Series
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 41,917
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author


Richard K. Morgan is the acclaimed author of Market Forces, Broken Angels, and Altered Carbon, a New York Times Notable Book.

Former radio broadcaster Todd McLaren has been heard on more than 5,000 TV and radio commercials; narrations for documentaries on such networks as A&E and the History Channel; and films. His book narrations have earned him a prestigious Audie Award as well as a Publishers Weekly Listen-Up Award.
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Read an Excerpt

Prologue

Two hours before dawn I sat in the peeling kitchen and smoked one of Sarah's cigarettes, listening to the maelstrom and waiting. Millsport had long since put itself to bed, but out in the Reach currents were still snagging on the shoals, and the sound came ashore to prowl the empty streets. There was a fine mist drifting in from the whirlpool, falling on the city like sheets of muslin and fogging the kitchen windows.

Chemically alert, I inventoried the hardware on the scarred wooden table for the fiftieth time that night. Sarah's Heckler and Koch shard pistol glinted dully at me in the low light, the butt gaping open for its clip.
It was an assassin's weapon, compact and utterly silent. The magazines lay next to it. She had wrapped insulating tape around each one to distinguish the ammunition: green for sleep, black for the spider-venom load. Most of the clips were black-wrapped. Sarah had used up a lot of green on the security guards at Gemini Biosys last night.

My own contributions were less subtle: the big silver Smith & Wesson,
and the four remaining hallucinogen grenades. The thin crimson line around each canister seemed to sparkle slightly, as if it was about to detach itself from the metal casing and float up to join the curlicues of smoke ribboning off my cigarette. Shift and slide of altered significants, the side effect of the tetrameth I'd scored that afternoon down at the wharf. I don't usually smoke when I'm straight, but for some reason the tet always triggers the urge.

Against the distant roar of the maelstrom I heard it. The hurrying strop of rotor blades on the fabric of the night.

I stubbed out the cigarette, mildly unimpressed with myself, and went through to the bedroom. Sarah was sleeping, an assembly of low-frequency sine curves beneath the single sheet. A raven sweep of hair covered her face and one long-fingered hand trailed over the side of the bed. As I
stood looking at her the night outside split. One of Harlan's World's orbital guardians test-firing into the Reach. Thunder from the concussed sky rolled in to rattle the windows. The woman in the bed stirred and swept the hair out of her eyes. The liquid crystal gaze found me and locked on.

"What're you looking at?" Voice husky with the residue of sleep. I
smiled a little.

"Don't give me that shit. Tell me what you're looking at."

"Just looking. It's time to go."

She lifted her head and picked up the sound of the helicopter. The sleep slid away from her face, and she sat up in bed.

"Where's the 'ware?"

It was a corps joke. I smiled the way you do when you see an old friend and pointed to the case in the corner of the room.

"Get my gun for me."

"Yes, ma'am. Black or green?"

"Black. I trust these scumbags about as far as a clingfilm condom." In the kitchen, I loaded up the shard pistol, cast a glance at my own weapon and left it lying there. Instead I scooped up one of the H
grenades and took it back in my other hand. I paused in the doorway to the bedroom and weighed the two pieces of hardware in each palm as if I
was trying to decide which was the heavier.

"A little something with your phallic substitute, ma'am?"

Sarah looked up from beneath the hanging sickle of black hair over her fore-head. She was in the midst of pulling a pair of long woolen socks up over the sheen of her thighs.

"Yours is the one with the long barrel, Tak."

"Size isn't--"

We both heard it at the same time. A metallic double clack from the corridor outside. Our eyes met across the room, and for a quarter second
I saw my own shock mirrored there. Then I was tossing the loaded shard gun to her. She put up one long-fingered hand and took it out of the air just as the whole of the bed-room wall caved in in thunder. The blast knocked me back into a corner and onto the floor.

They must have located us in the apartment with body-heat sensors, then mined the whole wall with limpets. Taking no chances this time. The commando who came through the ruined wall was stocky and insect-eyed in full gas attack rig, hefting a snub-barreled Kalashnikov in gloved hands.

Ears ringing, still on the floor, I flung the H grenade up at him. It was un-fused, useless in any case against the gas mask, but he didn't have time to identify the device as it spun at him. He batted it off the breech of his Kalashnikov and stumbled back, eyes wide behind the glass panels of the mask.

"Fire in the hole."

Sarah was down on the floor beside the bed, arms wrapped around her head and sheltered from the blast. She heard the shout, and in the seconds the bluff had bought us she popped up again, shard gun outflung. Beyond the wall I could see figures huddled against the expected grenade blast.
I heard the mosquito whine of monomolecular splinters across the room as she put three shots into the lead commando. They shredded invisibly through the attack suit and into the flesh beneath. He made a noise like someone straining to lift something heavy as the spider venom sank its claws into his nervous system. I grinned and started to get up.

Sarah was turning her aim on the figures beyond the wall when the second commando of the night appeared braced in the kitchen doorway and hosed her away with his assault rifle.

Still on my knees, I watched her die with chemical clarity. It all went so slowly it was like a video playback on frame advance. The commando kept his aim low, holding the Kalashnikov down against the hyper-rapid-fire recoil it was famous for. The bed went first, erupting into gouts of white goose down and ripped cloth, then Sarah, caught in the storm as she turned. I saw one leg turned to pulp below the knee,
and then the body hit, bloody fistfuls of tissue torn out of her pale flanks as she fell through the curtain of fire.

I reeled to my feet as the assault rifle stammered to a halt. Sarah had rolled over on her face, as if to hide the damage the shells had done to her, but I saw it all through veils of red anyway. I came out of the corner without conscious thought, and the commando was too late to bring the Kalashnikov around. I slammed into him at waist height, blocked the gun, and knocked him back into the kitchen. The barrel of the rifle caught on the doorjamb, and he lost his grip. I heard the weapon clatter to the ground behind me as we hit the kitchen floor. With the speed and strength of the tetrameth, I scrambled astride him, batted aside one flailing arm, and seized his head in both hands. Then I smashed it against the tiles like a coconut.

Under the mask, his eyes went suddenly unfocused. I lifted the head again and smashed it down again, feeling the skull give soggily with the impact. I ground down against the crunch, lifted and smashed again.
There was a roaring in my ears like the maelstrom, and somewhere I could hear my own voice screaming obscenities.

I was going for a fourth or fifth blow when something kicked me between the shoulder blades and splinters jumped magically out of the table leg in front of me. I felt the sting as two of them found homes in my face.

For some reason the rage puddled abruptly out of me. I let go of the commando's head almost gently and was lifting one puzzled hand to the pain of the splinters in my cheek when I realized I had been shot, and that the bullet must have torn all the way through my chest and into the table leg. I looked down, dumbfounded, and saw the dark red stain inking its way out over my shirt. No doubt about it. An exit hole big enough to take a golf ball.

With the realization came the pain. It felt as if someone had run a steel wool pipe cleaner briskly through my chest cavity. Almost thoughtfully, I reached up, found the hole, and plugged it with my two middle fingers. The fingertips scraped over the roughness of torn bone in the wound, and I felt something membranous throb against one of them.
The bullet had missed my heart. I grunted and attempted to rise, but the grunt turned into a cough and I tasted blood on my tongue.

"Don't you move, motherfucker."

The yell came out of a young throat, badly distorted with shock. I
hunched forward over my wound and looked back over my shoulder. Behind me in the doorway, a young man in a police uniform had both hands clasped around the pistol he had just shot me with. He was trembling visibly. I coughed again and turned back to the table.

The Smith & Wesson was on eye level, gleaming silver, still where I had left it less than two minutes ago. Perhaps it was that, the scant shavings of time that had been planed off since Sarah was alive and all was well, that drove me. Less than two minutes ago I could have picked up the gun; I'd even thought about it, so why not now? I gritted my teeth, pressed my fingers harder into the hole in my chest, and staggered upright. Blood spattered warmly against the back of my throat.
I braced myself on the edge of the table with my free hand and looked back at the cop. I could feel my lips peeling back from the clenched teeth in something that was more a grin than a grimace.

"Don't make me do it, Kovacs."

I got myself a step closer to the table and leaned against it with my thighs, breath whistling through my teeth and bubbling in my throat. The
Smith & Wes-son gleamed like fool's gold on the scarred wood. Out in the
Reach power lashed down from an orbital and lit the kitchen in tones of blue. I could hear the mael-strom calling.

"I said don't--"

I closed my eyes and clawed the gun off the table.


CHAPTER ONE

Coming back from the dead can be rough.

In the Envoy Corps they teach you to let go before storage. Stick it in neutral and float. It's the first lesson and the trainers drill it into you from day one. Hard-eyed Virginia Vidaura, dancer's body poised inside the shapeless corps coveralls as she paced in front of us in the induction room. Don't worry about anything, she said, and you'll be ready for it. A decade later, I met her again in a holding pen at the
New Kanagawa Justice Facility. She was going down for eighty to a century; excessively armed robbery and organic damage. The last thing she said to me when they walked her out of the cell was don't worry,
kid, they'll store it. Then she bent her head to light a cigarette, drew the smoke hard into lungs she no longer gave a damn about, and set off down the corridor as if to a tedious briefing. From the narrow angle of vision afforded me by the cell gate, I watched the pride in that walk and I whispered the words to myself like a mantra.

Don't worry, they'll store it. It was a superbly double-edged piece of street wisdom. Bleak faith in the efficiency of the penal system, and a clue to the elusive state of mind required to steer you past the rocks of psychosis. Whatever you feel, whatever you're thinking, whatever you are when they store you, that's what you'll be when you come out. With states of high anxiety, that can be a problem. So you let go. Stick it in neutral. Disengage and float.

If you have time.

I came thrashing up out of the tank, one hand plastered across my chest searching for the wounds, the other clutching at a nonexistent weapon.
The weight hit me like a hammer, and I collapsed back into the flotation gel. I flailed with my arms, caught one elbow painfully on the side of the tank and gasped. Gobbets of gel poured into my mouth and down my throat. I snapped my mouth shut and got a hold on the hatch coaming, but the stuff was everywhere. In my eyes, burning my nose and throat, and slippery under my fingers. The weight was forcing my grip on the hatch loose, sitting on my chest like a high-g maneuver, pressing me down into the gel. My body heaved violently in the confines of the tank. Flotation gel? I was drowning.

Abruptly, there was a strong grip on my arm and I was hauled coughing into an upright position. At about the same time I was working out there were no wounds in my chest someone wiped a towel roughly across my face and I could see. I decided to save that pleasure for later and concentrated on getting the contents of the tank out of my nose and throat. For about half a minute I stayed sitting, head down, coughing up the gel and trying to work out why everything weighed so much.

"So much for training." It was a hard, male voice, the sort that habitually hangs around justice facilities. "What did they teach you in the Envoys anyway, Kovacs?"

That was when I had it. On Harlan's World, Kovacs is quite a common name. Everyone knows how to pronounce it. This guy didn't. He was speaking a stretched form of the Amanglic they use on the World, but even allowing for that, he was mangling the name badly, and the ending came out with a hard k instead of the Slavic ch.

And everything was too heavy.

The realization came through my fogged perceptions like a brick through frosted plate glass.

Offworld.

Somewhere along the line, they'd taken Takeshi Kovacs (D.H.), and they'd freighted him. And since Harlan's World was the only habitable biosphere in the Glimmer system, that meant a stellar-range needlecast to--

Where?

I looked up. Harsh neon tubes set in a concrete roof. I was sitting in the opened hatch of a dull metal cylinder, looking for all the world like an ancient aviator who'd forgotten to dress before climbing aboard his biplane. The cylinder was one of a row of about twenty backed up against the wall, opposite a heavy steel door, which was closed. The was chilly and the walls unpainted. Give them their due, on Harlan's World at least the air resleeving rooms are decked out in pastel colors and the attendants are pretty. After all you're supposed to have paid your debt to society. The least they can do is give you a sunny start to your new life.

Sunny wasn't in the vocabulary of the figure before me. About two meters tall, he looked as if he'd made his living wrestling swamp panthers before the present career opportunity presented itself. Musculature bulged on his chest and arms like body armor, and the head above it had hair cropped close to the skull, revealing a long scar like a lightning strike down to the left ear. He was dressed in a loose black garment with epaulettes and a diskette logo on the breast. His eyes matched the garment and watched me with hardened calm. Having helped me sit up, he had stepped back out of arm's reach, as per the manual. He'd been doing this a long time.

I pressed one nostril closed and snorted tank gel out of the other.

"Want to tell me where I am? Itemize my rights, something like that?"

"Kovacs, right now you don't have any rights."

I looked up and saw that a grim smile had stitched itself across his face. I shrugged and snorted the other nostril clean.

"Want to tell me where I am?"

He hesitated a moment, glanced up at the neon-barred roof as if to ascertain the information for himself before he passed it on, and then mirrored my shrug.

"Sure. Why not? You're in Bay City, pal. Bay City, Earth." The grimace of a smile came back. "Home of the Human Race. Please enjoy your stay on this most ancient of civilized worlds. Ta-dada-dah."

"Don't give up the day job," I told him soberly.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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First Chapter

Prologue

Two hours before dawn I sat in the peeling kitchen and smoked one of Sarah's cigarettes, listening to the maelstrom and waiting. Millsport had long since put itself to bed, but out in the Reach currents were still snagging on the shoals, and the sound came ashore to prowl the empty streets. There was a fine mist drifting in from the whirlpool, falling on the city like sheets of muslin and fogging the kitchen windows.

Chemically alert, I inventoried the hardware on the scarred wooden table
for the fiftieth time that night. Sarah's Heckler and Koch shard pistol
glinted dully at me in the low light, the butt gaping open for its clip.
It was an assassin's weapon, compact and utterly silent. The magazines
lay next to it. She had wrapped insulating tape around each one to
distinguish the ammunition: green for sleep, black for the spider-venom
load. Most of the clips were black-wrapped. Sarah had used up a lot of
green on the security guards at Gemini Biosys last night.

My own contributions were less subtle: the big silver Smith & Wesson,
and the four remaining hallucinogen grenades. The thin crimson line
around each canister seemed to sparkle slightly, as if it was about to
detach itself from the metal casing and float up to join the curlicues
of smoke ribboning off my cigarette. Shift and slide of altered
significants, the side effect of the tetrameth I'd scored that afternoon
down at the wharf. I don't usually smoke when I'm straight, but for some
reason the tet always triggers the urge.

Against the distant roar of the maelstrom I heard it. The hurrying strop
of rotor blades on the fabric of thenight.

I stubbed out the cigarette, mildly unimpressed with myself, and went
through to the bedroom. Sarah was sleeping, an assembly of low-frequency
sine curves beneath the single sheet. A raven sweep of hair covered her
face and one long-fingered hand trailed over the side of the bed. As I
stood looking at her the night outside split. One of Harlan's World's
orbital guardians test-firing into the Reach. Thunder from the concussed
sky rolled in to rattle the windows. The woman in the bed stirred and
swept the hair out of her eyes. The liquid crystal gaze found me and
locked on.

"What're you looking at?" Voice husky with the residue of sleep. I
smiled a little.

"Don't give me that shit. Tell me what you're looking at."

"Just looking. It's time to go."

She lifted her head and picked up the sound of the helicopter. The sleep
slid away from her face, and she sat up in bed.

"Where's the 'ware?"

It was a corps joke. I smiled the way you do when you see an old friend
and pointed to the case in the corner of the room.

"Get my gun for me."

"Yes, ma'am. Black or green?"

"Black. I trust these scumbags about as far as a clingfilm condom." In
the kitchen, I loaded up the shard pistol, cast a glance at my own
weapon and left it lying there. Instead I scooped up one of the H
grenades and took it back in my other hand. I paused in the doorway to
the bedroom and weighed the two pieces of hardware in each palm as if I
was trying to decide which was the heavier.

"A little something with your phallic substitute, ma'am?"

Sarah looked up from beneath the hanging sickle of black hair over her
fore-head. She was in the midst of pulling a pair of long woolen socks
up over the sheen of her thighs.

"Yours is the one with the long barrel, Tak."

"Size isn't--"

We both heard it at the same time. A metallic double clack from the
corridor outside. Our eyes met across the room, and for a quarter second
I saw my own shock mirrored there. Then I was tossing the loaded shard
gun to her. She put up one long-fingered hand and took it out of the air
just as the whole of the bed-room wall caved in in thunder. The blast
knocked me back into a corner and onto the floor.

They must have located us in the apartment with body-heat sensors, then
mined the whole wall with limpets. Taking no chances this time. The
commando who came through the ruined wall was stocky and insect-eyed in
full gas attack rig, hefting a snub-barreled Kalashnikov in gloved
hands.

Ears ringing, still on the floor, I flung the H grenade up at him. It
was un-fused, useless in any case against the gas mask, but he didn't
have time to identify the device as it spun at him. He batted it off the
breech of his Kalashnikov and stumbled back, eyes wide behind the glass
panels of the mask.

"Fire in the hole."

Sarah was down on the floor beside the bed, arms wrapped around her head
and sheltered from the blast. She heard the shout, and in the seconds
the bluff had bought us she popped up again, shard gun outflung. Beyond
the wall I could see figures huddled against the expected grenade blast.
I heard the mosquito whine of monomolecular splinters across the room as
she put three shots into the lead commando. They shredded invisibly
through the attack suit and into the flesh beneath. He made a noise like
someone straining to lift something heavy as the spider venom sank its
claws into his nervous system. I grinned and started to get up.

Sarah was turning her aim on the figures beyond the wall when the second
commando of the night appeared braced in the kitchen doorway and hosed
her away with his assault rifle.

Still on my knees, I watched her die with chemical clarity. It all went
so slowly it was like a video playback on frame advance. The commando
kept his aim low, holding the Kalashnikov down against the
hyper-rapid-fire recoil it was famous for. The bed went first, erupting
into gouts of white goose down and ripped cloth, then Sarah, caught in
the storm as she turned. I saw one leg turned to pulp below the knee,
and then the body hit, bloody fistfuls of tissue torn out of her pale
flanks as she fell through the curtain of fire.

I reeled to my feet as the assault rifle stammered to a halt. Sarah had
rolled over on her face, as if to hide the damage the shells had done to
her, but I saw it all through veils of red anyway. I came out of the
corner without conscious thought, and the commando was too late to bring
the Kalashnikov around. I slammed into him at waist height, blocked the
gun, and knocked him back into the kitchen. The barrel of the rifle
caught on the doorjamb, and he lost his grip. I heard the weapon clatter
to the ground behind me as we hit the kitchen floor. With the speed and
strength of the tetrameth, I scrambled astride him, batted aside one
flailing arm, and seized his head in both hands. Then I smashed it
against the tiles like a coconut.

Under the mask, his eyes went suddenly unfocused. I lifted the head
again and smashed it down again, feeling the skull give soggily with the
impact. I ground down against the crunch, lifted and smashed again.
There was a roaring in my ears like the maelstrom, and somewhere I could
hear my own voice screaming obscenities.

I was going for a fourth or fifth blow when something kicked me between
the shoulder blades and splinters jumped magically out of the table leg
in front of me. I felt the sting as two of them found homes in my face.

For some reason the rage puddled abruptly out of me. I let go of the
commando's head almost gently and was lifting one puzzled hand to the
pain of the splinters in my cheek when I realized I had been shot, and
that the bullet must have torn all the way through my chest and into the
table leg. I looked down, dumbfounded, and saw the dark red stain inking
its way out over my shirt. No doubt about it. An exit hole big enough to
take a golf ball.

With the realization came the pain. It felt as if someone had run a
steel wool pipe cleaner briskly through my chest cavity. Almost
thoughtfully, I reached up, found the hole, and plugged it with my two
middle fingers. The fingertips scraped over the roughness of torn bone
in the wound, and I felt something membranous throb against one of them.
The bullet had missed my heart. I grunted and attempted to rise, but the
grunt turned into a cough and I tasted blood on my tongue.

"Don't you move, motherfucker."

The yell came out of a young throat, badly distorted with shock. I
hunched forward over my wound and looked back over my shoulder. Behind
me in the doorway, a young man in a police uniform had both hands
clasped around the pistol he had just shot me with. He was trembling
visibly. I coughed again and turned back to the table.

The Smith & Wesson was on eye level, gleaming silver, still where I had
left it less than two minutes ago. Perhaps it was that, the scant
shavings of time that had been planed off since Sarah was alive and all
was well, that drove me. Less than two minutes ago I could have picked
up the gun; I'd even thought about it, so why not now? I gritted my
teeth, pressed my fingers harder into the hole in my chest, and
staggered upright. Blood spattered warmly against the back of my throat.
I braced myself on the edge of the table with my free hand and looked
back at the cop. I could feel my lips peeling back from the clenched
teeth in something that was more a grin than a grimace.

"Don't make me do it, Kovacs."

I got myself a step closer to the table and leaned against it with my
thighs, breath whistling through my teeth and bubbling in my throat. The
Smith & Wes-son gleamed like fool's gold on the scarred wood. Out in the
Reach power lashed down from an orbital and lit the kitchen in tones of
blue. I could hear the mael-strom calling.

"I said don't--"

I closed my eyes and clawed the gun off the table.



CHAPTER ONE

Coming back from the dead can be rough.

In the Envoy Corps they teach you to let go before storage. Stick it in
neutral and float. It's the first lesson and the trainers drill it into
you from day one. Hard-eyed Virginia Vidaura, dancer's body poised
inside the shapeless corps coveralls as she paced in front of us in the
induction room. Don't worry about anything, she said, and you'll be
ready for it. A decade later, I met her again in a holding pen at the
New Kanagawa Justice Facility. She was going down for eighty to a
century; excessively armed robbery and organic damage. The last thing
she said to me when they walked her out of the cell was don't worry,
kid, they'll store it. Then she bent her head to light a cigarette, drew
the smoke hard into lungs she no longer gave a damn about, and set off
down the corridor as if to a tedious briefing. From the narrow angle of
vision afforded me by the cell gate, I watched the pride in that walk
and I whispered the words to myself like a mantra.

Don't worry, they'll store it. It was a superbly double-edged piece of
street wisdom. Bleak faith in the efficiency of the penal system, and a
clue to the elusive state of mind required to steer you past the rocks
of psychosis. Whatever you feel, whatever you're thinking, whatever you
are when they store you, that's what you'll be when you come out. With
states of high anxiety, that can be a problem. So you let go. Stick it
in neutral. Disengage and float.

If you have time.

I came thrashing up out of the tank, one hand plastered across my chest
searching for the wounds, the other clutching at a nonexistent weapon.
The weight hit me like a hammer, and I collapsed back into the flotation
gel. I flailed with my arms, caught one elbow painfully on the side of
the tank and gasped. Gobbets of gel poured into my mouth and down my
throat. I snapped my mouth shut and got a hold on the hatch coaming, but
the stuff was everywhere. In my eyes, burning my nose and throat, and
slippery under my fingers. The weight was forcing my grip on the hatch
loose, sitting on my chest like a high-g maneuver, pressing me down into
the gel. My body heaved violently in the confines of the tank. Flotation
gel? I was drowning.

Abruptly, there was a strong grip on my arm and I was hauled coughing
into an upright position. At about the same time I was working out there
were no wounds in my chest someone wiped a towel roughly across my face
and I could see. I decided to save that pleasure for later and
concentrated on getting the contents of the tank out of my nose and
throat. For about half a minute I stayed sitting, head down, coughing up
the gel and trying to work out why everything weighed so much.

"So much for training." It was a hard, male voice, the sort that
habitually hangs around justice facilities. "What did they teach you in
the Envoys anyway, Kovacs?"

That was when I had it. On Harlan's World, Kovacs is quite a common
name. Everyone knows how to pronounce it. This guy didn't. He was
speaking a stretched form of the Amanglic they use on the World, but
even allowing for that, he was mangling the name badly, and the ending
came out with a hard k instead of the Slavic ch.

And everything was too heavy.

The realization came through my fogged perceptions like a brick through
frosted plate glass.

Offworld.

Somewhere along the line, they'd taken Takeshi Kovacs (D.H.), and they'd
freighted him. And since Harlan's World was the only habitable biosphere
in the Glimmer system, that meant a stellar-range needlecast to--

Where?

I looked up. Harsh neon tubes set in a concrete roof. I was sitting in
the opened hatch of a dull metal cylinder, looking for all the world
like an ancient aviator who'd forgotten to dress before climbing aboard
his biplane. The cylinder was one of a row of about twenty backed up
against the wall, opposite a heavy steel door, which was closed. The was
chilly and the walls unpainted. Give them their due, on Harlan's World
at least the air resleeving rooms are decked out in pastel colors and
the attendants are pretty. After all you're supposed to have paid your
debt to society. The least they can do is give you a sunny start to your
new life.

Sunny wasn't in the vocabulary of the figure before me. About two meters
tall, he looked as if he'd made his living wrestling swamp panthers
before the present career opportunity presented itself. Musculature
bulged on his chest and arms like body armor, and the head above it had
hair cropped close to the skull, revealing a long scar like a lightning
strike down to the left ear. He was dressed in a loose black garment
with epaulettes and a diskette logo on the breast. His eyes matched the
garment and watched me with hardened calm. Having helped me sit up, he
had stepped back out of arm's reach, as per the manual. He'd been doing
this a long time.

I pressed one nostril closed and snorted tank gel out of the other.

"Want to tell me where I am? Itemize my rights, something like that?"

"Kovacs, right now you don't have any rights."

I looked up and saw that a grim smile had stitched itself across his
face. I shrugged and snorted the other nostril clean.

"Want to tell me where I am?"

He hesitated a moment, glanced up at the neon-barred roof as if to
ascertain the information for himself before he passed it on, and then
mirrored my shrug.

"Sure. Why not? You're in Bay City, pal. Bay City, Earth." The grimace
of a smile came back. "Home of the Human Race. Please enjoy your stay on
this most ancient of civilized worlds. Ta-dada-dah."

"Don't give up the day job," I told him soberly.

Copyright© 2003 by Richard K. Morgan
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 188 )
Rating Distribution

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(116)

4 Star

(50)

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(13)

2 Star

(6)

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(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 190 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Not original, but superbly executed SF/Noir detective novel

    There is nothing really new in this SF meets noir detective novel. On the noir side, there is the cynical, hard-boiled detective unwillingly drawn in to the machinations of the powerful; there are the beautiful women embroiled in the case in varying degrees, nearly all of whom eventually get bedded; there is the city filled to the brim with drug dealers, whorehouses, and little people being eaten up by the powerful. On the SF side, there are hints of an ancient galactic civilization, now defunct; there are guns and computer programs to do anything anyone could want; there are A.I.s, particularly The Hendrix, which is a fabulous invention; and of course, there is the ubiquitous process of resleeving, by which death has been conquered - for the rich. Even the melding of the two genres is not new: it dates back at least to Isaac Asimov's Elijah Bailey/R. Daneel Olivaw novels.

    What Altered Carbon provides, however, is all of those familiar elements done up in a superb style. It is an extraordinarily visual book - I understood from the first page of the prologue why Joel Silver and Warner Bros. bought the film rights for $1 million. The narrative is fast-paced, the tone is spot-on, and the philosophical musings, while also not ground-breaking in any way, are moments to savor rather than skip over. The mystery is satisfyingly twisty but still fair to the reader, and the final confrontation ratchets up the tension to a screaming pitch then uses the bare minimum of words to choreograph the denoument. Really an impressive first novel, and one I heartily enjoyed.

    I do have one quibble, however: I read the author bio in the back of the book first, and two of the three sentences were about the film rights. I found this a tad tasteless, not very informative, and kind of distracting, as I spent the entire novel trying to imagine how someone would film it.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 21, 2010

    Takeshi Kovacs, a franchise to be reckoned with

    This was recommended to me and it did not disappoint. It had everything I was looking for in a gritty SF novel - a complex world where the future is well-defined and unique, great characters and action, and a touch of noir. In a future world where a person's consciousness can be "resleeved" into other bodies, an ex-military soldier is brought out of his century long prison sentence to investigate the apparent suicide of a wealthy immortal, who also happens to be the client. If the opening chapter doesn't hook you, check your pulse.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2007

    Richard Morgan is amazing

    I've read everything that Richard Morgan has written, I'm on my millionth read through of Altered Carbon and it's simply amazing. Takeshi Kovacs is a gripping character.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2006

    Me Like

    Me Like....You like too. What? You don't like? The devil take you!

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2007

    Kinetic, fast paced, gripping.

    A genre setting novel that has frightening parallels to todays world. Starring a multilayered lead crashing through a hyperviolent landscape that leaves the reader gasping for breath.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2006

    Surpisingly gripping

    It's one of those books that catches your eye when you walk down the asile and makes you wonder what the title has to do with the story. I own all of the Takashi series and honestly believe if I don't get more I will possibly force Morgan to write more. No matter your view you end up loving Takeshi and his attitude towards the world.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2013

    What happened to kovacs

    I loved the altered carbon series. I just dont understand why mr morgan has abandoned it for his rsther weak sword and sorcery tales. Give the readers what they want.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2012

    A cyberpunk classic

    William Gibson invented cyberpunk with Neuromancer. Neil Stephenson introduced a new generation with Snow Crash. Richard K Morgan completes the cyberpunk holy trinity with Altered Carbon.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 24, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    The cyberpunk genre hit bookshelves in the early 1980s and talen

    The cyberpunk genre hit bookshelves in the early 1980s and talented writers have been crafting amazing stories ever since. British author Richard K. Morgan joins the ranks of these great writers with his 2002 debut novel, Altered Carbon. Morgan’s novel distills the essence from the genre’s most powerful stories and tosses it into a blender with a shot of whiskey, a hit of tetrameth and a hardboiled detective. The resulting novel is smooth, frenetic and full of high-tech science fiction elements that both inspire the imagination and darken the soul.

    The story begins as protagonist Takeshi Kovacs is brutally shot to death by commandos on his home planet of Harlan’s World after what looks like a botched heist. Luckily for Takeshi, his cortical stack – the device set into the base of his skull that holds a digital copy of his mind – is unharmed and placed in “storage,” a prison for cortical stacks. In an unusual move, he is “needlecast” – transmitted back to Earth and inserted into a waiting body, or “sleeve” – at the behest of the rich and powerful Laurens Bancroft.

    Known as a Methuselah – or “Meth” – because he is 357 years old, Bancroft will never die of old age due to his wealth, power and the current technology. Even if his sleeve is killed and his cortical stack destroyed, he has a wireless backup that transmits to a remote storage facility every 48 hours. When Bancroft finds out his last sleeve was destroyed in precisely that manner – and he has no knowledge of the 48 hours leading to his death – he needs a special man to help find the truth. Knowing he is almost universally reviled on Earth for his immense privilege – the police in fact have already marked his death a suicide and moved on – he must recruit help from off world. Another Meth who has worked with Takeshi Kovacs suggests he might be able to help Bancroft.

    Takeshi worked for a special branch of the military called the Envoys. Specialized soldiers with a healthy dose of intelligence operative and shock trooper added in for good measure, Envoys are trained to quickly adapt to any sleeve in any environment. Envoys possess an eidetic memory and can pick up on subtle patterns within seemly random events. They possess a complete understanding of body language, voice modulation and are capable of understanding intentions and manipulating others with little problem. However, one of the most overtly frightening aspects of an Envoy’s training is the complete removal of every violence-limiting instinct a human is born with. The combination of this very specific set of skills set makes an Envoy a very scary individual.

    Once Takeshi awakens in his new sleeve, he finds an offer from Bancroft he cannot refuse and is thrust into what amounts to a high stakes chess game on a planet he is unfamiliar with. Bancroft wants the truth, but Takeshi must investigate the sordid secrets he has accumulated during his unnaturally long life and those who aren’t so eager for these secrets to be revealed. Meeting resistance at every turn, Takeshi must use every ounce of his Envoy training and every trick he knows to find the truth and avoid Real Death.

    Morgan takes the bones of cyberpunk and paints them with a fresh coat of glamour and sleaze. The ideas he presents aren’t new, but are presented very clearly with unique twists. The world of Altered Carbon is clearly envisioned and the story moves at a rapid pace. Even if the terms are unfamiliar, the ideas are readily grasped. His characters are fully realized with their own thoughts and motivations, and readers will find themselves on the edge of their seats anticipating what each character will do next. The story has twists and turns as Takeshi plays private detective and chases down lead after lead getting ever closer to the truth.

    Cyberpunk fans will love this book, and for those new to the genre, Altered Carbon could be just the introduction they need.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2012

    Great sci-fi

    Great book, great writer. Only thing i didnt care for was the excess of detail. The book could have easily fit in 300 pages. It was this that made it a "pick up and read when you could" rather than a "couldnt put it down". Overall, i loved the concept and the book, im glad i happened apon it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 15, 2014

    I LOVE the Kovacs books to the point that I've read them multipl

    I LOVE the Kovacs books to the point that I've read them multiple times. Re-reading isn't something I do very often, but the grittiness of the story is quite addictive and satisfying. I really wish Morgan would write more in this series.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2014

    Meh

    Not as good as the first book but not bad.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2014

    I would have enjoyed Altered Carbon more as a pubescent kid unac

    I would have enjoyed Altered Carbon more as a pubescent kid unaccustomed to quality writing and an awareness of contemporary scientific knowledge.
    From the outset, the author displays a dim grip on the conflict between an uploadable person and the scientific, brain-bound person. This puts the premise well beyond the suspension of disbelief for anyone with even a moderate interest in neuroscience. The book would be more effective if the author took that challenge head on—but I’m not sure whether the author was even aware of the challenge.
    But my main problem with the book is the low quality delivery. Perhaps cyberpunk’s just not my thing, but then again, perhaps I prefer writing that doesn’t come across as voiceless and filled with immature fantasies. Genre doesn’t mean cut-and-paste phrase writing, and debauchery should be written by someone who can express a proper connection with it…not someone who comes off as a 14 year old boy fantasizing about things he’s never done.
    Of course, the book did accomplish one thing that very few books can make me do. Halfway through it, I’ve stopped reading it—without an ounce of feeling that I might be missing out. 

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2013

    Urban Sci Fi at its best

    A great read. A whole world with its own idioms and lingo. And 100 characters.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 29, 2013

    I really enjoyed this book!

    Richard is one of those writers that can create a smooth flowing movie in your head through words. I like well written sci-fi military and though not strictly military, Takeshi is former military using those skills as a civilian, this book meets all my criteria for an excellent read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2013

    Next Cyberpunk

    morgan is a good writer who has been able to combine various elements into something fresh and thought-provoking.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2013

    This book

    I want to now if this book is good. Please reply

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2012

    Crackin' good stuff!

    Morgan is the real deal! "Altered Carbon" is an amazing mix of detective noir, cool SF tropes, and social commentary. Takeshi Kovacs is the prototypical jaded anti-hero who appears to not really care, but he does have his own code and a sense of honor. The story moves along at a good clip, with occasional asides for a little exposition that work very well (and I am -not- a huge fan of expository passages). Definitely a page-turner, definitely worth your time. I bought it in both paper and digital form, and gave copies to the base library, too.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 3, 2012

    a good, enjoyable story.

    a good, enjoyable story.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2012

    Svi-Fi Noir

    I read this about 5 years abgo, & its still stuck with me. Although a few of the futuristic tropes have been hashed over before, there're plenty of unique speculative ideas. For me, it was the well-drawn characters & rich evocative settings that kept me rivited...not to mention the thrilling plot with the vibe of an oold .....

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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