Cheeseburger Gothic

Altered Carbon

Posted February 23 into Telly by John Birmingham

I finished my slow binge of Altered Carbon on Netflix this week. Loved it. I loved the book to when I read it over a decade ago, but that was so long that apart from one or two standout scenes (the concealed mini guns in the hotel, for instance) I had pretty much forgotten everything. It wasn't a bad way to go into the series.

I'm not sure how faithful the producers were to a black letter adaptation of Richard Morgan's original text, and frankly I don't think it matters. This was a powerful piece of cinematic storytelling, a rich combination of science-fiction and old school film noir.

The central conceit of the story is the encoding of human memory, a process which allows those who can afford it to live forever. I do seem to recall that the novel did investigate the social and political implications of the technology, the way that the super rich effectively claimed immortality for themselves, becoming ever less human the longer they lived. But I'm pretty sure the makers of the TV show really leaned into the idea with a lot more vigour. Altered Carbon was a much better forensic analysis of the consequences of a super concentration of wealth in a sci-fi setting than, say, Matt Damon's Elysium. It was violent, stylish (with a lot of visial callbacks to the original Blade Runner), thoughtful and, most importantly of all, just great fun.

No sooner had I finished the last episode than I looked up to discover that Amazon had announced they would be doing their own adaptation of Iain M Banks Culture novel, Consider Phlebus. I am almost as excited for that as I am for a second series of Carbon. It feels like we might be living through a new golden age of sci-fi, at least on the small screen.

15 Responses to ‘Altered Carbon’

Bangar ducks in to say...

Posted February 23
And in other Sci Fi new transparent Aluminum

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damian mumbles...

Posted February 23
This may be the thing that leads me to get Netflix. I started re-reading the series back in December when Morgan tweeted about the trailer. I interleave my reading these days -- it's what I switch to for warming down whenever I'm sick of the 10 or so textbooks I'm reading otherwise -- so I've just now finished Broken Angels and I'm about to start Woken Furies.

I've generally been much more a fan of your Chandler style hard-boiled noirish detective fiction than I have been of milfic (present company excepted of course). Grossman's Life and Fate, and anything by Heinrich Böll are standouts, too. I really enjoyed James Crumley's two detectives, both sort of halfway in between, both sort of soulmates of the Takeshi Kovacs I get from Morgan's novels. Mexican Tree Duck in particular does this sort of straddling of noir and milfic with enough flourish to be literary, if you squint your eyes a little.

Anyway the interesting and curious thing is that of the three novels Morgan wrote in the Kovacs series, I found I liked then in ascending order: Altered Carbon least, though I did like it a lot, and Woken Furies the most. Even though there's little trace of noir by that stage.

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jl has opinions thus...

Posted February 23
Altered Carbon: One of my all time favs. Must see series.

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Murphy_of_Missouri reckons...

Posted February 24
It couldn't be Al Reynolds or Neal Asher.

It had to be this asshole.


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Barnesm mumbles...

Posted February 25
Yep, Amazon releases a Culture series, that's the final tipping point that has me signing up for Amazon Prime. They almost had me with the live-action Tick, and I would like to see their series. 'The Man in the High Castle'. But there are so many streaming services now.

Murphy_of_Missouri has opinions thus...

Posted February 25
Watch Luke Cage.

Murphy_of_Missouri puts forth...

Posted March 3
The same guy who played Alexander Hamilton in the HBO miniseries John Adams.

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sibeen swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 25
And how has Mr Morgan ticked you off, Murph?

Loved teh book and binged on the series. Grouse. Even SWMBO enjoyed it and she's not normally a fan of anything to do with sci-fi.

Murphy_of_Missouri swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 25
A long, old story that really isn't worth investing time in. Needless to say, never bought a stitch of his work, not planning on watching the show.

I'll wait for the Banks project and see if that is actually worth watching. Surely has to be better than The Expanse.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon would have you know...

Posted February 28
Started on this. Not too bad but i get a feel of daytime soap when i'm watching it. The main actor (had to look him up - Joel Kinnaman) seems a bit too clean cut or . . . . something. Not really gelling with me but going to hang in there for the rest. Haven't read the book.

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she_jedi mutters...

Posted March 2
I really loved this; I'd planned on watching an episode a week amongst all the other shows I have on the go at the moment and just gave up and binged it. I'm going to Singapore for the weekend and I've downloaded it to my Netflix app on my tablet to re-watch on the plane. I'm also reading the first book as too much Carbon is not enough :)

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jl swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 20
Finally pulled the trigger and got Netflix. The very first thing I sat down and watched was Altered Carbon. Burned through nearly entire first season today.

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jason is gonna tell you...

Posted April 20
To both JL and JB. Less watching Netflix more writing. I am seriously struggling for a good read.

jl reckons...

Posted April 20
Fortunately there are only so many episodes of Altered Carbon.

jl is gonna tell you...

Posted April 21
...And, I just finished them all. That series was very good, although it did deviate from the book somewhat. And there is nothing cooler than a finale with swords, or Ortega taking her revenge. Excellent.

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