Author Richard K. Morgan sold the rights to his book Altered Carbon to Matrix producer Joel Silver and Warner Bros. back in 2006 when it was first published. Since then the project seems to have died a quiet death . . .

One however easily understands why Silver bought the movie rights in the first place. Joel Silver made his reputation in Hollywood as the producer of action movie franchises such as Die Hard and Lethal Weapon amongst others back in the 1980s. (His most recent credits include Book of Eli, Sherlock Holmes and Ninja Assassin.)

Being part-SF, part-detective noir thriller and part-action movie, Altered Carbon fits the bill perfectly as it often feels like the novelization of a Hollywood spec script. Just how spec is it? One scene has the hero going mano a mano with an opponent in an arena of death. The action climax has the villain plummeting dramatically to her death – just like they do in the movies . . .

Here’s the plot according to the back flap:

It’s the twenty-fifth century, and advances in technology have redefined life itself. A person’s consciousness can now be stored in the brain and downloaded into a new body (or “sleeve”), making death nothing more than a minor blip on a screen.

Onetime U.N. Envoy Takeshi Kovacs has been killed before, but his last death was particularly painful. Resleeved into a body in Bay City (formerly San Francisco), Kovacs is thrown into the dark heart of a shady, far-reaching conspiracy that is vicious even by the standards of a society that treats existence as something that can be bought and sold. For Kovacs, the shell that blew a hole in his chest was only the beginning.

Altered Carbon is one of those books we desperately wanted to like, but somehow didn’t find as gripping or interesting as we’d hoped.

The New York Times Book Review called it “rousing” adding that readers should check out the book if they have “ever wondered what kind of science fiction Raymond Chandler might have written for a futuristic Philip Marlowe.” Brit author Peter F. Hamilton (whom we admire greatly) had the following to say: “An astonishing piece of work . . . a wonderful sf idea . . . Altered Carbon hits the floor running and then starts to accelerate. Intriguing and inventive in equal proportions and refuses to let go until the last page.”

Maybe it’s just us, but we found the plotting too complicated. Often it felt as if one needed a flowchart with photographs of the various characters to keep track of everybody. (“Who the heck is Irene Elliot again?” I scratched my head at one point for instance.) Simplifying the plot for a two hours or so’s running time would be the screenwriter’s first task. Still, it shouldn’t be too difficult. The book rests upon a few action sequences and the director only needs to keep things moving briskly in-between them.

There are also a few graphic sex scenes which would no doubt have to be excised as movies do not have any sex in them anymore.

For the rest, Altered Carbon is a by-the-numbers futuristic action / detective flick except for the whole chip in the brain that means people don’t die anymore thing.

Only problem is that that isn’t particularly novel or original either – the whole body swapping thing has been a science fiction genre staple for years now. Heck, it has even been made into a straight-to-DVD cheapie titled XChange starring one of the Baldwin brothers back in 2000!



blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest Headlines

Most Popular

Copyright © 1997-forward James O'Ehley/The Sci-Fi Movie Page (unless where indicated otherwise).