Altered Carbon is a science fiction story mixed with a detective novel. Takeshi Kovacs is hired by the rich, powerful Laurens Bancroft to track down Bancroft’s killer. This is possible because Bancroft, like anyone rich enough to afford to do so in Richard K. Morgan’s futuristic setting, has been brought back from the dead. In the future envisioned by the author, death is no longer permanent and memories can be downloaded into a new body. This concept makes the story a very unique kind of murder mystery. To add further twist to the mystery, Kovacs is not a typical private investigator. He’s one of a deadly group of highly-trained military operatives, and he needs every bit of that training as he pursues clues that others don’t want him to find and are willing to kill – permanently – to keep hidden.
This book presents a unique view of life and a very different lens through which to view it. The author is able to use the concept of virtually eternal life as a way to explore what is means to be human and what value can actually be placed on a human life. Though the story is entertaining as simply an exciting story, what sets it apart as more than simple entertainment is the way in which it tackles some profound questions such as the nature of life, consciousness, and the human soul. The story also delves into such contemporarily relevant topics as class discrimination and government corruption. The book is thought-provoking, even as it propels the reader along on a wild, adrenalin-rush sci-fi adventure.
Profanity/Language: 10 religious exclamations; 8 mild obscenities; 5 religious profanities; 12 derogatory names; 66 scatological words; 24 anatomical terms; 196 f-word derivatives.
Violence/Gore: Several verbal threats; characters point guns at each other a few times; several reports of murders; a few reports of fights with injury or death; report of an attack where people are subdued; a few reports of suicides; report of bodies sold or harvested for organ transplants; a few reports of characters heads being blown off; report of torture; a beating that caused a miscarriage is reported a few times (same event); a few reports of bombings, some of which are suicide bombings; discussion of prize-fighting/blood sports; report of a past war; report of a pregnant mother and baby murdered; a legend tells of a mother brutally murdering her children and a monster made of rotting corpses that kills people; report of people intentionally exposed to radiation; a character is drugged to unconsciousness; characters hit each other a few times; abrief knife-fight; a woman is tortured; a few fights with martial arts resulting in broken bones; a character is tortured, without details; a character is shot with a stun gun; a wounded dog is put down; a character almost drowns; a character has a spooky dream sequence involving bloody wounds and a dead friend; a character is locked in an enclosed space with a corpse; a character has bloody hallucinations a few times; characters discuss which one of them should die when they are in a situation where only one can live; fight with fists, kicks, guns, and melee weapons involving bloody injuries and death but few details; a building is bombed resulting in some deaths; a few fights with guns, melee weapons, explosions, characters shredded by gunfire or badly wounded with gory wounds, including blood and exposed bones described; a post-mortem surgery to remove body parts; a character has to dig in a corpse’s vertebrae and skull to recover something; a woman is tortured and shot to death, and this is graphically described; a character’s eyes are gouged, and this is described in gory detail a few times; a few extended gunfights (2 pages each) with bloody injuries and death ; a corpse is mutilated; a character carries a bloody, decapitated head; a character is shot in the head, and it is described in bloody detail; explosions tear apart bodies, limbs and heads.
Sex/Nudity: Characters flirt verbally; women are masked and dressed in revealing clothing to entice men; characters hold hands; characters hug; character kisses another on the cheek; a character is naked after their body has been in storage; a man considers a woman’s fit, pretty (but fully clothed) body; a character looks appreciatively at a woman’s breasts (clothed) a few times; a woman is naked in a strip club; a brief description of female anatomy, including reference to menstruation; a woman is kept naked while captive; a man is naked in a hospital setting; a male character has breasts, the size of which are discussed; a few instances of artwork that contains naked people or pictures of sexual acts;mention of condoms; mention of birth control; the word “phallus” is used to describe the shape of a (non-sexual) object; a man has an erection while thinking about or looking at a woman a few times; a character threatens to put his fist in a woman’s privates; a double entendre using the phrase “covert penetration”; a man slaps a female corpse on the buttocks; a man admires a woman’s body and imagines it naked; a crude reference to prostitution; a crude term for oral sex is used; a description of a man indicates that he is sexually excited, in a way that is apparent through his clothing; a crude term for orgasm is used; a character uses male sexual performance enhancers; a few mentions of whorehouses; a character makes a sexually-themed joke; mention of oral sex; discussion of the part pheromones play in human attraction; prostitutes are seen on the street; pimps advertise sex acts with pictures (breasts are described) and mention of dominatrixes; character masturbates (no details); characters visit whorehouses a few times; a character was formerly a prostitute; a married character visits prostitutes; a few reports of couples sleeping together; report of a character hiring prostitutes; it is implied that two women have had a sexual relationship; it is implied that a man has sex with an animal;a few mentions of pornography; a report of a teen using virtual-reality pornography; a couple briefly watches a video in which one of them has sex with another person; mention of snuff pornography;man and a woman have a mature discussion about sex, which is explicit but not very detailed; two men discuss, in graphic detail, the type of things they like to do sexually with women; an advertisement features a brief, but graphic, virtual reality sequence of a woman giving a man oral sex; mention of necrophilia; mention of child molestation; men discuss briefly, but graphically, what one of them likes to do with his wife sexually; a few reports of prostitutes used for snuff-pornography a couple of extended (5 pages and 3 pages) very graphic sex scenes with intercourse and oral sex; a woman is tortured, and some of it is sexual in nature; a character visits a brothel and converses with a prostitute through glass (her breasts are described, and his physical response of attraction is described, but there is no intercourse).
Mature Subject Matter:
Suicide is a major theme of this book, since a criminal investigation tries to determine if a death was a murder or suicide; lesbianism (implied); prostitution; bribery; the nature of life and the human soul; capital punishment; body and organ theft; murder for hire; economic class disparity; terrorism (mention); computer hacking; government and police corruption; gladiatorial-style prize fighting/blood sports; infanticide; necrophilia (mention); snuff pornography (mentioned); child molestation (mention); bestiality (implied).
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Characters smoke tobacco, and one has a struggle to quit smoking; stimulants are used; a drug that is used to induce a near death state is used; characters drink alcohol; mention of birth control; drug dealers advertise openly; drugs are used to knock people out; characters take aphrodisiacs and sexual performance enhancers; characters use recreational drugs to get high; a character spends an extended scene under the influence of a mood-altering drug, and it is described through his perspective.