Altered Carbon

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Another book I picked up due to its appearance on this io9 list of the "Top 10 Greatest Science Fiction Detective Novels Of All Time". It won the Philip K. Dick Award in 2003. It got glowing reviews, including one in 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 …")

All that, and it wasn't my cup of tea. Might be yours. I compulsively finish books I've started reading, but I was sorely tempted to give up on this one. 526 pages, and from about page 50 forward, I was pleading: please shut up now.

It's set in the 25th century. Bodies die, but people don't have to: most have "stacks" implanted in their spines that encapsulate their personality and memories, and they can be transplanted into another body, or "sleeve", when that's necessary. IT types will appreciate that there is also a remote backup option available for some, as well as cloning technology, so your new body can even look like your old one.

The hero, Takeshi Kovacs, is been killed on a remote planet as the book begins. But he's reincarnated on Earth, in order to solve a puzzle: a rich guy was murdered, his stack destroyed, but he was regenerated from backup into a clone, so all that was missing was a few hours memory. Why did this happen, and whodunit?

Intriguing premise, but it's dragged out. (To repeat: 526 painful pages.) Overwritten, with scenes described to a level of detail that don't advance the plot, illuminate character, or even add much atmosphere; it's as if the author really wanted to write a shoot-'em-up video game instead of a novel, and tediously describes each screen he's designed in his head.


Last Modified 2012-09-25 5:27 AM EDT