Imagine a world where the mind has been digitized, where every man, woman and child in the universe has been downloaded into a "cortical stack" that sits in the spine and runs whatever body it's attached to, whether it be the body a person was born in, a genetically-engineered and boosted custom form-- or someone else's body entirely.
In the world of Richard K. Morgan's "Altered Carbon", Takeshi Kovacs is an ex-envoy (think well respected super-soldier) that ends up caught in the web of a massive conspiracy between two ageless members of the upper crust of high technocracy on the cradle world of Earth. The book is amazing-- part detective thriller, part action and mystery, and all sci-fi, "Altered Carbon" is a masterpiece of vivid and eye-snaring imagery. Offering everything from the luxurious fighting arenas of the rich and chic to the shanty towns and wrecked landmarks of San Francisco's future underside, Takeshi Kovacs' world is well fleshed out, and you can't help but feel like a part of it. Even the characters are well written-- this book sold the whole author for me. Richard K. Morgan is a genius.
Don't be scared by the size of this book though-- weighing in at just over five hundred pages, it can look like a daunting read, but "Altered Carbon" will grab you and keep you locked into it's pages so firmly you won't look up to see what's going on around you until you've finished it. It's smooth, slick and altogether gritty in a very film noir kind of way, with all the originality and inventiveness we've come to expect from excellent writers, writers who last through the test of time. I give this one a solid five stars out of five, even though it deserves at least ten.