Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Books Media Book Reviews

Altered Carbon 262

Posted by timothy
from the not-just-for-golf-clubs dept.
tep-sdsc writes "Richard Morgan has a problem. His first novel, Altered Carbon, will be a tough act to follow. It is set in a future world that could rival Heinlein's Future History and Niven's Known Space. There's enough material here for a career, not just a (great) first novel." OK, so you know he likes it -- now read on for the rest of Tom's review.
Altered Carbon
author Richard Morgan
pages 534
publisher Del Rey (US)
rating Excellent
reviewer Tom Perrine
ISBN 0345457684
summary A future beyond death, through personality transplantation.

It would be easy to describe this book as "cyberpunk meets noir," but that would be a disservice to the reader, the author and the book.

Although this book is set in a future that is seems to be heavily influenced by the punk movement, with computers, hackers, weapons, and leather, this is no superficial, cartoon world setting for a quick romp through cyberspace. There is a depth and texture here that promises, and delivers, as a setting for a novel that could end up as influential as Vinge's True Names, or Stephenson's Snow Crash or Spillane's Mike Hammer.

The main technological trapping of this setting is the ability to digitize, store and transport human consciousness. Peoples' consciousnesses can, and are, digitized and loaded out of and into their bodies on a regular basis. The state uses this to punish criminals by storing their minds "in the stack" (digital prison) and the wealthy and powerful can have themselves "backed up" like yesterday's spreadsheets. Interstellar travel is via "digitized human freight." Human bodies ("sleeves") can be rented, bought and sold, to provide containers for these digitized minds. And this is just the background.

This is also a hardboiled detective thriller, easily the equal to Chandler or Hammett in both plot and characterization. There is a complex plot, the de rigueur dames and guns, but also some important themes that are surprising for the genre. The plot is never formulaic, with a depth and enough unexpected twists and turns to keep the reader guessing well into the last chapter.

The protagonist, Takeshi Kovacs, is no simple hardboiled detective; he's a cashiered UN "Envoy," qualified to do anything from holding a beach head or planning a military invasion, to taking over a government from within. People with this training are barred from public office and high government positions on most settled worlds. And Kovacs has been offered a job he can't refuse by one of the richest men in twenty planets: "Kovacs, find out who killed me."

On a deeper level, this novel asks some real hard questions, that get to the heart of what it means to be human. If you can digitize, back up and restore people, what is the meaning of death? Is the "soul" digitized, or just your memories? Does it matter? When bodies can be rented and exchanged, just what is "identity"? When people can buy new bodies and live for centuries, amassing power and wealth, how will that affect their humanity? Will they become more than human, or less? How will this effect human society? These issues are all raised subtly, this is no sermonizing sociology text masquerading as a novel.

But Morgan's novel remains at its heart a well-crafted detective story. No matter how corrupt the society, no matter how powerful the rich, in the end, justice comes from the smoking barrel of a hired gun, working for some fast cash, plus expenses. This books tries, and succeeds, on so many levels, that can only hope that this will be just the first novel from this new author. Somewhere, Chandler and Hammett are saying, "Ya' done good, kid. Now kiss the dame and get outta here."

(As I was finishing this review, I discovered that Morgan's second novel, Broken Angels, which continues Kovacs exploits, has just been published by Gollancz in the UK. I'll gladly pay international shipping to get my hands on this second book as soon as possible.)


You can purchase the Altered Carbon from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Altered Carbon

Comments Filter:
  • And since I'm in nead of more reading-fodder, I'll go and see if I can get it tomorrow. Anyone know if it's available in Europe yet? Slashdot is too American-centric! :P
    • If you don't mind waiting a month or paying alot extra for express/Internation Airmail, The Barnes & Noble online store will ship the book overseas to Europe.
    • Re:Sounds good (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ackthpt (218170) *
      I just order stuff from Amazon.co.uk, even though I live in California, I prefer the cover art of books rolled out in the UK, i.e. Pratchett novels with the decent Kidby and Kirby covers, rather than the hideous covers released in the USA.

      Gollancz also happens to be Pratchett's publisher. Seems to take an interest in some of the better fiction.

    • Re:Sounds good (Score:4, Informative)

      by frankthechicken (607647) on Friday June 27, 2003 @01:38PM (#6312789) Journal
      Well, considering Richard Morgan is British, I am fairly sure you can find his book in your favourite local WHSmiths [whsmith.co.uk] or even the sequel [whsmith.co.uk]
    • Mirror, anyone? ;)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      ...and I *liked* Carbon.

      If you want something really good in the way of a shared-universe saga, check out John Courtenay Grimwood's Ashraf Bey stories, starting with "Pashazade" - alternate universe where the world wars didn't happen, the Ottoman Empire and Napoleonic French squabble over a very cyberpunk version of Alexandria. Deeper, more realistic and much funnier than AC. Warning for Xenophobic Americans - lots of Arabic culturte here (seen through a critical and wry eye, though).
  • by donutz (195717) on Friday June 27, 2003 @01:23PM (#6312636) Homepage Journal
    When people can buy new bodies and live for centuries, amassing power and wealth, how will that affect their humanity? Will they become more than human, or less?

    Well if we are to believe White Zombie, I'd say More Human Than Human [lyricsdepot.com]:


    I am the Astro-Creep a demolition style hell American freak yeah
    I am the crawling dead a phantom in a box shadow in your head
    Say acid suicide freedom of the blast read the fucker lies
    make me do it again...yeah

    more human than human

    i am the jigsaw man-I turn the world around with a skeleton hand
    say-I am electric head a cannibal core a television said yeah
    do not civtimize read the motherfucker-psychoholic lies
    into a psychic war I tear my soul apart
    and i eat it somr more

    more human than human

    solo

    I am the ripper man a locomotion mind love american style
    yeah i am the nexus one i want more life
    fucker i ain't done yet

    more human than human
    • We really need a (-1 stupid) mod.
    • Anyone notice that this is an homage to Blade Runner? Tyrell says the replicants are "More Human Than Human". Also, the escaped replicants were nexus 6 (not nexus 1 as the song indicates). Finally, the line, "I want more life fucker" is one of the lines Roy says before he kills Tyrell. It gave me a new appreciation for the song, because I think it's overplayed.
  • by binaryDigit (557647) on Friday June 27, 2003 @01:24PM (#6312645)
    If you can digitize and store, you can therefore copy. I wonder if the book goes into this possibility (or does it rule it out in some fashion, technical or otherwise). Also, it can also theoretically be "tweaked", and it would start to sound much like Blade Runner and fall into the, how do you know you are what you think you are category.

    For my tastes though, such abilities are a bit too open ended (kinda like time travel), and its fine if it is just a portion (e.g. TT as a mode of transportation) vs central to the story.
  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Friday June 27, 2003 @01:24PM (#6312646) Homepage Journal
    Sounds like a winner, something for the summer reading list (which has MC's Prey, The DaVinci Code and Bryson's Short History of Everything in the heap) Plowing through Potter 5 at the moment.

    A thought on futurist expectations and realities... a book just smacked down a movie. Bound and printed paper outstripped The Hulk on opening weekend for both. Between the proselytizing of digital media and ebooks (which appear to be failing) a sheaf of dead tree beat out the largest opening weekend grossing movie (not adjusted for inflation for .. er .. inflating hype purposes ;-) I think that's a neat irony.

    Did the butler do it? How about the Butler v5.021? A concept related to me back in astronomy (hence the space travel connection) was digitizing people and the prospect of making copies of them (religious ramifications sure to follow) How a person may fork and how they cope seems ripe for novel exploration

    Last, no mention of Bladerunner and/or replicants?

    • Plowing through Potter 5 at the moment.

      And you admit it ?
    • MC's Prey

      That was one frightning book! I normaly do not like horror, but this book was really good... I like his work in general too. It also read like a horror flick. I could picure the movie in my mind. I will not be surprised when some movie studio latches on to it. Lots of room for cool special effects.

    • >
      > How a person may fork and how they cope seems ripe for novel exploration
      >

      Been done and incredibly well. Try, "The Ophiuchi Hotline", by John Varley

      obAmazon
      The Ophiuchi Hotline [amazon.com]
  • This sounds kind of similar to the swartzenegger movie that came out a few years ago - the 6th day. I think that is what it is called, either way, a person's "personality" was stored in some media and then could be re-inserted into a cloned body if something happened to the "original" body.

    It wasn't a bad movie actually, Arnold just didn't have a good sidekick that he seems to require in all of his money films. Anyway, the book sounds interesting and I enjoyed your review.
  • These issues are all raised subtly, this is no sermonizing sociology text masquerading as a novel.
    goodness.

    There are few things as annoying as reading a book with a friggin' message, which is usually what I feel like I'm getting with a Micheal Crichton (watch out - genetics can be bad! Uh - oh - beware time travel in the wrong hands! Whoops!).

    Now, I can deal with a theme, like what you get from watching a Miyazaki flick like "Spirited Away".

    I've often felt that most technology (notice the word "most", not "all" - the jury is still out on the usefulness of gas chambers and "Boong-Ga Boong-Ga" [wired.com]) is neither good or evil - it's all in how its used.

    Like in this case. Is it wrong to download your personality into a computer or another body so you can live "forever"? Depends on the circumstances, and it looks like the author is letting humanity's response to it play out what's good and bad about it, and where it can be used and abused.

    Anyway, sounds like an interesting book - I think I've seen it on PeanutPress.com, so maybe I'll have something else to read since I finished with Potter the day it came out ;).
  • by theoddball (665938) <theoddball@nOsPAM.gmail.com> on Friday June 27, 2003 @01:25PM (#6312656)
    John Varley wrote a short story ~30 years ago that I believe was called "The Phantom Of Kansas." People got personality "recordings" to live forever, and the protagonist got hers stolen...and then got killed about 4 times, trying to figure out who kept doing it. Twist was, she had no idea what the previous girl had known...
    It's a twist on detective fiction. You're trying to solve a case--but you get extra chances. But every time around, the killer gets smarter, learns more about the victim...

    Original or no, I might have to pick this one up. I need to read some new, good SF again. *sigh*

    • That sounds a lot like David Brin's recent Kiln People, where a detective sends out multiple copies of himself to work on his cases.
      • Considering that I'm having trouble keeping the two apart during the discussion, you definitely have a good point.

        If you love one, you'll love the other.

        However, they are very different books, both with some very cool concepts, and a good detective story.

        It's probably just that I read too much and things get jumbled together in my brain. I read for pleasure, and don't retain much. (Which is cool, I can reread good books many times and they don't get old...)

        Bryan
    • that doesn't mean he might not bring some new thoughts to the basic issues. This boils down to basic questions that were being asked much longer than 30 years ago.

      It is also a common theme in other art forms where reality need not be considered- like film.

      What is interesting to me is that all these formats cannot use the current situation as it limits the ability to play with what defines sentience. It seems always not too far off that humans will be able to 'bottle' their essence or some facsimile th
    • A decent story, but I much prefer the way he explored the same issue at depth in The Ophiuchi Hotline [amazon.com]. Very amusing to open the book, which begins with a criminal indictment that ends, "The prosecution seeks permanent death."

      There's also a good story called, "Overdrawn at the memory bank" which got made into a very bad movie.

      But I gotta say, I'm a little tired of this concept. It was vaguely interesting 30 years ago. But now that I've had all this time to think about it, and know more about the human br

  • by forgetmenot (467513) <atsjewellNO@SPAMonebox.com> on Friday June 27, 2003 @01:25PM (#6312657) Homepage
    More questions the books raises:

    1. If you can download your conscious into different bodies... how would you know if that gorgeous babe you're in bed with is really.... a babe? 2. Would it matter? 3. Would it finally be acceptable to ask your wife to get a new body for your birthday?
  • Copyrights? (Score:4, Funny)

    by tunabomber (259585) on Friday June 27, 2003 @01:25PM (#6312660) Homepage
    When people can buy new bodies and live for centuries, amassing power and wealth, how will that affect their humanity?

    Well, for one thing, the people on Slashdot will bitch a lot about the 1000+ year copyright terms.
    • Well it would certainly require reworking the laws about copyright. Assuming that copyrights don't become eternal (sorry Disney) for corporations, if people can live forever...in some cases it might be in the best interests for the copyright to remain with the author, assuming the corporation can maintain control of them (and I'll assume by then, they'll certainly have the means to do so, whether we want it or not).
      • Well it would certainly require reworking the laws about copyright. Assuming that copyrights don't become eternal...

        Wasn't there a Heinlein story about this, damn I'm going to spend the entire evening pulling books off my shelves at home and trying to figure out what it was... something to do with artists could be creative anymore since everything had been "done", and it was depressing all the creative types...

        Al.
        • Are you thinking of "Melancholy Elephants" by Spider Robinson?
        • Spider Robinson, "Melancholy Elephants", is the story you are thinking of I think. It was published in the anthologies Melancholy Elephants, By Any Other Name, and in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact magazine back in the 80's.

    • Moreover, since you are now a data stream, can you copyright yourself? What do you do if you are "pirated"? :)
      • I don't know about you, but if this technology ever gets developed, I'd love to pirate Jack Valenti's consciousness and upload it into the brain of my dog.
  • >> Altered Carbon

    Is this the sequel to altered beast?
  • Oh, a slashdot book review. Would that be why amazon.com is giving a time out?
  • I've just finished Altered Carbon and would highly recommend it. However Morgan's second book is already out (in the UK): Broken Angels. I've already got mine imported from the UK... I guess the reviewer is a whole book behind.

    Anyways, have a look at Amazon.co.uk

  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Friday June 27, 2003 @01:31PM (#6312725)
    On a deeper level, this novel asks some real hard questions, that get to the heart of what it means to be human. If you can digitize, back up and restore people, what is the meaning of death?

    That subject is a recurrent question in the Culture series of SF novels by Ian M. Banks : in the Culture, people's mind states are regularly backed-up, people change bodies, can be "restored" in younger bodies after death, ...etc...

    Banks portrays the Culture society as bored, its people always seeking thrills in ultra-dangerous activities, joining the Culture's secret services sections called Contact and Special Circumstances usually because it adds spice to life. He also describes people who voluntarily engage in dangerous activities without being backed-up, or let themselves grow old and die naturally, and generally describes quite well the choices those people make in a Culture where death, poverty and suffering are banished.

    Read Banks, you'll be glad you did. Some Culture novels (not in order) :

    Excession
    The player of games
    Consider Phlebas
    Look to windward
  • by peter303 (12292) on Friday June 27, 2003 @01:32PM (#6312734)
    Pohl's ten or Heechee novels deal with digitized consciousness. One alien race keeps them in a pouch on the body as instant advisors- sort of like Dune's Other Memory. In other Pohl novels humans get digitized into the computer and find an alternative digital universe, not unlike the Matrix. Digitized humans can live at electronic speeds, or much faster than in the flesh.
    • I loved these books (starting with Gateway if anyone's interested) because of all the different sci-fi elements that were intertwined. You have split lovers, one stored in the computer and the other in the flesh. You have spacetravel using technology left behind by long vanished civilizations. You wonder where did the Heechee go, then you wonder why did they hide... rather, from whom...

      They are quick reads too, not too "hard" sci-fi, more of the social effects of the technologies rather than delving too
  • A bit OT, but I have a vague recollection of some movie where a character rents a body to be able to attend a conference or business meeting across the country. I don't remember if it was central to the story or just part of it, but does anyone remember the name of the movie, and if it was similar to what the reviewer was talking about, renting a body?
    • I think this is the movie you're referring to:

      X Change [imdb.com]

      Not a great movie. I like that sort of thing if done well, but I turned it off somewhere in the middle.
  • by lyapunov (241045) on Friday June 27, 2003 @01:40PM (#6312811)
    Kiln People has similar background and is also a very engaging book about privacy, what it is to be human, and intellectual property rights. Brin does an excellent job a putting in humor as well.

    While I have not read Morgan's Altered Carbon I know that I will because of the fun I had reading Kiln People and thinking about the philosophical questions present in Kiln People.

    While on the topic one of the reasons that I enjoy's Brin's work so much is that he does a superb job of creating a believeable society and political structure given an amazing scientific advancement and its supporting technology or if something in physics was altered a little. Read the Practice Effect for an example of the latter.

    Cheers and thanks for the review. I now have something else to read since I finished Harry Potter 5 so quickly.
  • by rwaterhouse (459007) on Friday June 27, 2003 @01:40PM (#6312820)
    I just ordered it from amazon.ca [amazon.ca]

  • by doyoudig (574696) on Friday June 27, 2003 @01:44PM (#6312854)
    http://www.computercrowsnest.com/sfnews/newsd0202. htm
  • Planetside works on the assumption that your body is worthless and you can regenerate in new body when the first gets hacked and blown up good.

    Buggy at first, supposedly been getting better.
  • Violent? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thentil (678858) <thentil@CHEETAHyahoo.com minus cat> on Friday June 27, 2003 @01:53PM (#6312928)
    I flipped through this book in B&N recently, but thought it was too violent, which usually doesn't interest me. After reading your review, and a review at SF Site [sfsite.com] where the reviewer commented

    "This is not usually my kind of book -- extreme violence and tough, wise-cracking detectives don't turn my crank. But Richard Morgan kept me reading. Some of the draw was sheer momentum -- the plot is complex, with much action and many marvelous twists -- but the real strength of Altered Carbon lies in the complex and subtle characterization, which takes Kovacs far beyond hard-boiled stereotypes."

    I guess I'll have to give it a try...
    • Re:Violent? (Score:4, Informative)

      by grassy_knoll (412409) on Friday June 27, 2003 @03:10PM (#6313678) Homepage
      Yes, it's a very violent book. Check this interview with the author for his comments on violence: http://homepage.mac.com/capek/richmorg.html [mac.com]

      Or, should the site get /.'d, the relavent bit is:

      How did you approach the extreme violence in the book- and were there ever any points where you thought you might have gone too far?

      You can't ever go too far with violence. You either write it or you dont. If you choose to avoid it, that's fine, but if not, you've got to do it justice. I've taken some stick for passages in Altered Carbon which people complained had sickened them, but then violence should be sickening. I have no time for the sanitised approach you find in so much contemporary literature and film - the gun battles where bullets make neat red holes and bad guys fall conveniently and quietly dead, the interrogations where people get slapped about a bit and then rescued. Or worse still the Lock, Stock brand of violence where it's all seen as a bit of a giggle and as long as you're enough of a cheeky geezer, it all comes out OK. Its precisely because of this "light" approach that we misunderstand the subject of violence so badly. Im not interested in pursuing that line. Where violence arises in my books, it is intended to shock, to horrify and to some extent to get the reader to face up to their own ambiguity on the subject. Because we all like seeing the bad guys taken down, but we dont usually like it so much when the flesh and blood reality of that act is rubbed in our faces. That ambiguity is exactly what Im after.

  • by grassy_knoll (412409) on Friday June 27, 2003 @01:53PM (#6312930) Homepage
    and It's worth your time.

    Getting beyond the thumbnail film-noir meets cyberpunk, the book does cover some interesting questions.

    Backing up humans is covered, but so is religious opposition to the process. Copying humans is likewise considered, as is modifying the flesh in unusual ways ( picture a very hot chick. now picture a very hot chick who secretes XTC when she's turned on. ) and some of the more usual ones ( installing the consiousness of a male in a female body ).

    But dont think this is some preachy isnt-the-future-cool diatribe. Its complex plot is, as others have said, worthy of Dashel or Hammet with a similar man-against-system feel.

    Overall, it gave me the same feel that Neuromancer gave me when I read it; a future darkly lit in a form that stands outside traditional genres.
  • Broken Angels (Score:5, Informative)

    by Flave (193808) on Friday June 27, 2003 @01:55PM (#6312940)
    I agree -- Altered Carbon is an amazing book. I couldn't put it down and read it in two sittings.

    So when I heard that Broken Angels was out, I bought it ASAP (it's been available for a while here in Canada). you cannot imagine my disappointment at this classic textbook example of sophomore jinx! As much as I loved the first book, I hated the second and it took all I could muster to even finish it. Whereas the first book was tight, focused, gripping and exciting, the second is the exact opposite; slow, plodding and irretrievably dull.

    Hopefully he'll find his muse again in future installments.
  • Carbon? (Score:2, Funny)

    Being a Mac user, it should be noted that Altered Cocoa will be better! :-)
  • and just how is it that humanity can justify growing a human body and then essentially reformatting it for use by the rich - but doesn't want to touch the subject of copying?

    jeebus - we can't even use waste from abortions to try to cure nerve damage here in america, yet in the future we can grow entire humans and then destroy their sentience and/or soul?

    real technology has shown us that a clone is not the original, nor is it a soulless, mindless husk - but an equally viable and unique individual.

    this boo
    • Um you are over-reacting. I think they are simply growing the bodies without minds and then when you want to transfer yourself into it you put a brain into the body.
  • by egg troll (515396) on Friday June 27, 2003 @02:12PM (#6313096) Homepage Journal
    That's what I really disliked about Heinlein: He was very right-wing. Starship Troopers was basically a pro-military propaganda piece (if you read it next time, replace "communist" or "russian" with "bugs" and see how spooky it is.) While I certainly can't begrudge someone their viewpoint or say they can't write how they feel, I just couldn't enjoy Heinlein because of it.

    But that's just my opinion....
    • So let's ignore Citizen of the Galaxy and Stranger in a Strange Land and just focus on Starship Troopers with the idea that only a "right-wing" nut could be in favor of exterminating hive societies like Nazi Germany. We'll just ignore that the left-wing Ruskies were alongside us in that. We'll just rule out of bounds as politically incorrect the notion that nonhuman societies might only have a hive modality, and none of the redeming qualities the Germans, for instance, can show in other socio-historical pha
      • That was 'I Will Fear No Evil', not one of Heinlein's better novels (Nothing he wrote from the mid-70's on was all that good. In fact, I'd ted to somewhat avoid everything he wrote after about 1970)

        Heinlein was what would now be called a NeoCon, but was then called a Liberal. He was an individualist, and very strong in those views, although he wasn't averse to the benefits of Socialism, he just believed in individuals, rather than groups (Especially ethnic ones, Manny's reaction to racism in The Moon is a
    • Are you confusing the author's opinions with his editorial voice? Or stories framed to be understood in his own time with eternal political positions?

      I think people who say Heinlein was "merely" a right-winger, esp. because of <i>Starship Troopers</i> are mistaken. I think people who say he's "merely" a sex-crazed liberal, esp. because of everything from <i>Time Enough for Love</i> onwards, are mistaken. He has his own views and they aren't easily characterized today...

      BTW, neve
    • He probably fit more into libertarian - in particular I can't see his many & varied sexual themes (not so much starship troopers but all the lazarus long books) being "right wing" views.

    • Well, a couple of other replies already dealt with your mistaken opinion of Heinline as "right-wing", so I wouldn't expand on that.

      But what i'd like to suggest would be to learn to enjoy a work of fiction SEPARATELY from its political message.

      As an example, I thoroughly enjoy reading Eric Flint (especially 1632 series), even though some of his books - especially "1632" itself - are in-your-face left-ing pro-union texts which are as opposite to my own political views as "Stranger in a strange land" would b
    • Starship Troopers was indeed pro-military, but that was "the soldiers try to do a good job", not "the soldiers are the solution to every problem". In that novel, you were only a full citizen, with voting rights, after you had performed government service (which might or might not have been military). During your service you had no vote. So the government, which told the military what to do, had no active military people in it.

      Note also that the heroes of Starship Troopers were the soldiers, not the gene
    • I can't agree with you. He wrote the ultra left-wing Stranger in a Strange Land simultaneously with Starship Troopers. I don't think his politics fit on the left-right distinction: he's a pragmatist. Freedom comes first for Heinlein.


      -m

  • by Jett (135113) on Friday June 27, 2003 @02:15PM (#6313124)
    I would agree that it is a quality piece of work, very impressive for a first novel. My only issue with the book is the sex scenes. Of course I haven't finished it yet, so perhaps the level of detail in the few sex scenes does ultimately serve some purpose - but right now they seem completely pointless. The 2 pages of porno-esque description each of the sex scenes has taken up feels to me like it does nothing for the plot or tell me anything about the characters, not that the scenes shouldn't be there at all, I'm no prude - its just there was no reason to get into it so graphically. A minor problem really, I chalk it up to an easy first-time author mistake, or perhaps a miscalculation of what gives quality SF broad appeal ;)

    That said, the rest of the book is great. The main character is funny without being over the top, and his background is pretty well fleshed out so that he feels like a real character with the flaws and self-awareness lacking in so much SF. The book is well paced, and the plot is (so far) interesting and sufficiently hard to predict to keep me suprised. The setting and technology is very well done, although this is not Hard SF, so details on how things work aren't very in-depth (although the low level descriptions given are plausible, particularly coming from the main character as they are in keeping with his knowledge level). It is definitely a very cyberpunk inspired book, and reminds me a little of Gibson's Sprawl setting, and the writing style sometimes feels Gibson-esque. Not that its an imitation of Gibson, or any other of the great cyberpunk authors, the author definitely has his own voice and vision.

    I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of mystery, SF/cyberpunk, or action and am definitely looking forward to picking up the next book when it finally comes out in the US . Speaking of which, anyone know why all the quality SF comes out in the EU first? Alastair Reynolds, Ken MacLeod, etc. Sure they are all euro authors, but so what? Why can't they be published simultaneously here? Another observation, anyone noticing the emergence of a new school of British/Scottish SF in the past few years? Almost all the new quality SF authors seem to be from the UK these days.
  • wealthy and powerful can have themselves "backed up" like yesterday's spreadsheets.

    Seems John Varley wrote a number of stories on that theme a few decades ago.

    And as for switching bodies, the classic story Bodyguard from Galaxy magazine comes to mind, as well as Jack Chalker's "Four Lords of the Diamond" quadlogy.

    If you like those themes, more stories for you to look for.

  • if I make a copy of my consciousness and download it into a new body, will it really be "me", or will it just be a copy of "me", that feels like "me", thinks like "me", in fact thinks it is "me"... but isn't really "me".

    Here is an attempt at a proof that it is not really "me": If my original consciousness continues to exist in my old body, it would certainly be "me". My new body would also be "me". So if you define consciousness as a "sense of being an individual", both can't be "me", because there is onl

    • By the way, there must be quite a few philosophers who have thought about topics like these. Does anyone have some links to interesting philosophical articles?
    • I think the flaw lies in "both can't be 'me'".

      Because our individual selves is really so unique , I think we all have trouble thinking in terms of perfect copies of our consciousness. In the matrix reloaded, one of the things that I couldn't get out of my mind was, "is there any significance to being the original smith? Is he the one that's going to matter in revolutions, or are all of them going to have to be dealt with."

      So try pulling that number with your question, and approach it like this: if it

    • It's more an attempt at formalizing my gut feelings about this subject.

      I don't mean this as rudely as it may sound, but I think you're not comfortable with the idea that you might just be the sum of your parts. If you can be backed-up/restored/copied, does that reduce the value of any given "self"?

    • "No, no," said Frankie, "it's the brain we want to buy."

      "What!"

      "I thought you said you could just read his brain electronically," protested Ford.

      "Oh yes," said Frankie, "but we'd have to get it out first. It's got to be prepared."

      "Treated," said Benji.

      "Diced."

      "Thank you," shouted Arthur, tipping up his chair and backing away from the table in horror.

      "It could always be replaced," said Benji reasonably, "if you think it's important."

      "Yes, an electronic brain," said Frankie, "a simple one would suffic
  • All the comments so far make it sound like a good book. So why did the reviewer have to compare it (a novel, which is supposed to have a rich setting because in SF, the setting is a character) with two universes that were built up primarily from short stories over a long time period?

    I mean, Known Space and Heinlein's future history were cool in part because they were constructed from disparate bits across a bunch of stories. Linking short stories to make a bigger picture rewards fans.

    Whereas a novel, we
  • The 27 years of Star Trek have been ambiguous about whether teleportation was a conversion to information and reconstructed at the other end, or conversion into some other form of matter-energy that could be transmitted. The difference is crucial, for the information case has philosphical issues such as copies, identity, and manipulative change. The "official" Next Generation handbook weaseled the explanation was "both". Items like food replication and holodeck material was low resolution patterns of non-li
  • Shadows by John Saul is about ten years old now, but it was fiction about a private school called 'The Academy'. Various bright students died in weird and wonderful ways, and eventually you find out that the science-mad neurologist 'dean' of the school really just took their brains and hooked them up to a giant mainframe.

    It all ends with the plug being pulled on the project when they're found out, but the students have already copied their minds all over the Internet (even though such a thing was not popul

Murphy's Law, that brash proletarian restatement of Godel's Theorem. -- Thomas Pynchon, "Gravity's Rainbow"

Working...