Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan

I’d been hearing a lot about this book, so when I found it at the used bookshop with $3 worth of postage stamps stuck into it as a bookmark, I went for it.

This is a great adventure romp and a clever detective story with enough interesting science fiction ideas behind it to satisfy. The story revolves around a homicide in a world where conciousness is routinely transfered between bodies and computerized virtual environments. Only if a person’s “stack”, an electronic device embedded in the spine, is destroyed, are they truly killed, and even then they may be recovered from a backup. So Takeshi Kovacs, uploaded from a distant planet and “re-sleeved” on Earth in a body borrowed from a convicted criminal, not only has to solve the mystery of the death of his client, he has to deal with the client meddling in his investigation.

Morgan surely does a better job working out the ramifications of the ability to transfer conciousness than say, David Brin. He also makes the mystery plot interesting: A possible motive for the death that seemed to be conspicuously overlooked by Kovacs, and thus likely to turn into the macguffin at the end, turned out to be only a small piece of the solution to the mystery.

Sex scenes may fill up more pages than their contribution to the story justifies, but if that keeps some readers engaged and helps Morgan sell his next book, reading through them is a small price to pay.

Now how am I going to use nine 33-cent stamps?

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