Review of “Altered Carbon” by Richard K. Morgan

The sci-fi detective novel takes place 500 years in a future. Morgan’s future is fascinated largely because of one particular innovation. Sure, in his future space is settled. Space is controlled by the UN and interstellar travel is possible, but expensive. What makes Morgan’s future intriguing, is that "a person" (I’m tempted to say a person’s soul) can be stored on a chip in a body’s (or a sleeve’s, to use the term in the book) spinal column. "People" can thus be stored on a hard drive and downloaded into any body ("sleeve") at any time.

The detective story is cool and the future world is great, but this ability to have a person move from one body to another is really want makes the story – obviously it creates some interesting possibilities for a murder mystery.

The rich, in this world, can afford have several back-up bodies stored in case something happens to them. So, the murder mystery revolves around a rich, old guy who apparently killed himself. He has last backed himself up 48 hours prior to his "death." Thus, his new body, once restored from memory, has no recollection of the events leading up to the apparent suicide. Our detective is asked to solve this mystery.

The world is divided – almost like in a vampire story – between the very old and the less old:

“It should be,” said Or­te­ga grim­ly. “You live that long [in this case 300+ years], things start hap­pen­ing to you. You get too im­pressed with your­self. Ends up, you think you’re God. Sud­den­ly the lit­tle peo­ple, thir­ty, maybe forty years old, well they don’t re­al­ly mat­ter any more. You’ve seen whole so­ci­eties rise and fall, and you start to feel you’re stand­ing out­side it all, and none of it re­al­ly mat­ters to you. And maybe you’ll start snuff­ing those lit­tle peo­ple, just like pick­ing daisies, if they get un­der your feet.”

The ability to move a person into a new body changes humanity in some interesting and fundamental ways. Read the book for the rest of them.


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