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Altered Carbon - Richard K. Morgan I must admit that I was really looking forward to this. From what I've read of SF/Crime hybrids in the past I've always thought it worked very well and I've enjoyed them. To a large extent this was no exception.

This story is set on Earth in the future some couple of hundred years. Other star systems have been coloinsed and society has broadly moved on along the same lines it appears to be going in now, i.e. a capitalist society with your exceedingly wealthy and your exessively poor. One of the key developments of technology though that has changed society, and on which this book places particular emphasis, is the ability to digitise the mind. Consequently, your mind can be downloaded into a virtual environment, stored indefinitely and uploaded into another body with relative ease. Everyone gets implanted with a cortical stack at birth that continually copies and stores your mind. If your body dies, as long as this implant is not destroyed along with it, you can live on in one form or another.

Takeshi Kovacs is the protagonist of this novel and is brought out of storage by a wealthy tycoon to investigate why he was killed (the tycoon naturally had a backup of himself and was "re-sleeved" shortly afterwards but with no memory of what happened when he died). The plot quickly thickens and the mystery deepens as Kovacs gets drawn into an dense web of deceit, intrigue and danger.

At the end of the book I was left quite satisfied with the story and the way it was all wrapped up but I found quite a fair bit of the book hard going. It seemed to plod on in places and I felt it was too long. But I find my self often saying that about modern books so I guess it's probably just me really.

What I did like about this book is the way the concept of identity and the essense of self was explored. How much are you still you if you've been re-sleeved into a new body? At one point, Kovacs is even duplicated and sleeved into two different bodies. I really liked the scene in which he was having a conversation with himself in which they wondered at how long would it take so that their divergent experiences made them different people? The arrangement was only temporary however and they had to consider how they would decide which copy would be terminated afterward.

In some ways this seemed more in the Crime genre than SF. Some quite explicit sex scenes for instance that one does not usually expect in SF. But Crime is not a genre I have a particular affection for. If you do, go right ahead and add another star. And if you also don't mind the long plodding nature that most modern writers seem to generate these days, add yet another star.

I'll probably re-visit Takeshi Kovacs at some point but it won't be in the immediate future.