Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Political History of the Future: Altered Carbon at Lawyers, Guns & Money

My latest Political History of the Future column discusses Altered Carbon, which recently received an appropriately neon-lit, grimy-yet-expensive-looking adaptation from Netflix.  My emphasis in this column, however, is more on the original, 2002 novel by Richard Morgan.  I reread the book before watching the show, for the first time in close to 15 years, and wasn't terribly surprised to discover that some of its hardboiled-cyberpunk tropes hadn't aged terribly well.  Nevertheless, Altered Carbon remains a terrific thriller with a great central idea, one that Morgan explores with insight and verve.
Peeking in between these crime story elements, however, are glimpses of a world in which your body has become just another one of your possessions, like a car or a phone. Something you can insure. Something you can trade up. Something the state can, under certain circumstances, lay claim to. Something the rich get better versions of.
The show, in comparison, only glosses the surface of these ideas.  It's more focused on the fairly basic idea of immortality being unevenly distributed, which is only where the novel starts exploring the implications of personality storage and transfer.  It's a fun watch, but if you found its ideas intriguing, you might be better off picking up the book.

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