Enjoy this Monday with Mildred and A 241 Review!
The Book | Review by Mildred
Disclaimer: I have not seen the television series. Though I intend to as soon as it’s available on Netflix because author Richard Morgan has given the screen a lot of really cool material to work with. The book follows mysterious hard-boiled bad ass Takeshi Kovacs who has been hired by a man determined to prove he was murdered, and money is no object. Yes, the guy’s head was blown completely off, which is the only way to truly kill someone, unless money is no object and your persona is automatically downloaded every forty eight hours from the “stack” in your head. Simply upload into a new “sleeve”, aka a vat grown body, and you’re back in business and eager to find your killer.
Science fiction has often given us mind bending ideas, but it’s not terribly often paired so beautifully with noir. Solving this noir mystery means unraveling Morgan’s science fiction constructs to get to the bottom of it, using those same constructs. Morgan has imagined a far future world in amazing detail, exploring many avenues of what it would mean to a person’s humanity, and the soul of civilization, if Real Death became something far off in your future, whether by constant resleeving or two hundred year prison sentences stuck in a hard drive, or the wrenching reality that most people can only afford their original sleeve. Every technological advance has affected humanity in far reaching ways that feel very real and believable in Altered Carbon.
The noirish characters will be familiar to any fan of the genre, and there are many except for the typical star, the femme fatale. There are several women characters who could use some saving, but none of them are weak in any way, and really every character is struggling and could use a hand, even Kovacs’ hotel. We may be massively advanced technologically in Morgan’s future humanity, but we still know how to throw a good dystopia party. I looked at a couple of lists of noir concepts and discovered I wasn’t wrong in thinking Morgan incorporates every single one that has ever been used, including rain.
My biggest problems with the book are the foray into torture scenes and sometimes uneven prose. Several new books I’ve read lately included torture and I just don’t want to read it. And sometimes he misses the noir mark, as in this attempt at description. “The strain on her face was still there, like weathered rocks under a thin mantle of snow.” Yeah, I don’t see that, sorry. Other times he nails the noir feel. “There’s a sameness to street life. On every world I’ve ever been, the same underlying patterns play out, flaunt and vaunt, buy and sell, like some distilled essence of human behavior seeping out from under whatever clanking political machine has been dropped on it from above.”
I recommend this book if you want to read a great pairing of science fiction and noir. There are many, many layers in the plot and the meaning of life according to Morgan. Each element of Altered Carbon is beautifully rendered so even if you only like one or the other you will enjoy the story. Though if you think about it, it’s no surprise that noir and science fiction should fit so well together. Both are highly imaginative worlds that play off our real one to showcase an idea the writer wants to play with rather than simply setting characters in the real world. It’s only surprising that this is not done more often.
The Netflix Series | Review by CFR
OVERALL: Wow. Now that took me on a wild ride and it was good.
POINTS: I loved the multi-racial cast and the many women in all sorts of roles. There is still 1% abuse in this world, but races and genders seem to participate equally. I also loved that I had no idea how the heroes were going to get out of the problems they got in to and that always makes me happy.
PITFALLS: I liked that the men and women were both naked, but, wow, after a while it was a bit much for me. It takes me out of the show because I think of the poor actor/actress having to be naked in front of so many people. (I never would have thought I was a prude!) I also don’t like it when women are expected to be nude for entire scenes. I hope that the actress is treated respectfully during those shooting days.
FEMALE CHARACTER(S): Oh so many!! Kristin Orgeta played by Martha Higareda, Dichen Lachman as Reileen Kawahara, Hayley Law as Lizzie Elliot, Tamara Taylor as Oumou Prescott, Kristin Lehman as Miriam Bancroft, and my absolute fave Renée Elise Goldsberry playing Quellcrist Falconer. AMEN WHAT A GREAT CHARACTER! There are many more and this makes me very very very happy. Well done!
CULTURAL PITFALL(S): I mentioned the nudity in PITFALLS but that’s really it. So not much in the way of pitfalls here.
HIGH POINT(S): Inclusive cast, great writing, and woman creator – Laeta Kalogridis! PLUS! OMG! Thanks to science fiction, the same character was both Asian and European and played by two different actors – Joel Kinnaman and Will Yun Lee. So awesome!
BECHDEL TEST (Website): 3 of 3, depending on episode.
RACIAL BECHDEL TEST (Website): 3 of 3!
DVD/BLU-RAY WORTHY: Yes! Or in this case, it is never going off my Watchlist.
LION PAW PRINTS: 3.5 of 5. Wow.
Altered Carbon | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix