I grew up loving pulpy detective stories of the 40s. Sam Spade and The Thin Man were my heroes from another time. They dealt in visceral reality and tarnished ideals, but still meted justice to the deserving. However, because of the mores of the time period, the more explicit side could only be implied.
“Altered Carbon” takes the Gumshoe genre mixes in the concept of a Ronin (A Japanese samurai who no longer has a liege lord and becomes a sword for hire), has the mystery take place hundreds of years in the future, but still keeps the setting of the Rainy City (Seattle, My Home) and Bay City (Future San Francisco). What results is greatest pulp detective story that I have ever read. The story touches upon issues of morality and our technology stripping us naked of our humanity.
In the future, we are able to download our memories onto flash drives and re-upload them into “Sleeves” (bodies grown or bought). Crime is punished by you losing your body and putting your consciousness on a server where it will remain for as long as 200+ years, making you return to a body not your own and family scattered in time. We have colonized worlds throughout the galaxy and corporations and the super rich rule us all. The wealthy are able to have unlimited bodies to download into, giving them immortality and total perversion.
Takeshi Kovac is taken out of storage by an extremely wealthy man – Lorenz Bancroft- who is over 300 years old because he wants to find out who murdered him. I’m going to be cautious about spoiling anything in this excellent book, but I will tease some more as to why it should be read.
Kovac was chosen because he a former “Envoy” (hyper-trained marine of the future). He searches through brothels both high and low end to solve the murder. He battles pimps, robots, enhanced humans, and virtual torture. Be warned, it has the steamiest sex scenes I have ever read in my entire life. If sex, violence, and mystery doesn’t interest, keep browsing, but you’re making a mistake.