So, being a nerd with a Facebook addiction, I kept hearing about this whole Altered Carbon thing. Some were praising it. Others were a little less impressed. The one thing that no one can deny, though, is that the show had generated precisely one metric bunchaton of buzz. Oh, and it's on Netflix. I have Netflix.
Alright, you stupid meanie heads are making me do this. I don't wanna! I don't have time. I work sixty-five hours on a slow week and I need to read these books so I can review them (Note: Jimbo loves his authors. Thank you for submitting!) and I have stuff to do as far as keeping things clean and washing clothes and you're all a bunch of Commie-loving, evil weenies and oooh...SHINY! I like this!
I'll be honest. The first time I watched the first episode I missed a lot of it because I was falling asleep. This is not the show to be watching in bed while falling asleep after working a fourteen hour shift. It's just not. There is too much in that first episode that you need to understand to make the rest of the show work. This is a rich universe with an absolute buttload of backstory and new technology like I've never seen before. I've been a science fiction fan for as long as I can remember. Yes, there are people out there who have been watching/reading SF longer, but they're all older than me. I thought I knew all the tropes. I didn't, or more accurately, whoever wrote the book that this is all based on came up with some new ones . Altered Carbon puts the whole world on its head. The most important piece of tech changes basically the entire society that we're viewing.
What is that technology you ask? It's called a Stack. Basically, it gets installed in the base of the human head/top of the neck and it works like a hard drive. When a person gets one installed (done at some point in childhood) all of their thoughts, feelings, memories, everything that makes them them is uploaded into it. A stack is updated continuously. If you choke to death while eating a steak you can still remember the taste of the meat and the sense of panic when it lodged in your throat when you're “spun up.”
Spun up? Yep. They cut the spot where your stack was implanted open, then pull it out and slap it into another body. In the show they're known as “sleeves” and if you die but can still be loaded into a new sleeve, that's called “sleeve death.” Hey presto, you're alive again. As long as your stack doesn't get damaged or destroyed, of if you have paid big money to have it backed up on a satellite just in case it gets damaged or destroyed you can be brought back to life. New sleeves come from convicts, who have their stacks pulled and are placed into a Matrix like construct to serve their time, or from cloning. Victims of violence get new sleeves on the government dime. Others can purchase or be gifted new ones. The sad part is that not everyone gets one.
The whole world changes because of this one invention. Sleeve death isn't all that scary to a person who has someone else to buy them a new body. Rich people keep clones of themselves stored so that they can be spun up immediately if something kills their sleeve. A fight to the death for the entertainment of a crowd is no big deal. The fight promoter can simply replace both sleeves. The dead person lives again and the beaten up but still alive person gets put into a new, uninjured sleeve. Life goes on just like before only now they have a new look. Oh, and is your wife not as hot as she was twenty years ago? Buy her a new sleeve, move that stack over and BAM! She's hotter than ever and she's still all yours. Yeah, it's awesome but it's a little weird until you get used to it.
This...uhhh... leads to a lot of depravity honestly. I'm not just talking about the show's indulgence in gratuitous amounts of sex and nudity, I'm talking about straight up twisted shit. At one point in the show, a hooker actually suggests to a visiting client that he could stab her and then, in her words “fuck me in the hole you made.” I mean, I've seen a lot. I've done quite a bit. I'm a bit of a dom myself. That much being said, DAMN THAT'S TWISTED. Eat your heart out John Ringo, because you can't touch that. It's done for plot purposes though. The villains are the people who patronize these places and put these people through all of this crap. I loved the show, but I will give you this warning: If you find yourself bothered by nudity, sex and/or depravity, this is not the show for you.
A word to the wise since I know I have some Conservative readers. There is a lot of Leftism in this book. Rich people are assumed to be both corrupt and depraved. Religion is well... uhh... not mocked, but more like treated as backward. Catholics, in particular, are called believers and treated as weirdos because they don't believe in re-sleeving. To a Catholic, you are meant to stick to the body you were born with and accepting a new one is a one way ticket to hell. It's weird though because the hero of the whole things is pretty damn well funded. At one point, a terrorist/freedom leader tells her followers that they have to be against re-sleeving because it will created an immortal existence for the rich and they will take over society and suck the life out of it. I'm paraphrasing. It doesn't linger long over it though, or become overly preachy.
Our hero is Takeshi Kovacz. He is a terrorist from (I think) one hundred fifty years ago and he is an utter bad-ass. Seriously. Not only can he kick your ass in a straight up fight, he can probably outshoot you too. He's got a problem. I wasn't joking when I called him a terrorist. His stack has been imprisoned for over a century. He is freed by an uber rich individual, the aforementioned Laurens Bancroft, whose sleeve was murdered, stock shot out and damn near had his satellite backup deleted. He's more than just a little pissed. Bancroft wants to know who tried to kill him. Kovacz spends the entire first season trying to put together a team and figure out who did it.
Along the way, there is plenty of action. Altered Carbon features fight scenes that are both intense and bloody. There are twists aplenty and nothing is what it seems. This thing was really well done. I haven't read the books (Hey, don't blame me. None of my Adoring Public [TM] told me they existed.) but I've been told by people that have that it's a good translation. That makes sense. It takes ten hours to do a good translation of a novel, not two. You get your ten hours here. I think I'm going to check the books out though.
Yes, I did say books, plural. I'm hoping that translates into more seasons of Altered Carbon. Takeshi Kovacz is apparently involved of lots of things. I'm not sure how far we are into the series but I'm guessing that it's only one book based on the way the storyline works. There's only one major resolution. It only makes sense if this is only one book. At the end of the day though, grab hold and ride hard because this is one wild ride.
Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 Stacks
Altered Carbon (the book) is available at the following link: