2020 will probably see the release of the much anticipated second season of Netflix’s Altered Carbon. During the summer, I completely missed this, author Richard K. Morgan released a new novel set in the Altered Carbon universe – Download Blues. It continues the gritty Cyberpunk world for the first time in 14 years – since Woken Furies.
So what is Altered Carbon all about? It is set in a future several hundred years from now in which mankind has conquered a large protectorate amongst the stars. It’s world consists of large urban conglomerates with the rich living at the top and everybody else down below. A practical form of immortality has been found by transferring a mind to a new body – resleeving. If a backup of a persons ‘stack’ is available. Otherwise it is real death. The rich and powerful can afford resleeving whilst the poor might have to make do with rejects and bodies of criminals whose minds are incarcerated.
Enter Takeshi Kovacs – once a rebellious soldier or Envoy who became a mercenary. Takeshi has since been in and out of trouble. In Download Blues he is detained on the planet Sovami after causing significant amount of ‘organic damage’ in a bar brawl. Two detectives, Djian and Marvin, think he might be able to help with a homicide investigation.
Quickly Kovacs becomes embroiled in a deadly prostitution ring. Mercenaries use cloned sleeves of famous people – mostly women and coupled with a sexual A.I. – as escorts for those that pay well. But things take a turn for the worst when a cloned sleeved of Kovacs tries to kill him.I won’t go into any more detail on the story of this graphical novel. Suffice it to say it remains graphic until the end.
Kovacs does what he does
With Altered Carbon Download Blues author Richard K. Morgan has created another gripping story themed around the worst elements of our own society: the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer and all the abuse of power that come with it. Kovacs is an very cynical character, beyond just the standard required of Cyberpunk. By his own account it is hard for him to give a shit about anything. And that may be a problem of the story because it is never satisfactorily explained why he does. Why did he accept the offer by the detectives to get a lenient sentence if he helped them? Why did he pursue the mercenaries when he was freed from them?
Takeshi gives a number of cynical reasons: his honor, his sensitivities to violence against innocence, his Envoy code. Use any reason you want but Takeshi Kovacs continues the pursuit.
Overall Altered Carbon is the perfect example of Cyberpunk. Along with Blade Runner and Neuromancer. Yet Altered Carbon takes it to another level. It is more gratuitous with violence, sexualization and politics. The author has managed to take the concepts of sleeving and fully exploit its potential – storywise. Such a game changing technology will have serious repurcussions and those are fully displayed. As such this graphical novel transcends normal science fiction.
As for season 2 of Altered Carbon, I am not certain when it will release in 2020. February is starting to look unlikely. However, as Kovacs can assume any identity with resleeving a new actor will play him. Anthony Mackie A.K.A. The Falcon will assume the role of Takeshi Kovacs. Downloads Blues can be purchased from Amazon for $ 13.88. I hope you enjoyed my review of Download Blues. Please leave a comment below and say what you thought of it.