Altered Carbon - Richard K. Morgan

This novel is too long. It's actually over 500 pages long, but such a piece of pulpy sci-fi should really be done in half the time. It's all a bit derivative. The first half feels like a private detective novel set in the future for no particular reason beyond it allowing the author to be extra violent and unrealistic. The second half justifies its setting by turning into sub-standard violent early Gibson. Oh, and the main character is some kind of super-trained remorseless ninja thing. As I said, there's plenty of violence, but it's the kind of thing Jon Courtenay Grimwood does far better. The central sci-fi idea of the novel is that of having your identity stored on a chip (a slug of 'altered carbon') and being transferable, but the real implications are only weakly addressed. It's the kind of thing Greg Egan does a lot better.

So, a pulpy mish-mash that's reminiscent of, but not as good as, half a dozen other writers. It's overly long, with a plot that does twist and turn, but doesn't really feel like it's going anywhere. Quite disappointing.

Posted 2008-12-18.