Altered Carbon
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Altered Carbon (Takeshi Kovacs #1)

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  28,455 ratings  ·  1,696 reviews
In the twenty-fifth century, humankind has spread throughout the galaxy, monitored by the watchful eye of the U.N. While divisions in race, religion, and class still exist, advances in technology have redefined life itself. Now, assuming one can afford the expensive procedure, a person's consciousness can be stored in a cortical stack at the base of the brain and easily do...more
Paperback, 534 pages
Published 2002 by Gollancz
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Altered Carbon, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Lucius Rippeteau i enjoyed the 1st person. it hardened the Sci-fi-noir feel. hard boiled badass with a history and unresolved personal internal conflicts. as if we are…morei enjoyed the 1st person. it hardened the Sci-fi-noir feel. hard boiled badass with a history and unresolved personal internal conflicts. as if we are hearing this as his friend. and judging as a friend, on a personal level, not on a society level.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Folks have been recommending I read Richard Morgan for years. But I've got a to-read stack longer than my arm, and my reading time is rather precious. It's a big risk to try a longish book by an author I've never read before.

In a nutshell. I loved it. About halfway through the book I looked it up online and saw that it won a bunch of awards. It deserves them.

I don't read as much Sci-fi as I used to, but I'm no newbie. The world is unique and fresh. Good characters. Interesting mystery.

Yeah. G...more
Jul 21, 2008 Sandi rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The Non-Squeamish
Shelves: sci-fi, 2008
Wow. It’s no wonder Richard K. Morgan became such a phenomenon in the science fiction world so quickly. His first novel, “Altered Carbon” is so well crafted that it bears no hints of being a first novel. His imagination and story telling is absolutely amazing. Although it is absolutely full of graphic violence and has a few X-rated sex scenes, every part is so well written, it all fits. This book should have completely offended me. I can’t stand gratuitous sex and violence. But, the way Morgan w...more
Dan Schwent
Takeshi Kovacs is killed on an another world and re-sleeved in Bay City in the body of a disgraced cop. His mission: find out who killed Laurens Bancroft, a Meth (short for Methusaleh) billionaire. Bancroft and is offering Kovacs his freedom as a reward. Only a lot of people don't want anyone to know why Bancroft killed himself. Can Kovacs get to the bottom of things before the demons in Bancroft's private life get him?

I bought this for a buck and it languished on my shelf for a couple years. Wa...more
Feb 10, 2013 Mike rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of SF, Hardboiled Detective, Cyberpunk
Recommended to Mike by: Goodreads group "Pulp Fiction"
Altered Carbon: Richard Morgan's Cyber-Punk Future

“The human eye is a wonderful device. With a little effort, it can fail to see even the most glaring injustice.”
― Richard K. Morgan, Altered Carbon

It takes something special for a book to keep me burning through the pages until 3 a.m. Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan is a helluva read.

 photo PhilipKDickAward_zpsdc49fc96.jpg
Winner of the Philip K. Dick Award for Best Novel, 2003

Morgan is a wicked blend of Philip K. Dick and William Gibson. There is even a touch of Gene Roddenberr...more

Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb: In the twenty-fifth century, humankind has spread throughout the galaxy, monitored by the watchful eye of the U.N. While divisions in race, religion, and class still exist, advances in technology have redefined life itself. Now, assuming one can afford the expensive procedure, a person’s consciousness can be stored in a cortical stack at the base of the brain and easily downloaded into a new body (or “sleeve”) making death nothing m...more
One of the best action sequences in modern scifi:

Sarah was turning her aim on the figures beyond the wall when the second commando of the night appeared braced in the kitchen doorway and hosed her away with his assault rifle.

Still on my knees, I watched her die with chemical clarity. It all went so slowly it was like a video playback on frame advance. The commando kept his aim low, holding the Kalashnikov down against the hyper-rapid-fire recoil it was famous for. The bed went first, erupting in
Kathy Ahn
Hmmm...I can't remember why I picked up this book. I think I read about it on a friend's blog. I read most of it today and finished it off. But it was sort of painful at times -- the last 50 pages were sort of agony to read, but by that point, you just have to finish the damn thing.

Not spectacularly written, but hardly unusual for a book in this genre. It was interesting enough for me to plod through it, and at one point I enjoyed it briefly, but I thought it was full of logical flaws and jumps...more
 Danielle The Book Huntress (Angels Weep For Goodreads)
With my sinus allergies kicking my butt, I don't have the energy to write a really long review, so I'll keep it simple. I thought this was an excellent book, though not really a comfortable book. I don't think this book is for everyone. The language is very coarse, to be honest. Liberal use of the worst word for women in written language is employed. It starts with a 'c' and ends with a 't', and I think you can fill in the blanks. I winced just about every time. Despite this, and the fact that t...more
5.0 to 5.5 stars. A fantastic debut novel by a great new voice in Science Fiction. The world-building is superb and the concept of "re-sleaving" and the myriad ways in which society changes when death no longer is permament are exceptionally handled. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!

Winner: Philip K. Dick Award for Best Novel (2004)

Nominee: Locus Award for Best First Novel (2003)
Liked these books a lot. Misogynist but whatever, hardboiled sci-fi was fun :)
Carol. [All cynic, all the time]

A fun and fast-paced thrill ride, almost impossible for me to put down. Picture a hard-boiled noir, the solitary, weary worldly detective, blunted emotional skills, stepping on toes as he investigates. Merge that plot and character with innovative science fiction–digitized personalities that can be downloaded into new bodies with the right reasons or enough cash, and the result is eminently readable.


Full review posted at:


David Sven
Set some 500 years in the future – other planets have been colonised – this is a Scifi/Cyberpunk/Noir type story set mainly on Earth with a Bladerunner (the movie) type setting. Morgan actually sites Balderunner as a major influence.

Tom Merritt said he picked this up as an airport paperback and that kinda coloured his view of the book – and honestly, it does feel like that type of book – but I still loved it. Plenty of Blockbuster style action, a couple over the top sex scenes which I could do...more
A very good mystery, SF, action novel - 3.5 stars It's a very imaginative world with a lot of depth to it. He didn't just take our world & slap some SF on it, but extended it out logically & added some really interesting new tech on top of that.

The characters are well done, with men, women & all races treated equally, as they have to be. His hero is very interesting, as well. Not exactly amoral, but close. Takeshi is very easy to identify with as he makes his way through the complex...more
Executive Summary: A book that seemed to work better in concept than execution for me. It's possible I just wasn't in the right mood for this book at the time I listened to it though.

Audio book: The narration was OK, but not great. Todd McLaren has a decent enough voice, but isn't very good at accents. I think I would have preferred if he just read it rather than trying to do voices. They weren't so bad as to distract me from the story though.

The actual quality of the audiobook is awful. I'm not...more
I desperately want to like this book more than I do. I picked it up for the first time well over a year ago, probably closer to 2 years ago. I set the book aside, for a variety of reasons, and came back to it 4 times before finally finishing. None of this bodes well for a final rating.

I love the world Morgan created but I hate every one of his characters. A 4 star rating for the world. A 2 star rating for the characters.

My experience with cyberpunk is limited, something which I would like to ex...more
Asher Turnaround
It's weird for me disliking a story so full of things I enjoy. Morgan goes out of his way to tackle compelling notions about life and morality at the intersection of technology. He asks about the nature of what makes us human. He challenges the idea that memory and experience solely define us. The pages are practically bursting with genre favorites like: Cyborgs, gun-play, hovering vehicles, and bionically enhanced assassins. Assassins, who by the way, can be needle-cast from colonized world to...more
SubterraneanCatalyst -Censorship is for the Weak
I'd call this book a cyberpunk noir. I'm not going to bother summarizing the story since you've seen it in the book description and in all the other reviews.

I didn't know this was Morgan's first novel but now that I do, yes, of course I'm impressed. This was smartly written and tight. I thought it was the perfect marriage of introspection and action. It kept me guessing to the end which is rare for me.

Have to admit I think I enjoyed this book for my own fairly eccentric reasons:
- The Hendrix: I...more
This book is legendary among cyberpunk fans, I do not really count myself among them as I have read too little from this sub-genre to qualify. However, it is very frequently recommended in the excellent PrintSF forum I frequent. A few years ago I went through a phase of reading crime fiction almost exclusively because I felt like a change from decades of reading sf/f. One of the best practitioners of crime fiction is Michael Connelly, whose most famous creation is detective Harry Bosch. If Mr. C...more
Apr 21, 2013 David rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: hard-boiled cyberpunks, resleeved U.N. commandos, Jimi Hendrix in a hard drive
This was pretty good contemporary cyberpunk. Morgan doesn't have William Gibson's way with words, but his characters are more interesting and his pacing and action scenes are much better.

There is the potential for a space opera here - the world of Altered Carbon is a far future in which humans have spread to the stars, and the protagonist, Takeshi Kovacs, was born on another planet, but this story takes place entirely on Earth, in "Bay City" (what used to be San Francisco). That and all the Japa...more
Maggie K
I really love hard boiled detective stories, and cyber punk sci-fi. So, give me a book like this which is a combination of both and I can talk about it for days
Remniscent of When Gravity Fails, this book had an unwilling protaganist running around trying to save his own loved ones by solving a crime.
The technology has to do with 'sleeving'. The ability to download personalities into 'spare' bodies. Now of course those bodies are supplied from somewhere, and that bitter taste never really leaves...more
Well, well, well, this took me by surprise. I had fairly high expectations for Richard K. Morgan's first Takeshi Kovacs novel for a number of reasons: 1. many of y'all love these books, and plenty of you have told me to read them; 2. I have read and loved the first two parts of his A Land Fit for Heroes trilogy; 3. this book had seriously fast Hollywood attention; 4. I dig Sci-Fi.

So I tried to read it and reached page 10, then I quit. Then I tried to read it again and reached page 12, then I qu...more
I abandoned it after about 100 or so pages. I liked the future setting and the advances in technology that change the concept of life and death. Unfortunately, it read like a script for an action movie. Some good ideas, but too much senseless action and violence ruined it for me.
Ben Babcock
This is exactly what I needed: a fast-paced mystery novel wrapped in the goodness of cyberpunk science fiction. Altered Carbon is an enthralling read.

The main character, Takeshi Kovacs, is an ex-United Nations Envoy, a sort of borderline psychopathic personality who went into messy situations and cleaned them up using any means necessary. As an ex-Envoy, Kovacs has had a hard time adjusting to civilian life, so the book starts with him as a fugitive. Then he dies. Immediately, Richard Morgan dem...more
This book was a rocket-ride of action from start to finish. Any time I've mentioned cyberpunk someone has asked if I've read this. I was long putting it off because I thought it would be much different to what it actually is. It was always mentioned in the same breath as William Gibson whose books I just have never been able to get in to. So it was with much hesitance that I picked this up.

Now I think "Why the hell did I wait so long?" This book isn't slow and stodgy. It's a drug-fuelled, gun-pa...more
In the twenty-fifth century, technology has advanced so much that human personalities can be digitally stored on what is known as a Stack. These stacks can be downloaded into new bodies or sleeves, so when you die your stack can be stored indefinably and you can be resleeved and continue living. Death is virtually impossible, when Laurens Bancroft commits suicide (destroying his stack) he is resleeved from a backup, he has no memory of his actions but believe this was an actual murder attempt. H...more
Altered Carbon has already been reviewed by everyone and their grandmother, so I won't bother to rehash the concept or storyline of this hard-boiled detective noir/cyberpunk hybrid tale set in the 25th century. It was tough to give an overall star rating (I settled on 4 stars, but I'm not sure if I can include this in my "favorites", since I liked some aspects of the book much more than others (a lot of people had that experience, it seems). I'll break it down as follows:

World-building (5 stars)...more
I have a really hard time with bodyswap. I will suspend my disbelief for unicorns first, let’s put it that way. It’s just that it doesn’t matter whether we’re talking science or magic, it does not make sense. Assuming there actually was some incorporeal you that could be lifted out of your body and popped into someone else (which I don’t assume, but we’ll come back to that), if you got popped into someone else’s body, you would not be you anymore. Because the whole thing is a fallacy, and there...more
Steven Millar
One of the best books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. While not as grand in scope as the other two Kovacs novels (Broken Angels and Woken Furies) Altered Carbon serves as a perfect introduction to Morgans protagonist Takeshi Kovacs. Altered Carbon is a gritty fast paced sci-fi action/detective story set on a far future version of earth were death has became something of an inconvenience to those who can afford new bodies. Kovacs is contracted to investigate the death of Laurens Bancroft...more
Dec 10, 2013 Eric rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All sci-fi fans, especially cyberpunk fans
Recommended to Eric by: Rob Auriemmo
This book immediately enters my top five all-time favorite sci-fi books (a category that is admittedly weighted heavily towards cyberpunk entries).

The set-up is fairly simple, although the world and its technology get complex quickly. Takeshi Kovacs is killed on his home world, Harlan's World, and is resleeved -- a process where a conscience can be ported to another body or synthetic body -- on Earth. As a former United Nations Envoy, his skills are required by a wealthy business magnate named...more
Dec 30, 2010 Mark rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of detective fiction and fans of science fiction.
Shelves: sciencefiction
"Altered Carbon" is the first novel in Richard Morgan's "Takeshi Kovacs" series. It's a great book if you're a fan of the detective genre and science fiction. It hearkens back to the old hard-boiled Phillip Marlowe books by Raymond Chandler with a cyberpunk twist. It's very well done, intriguing, and a great read! 4 1/2 stars!

The Plot

In the world of Richard Morgan's future, a person can change bodies by downloading all of their memories from their old body and then uploading them to a new body....more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • Gridlinked (Agent Cormac, #1)
  • When Gravity Fails (Marîd Audran #1)
  • Chasm City
  • Hardwired (Hardwired, #1)
  • Pandora's Star (Commonwealth Saga, #1)
  • Spin State
  • Starfish (Rifters, #1)
  • Accelerando
  • Schismatrix Plus
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Richard K. Morgan (sometimes credited as Richard Morgan) is a science fiction writer.
More about Richard K. Morgan...
Woken Furies (Takeshi Kovacs, #3) Broken Angels (Takeshi Kovacs, #2) The Steel Remains (A Land Fit for Heroes, #1) Thirteen (Th1rte3n) Market Forces

Share This Book

“The personal, as everyone’s so fucking fond of saying, is political. So if some idiot politician, some power player, tries to execute policies that harm you or those you care about, take it personally. Get angry. The Machinery of Justice will not serve you here – it is slow and cold, and it is theirs, hardware and soft-. Only the little people suffer at the hands of Justice; the creatures of power slide from under it with a wink and a grin. If you want justice, you will have to claw it from them. Make it personal. Do as much damage as you can. Get your message across. That way, you stand a better chance of being taken seriously next time. Of being considered dangerous. And make no mistake about this: being taken seriously, being considered dangerous marks the difference - the only difference in their eyes - between players and little people. Players they will make deals with. Little people they liquidate. And time and again they cream your liquidation, your displacement, your torture and brutal execution with the ultimate insult that it’s just business, it’s politics, it’s the way of the world, it’s a tough life and that it’s nothing personal. Well, fuck them. Make it personal.” 92 likes
“The human eye is a wonderful device. With a little effort, it can fail to see even the most glaring injustice.” 48 likes
More quotes…