Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Altered Carbon (by Richard K. Morgan)

This is by far the best hardboiled/noir SF novel I've ever read.

Future (25th century) human world is dominated by UN Protectorate with many colonies scattered through the known universe. Death is not a problem at all (except for Catholics due to religious consideration). One can simply download himself/herself from the "stack"(harddisk) into the "sleeve"(body, not necessary the original one that he/she wore before) right after being killed, as long as one has enough money to pay the bill. So there are also "soul transmission" between distant planets, which can be done by FTL needlecasting. Envoys, special agents of UN have modified their neural systems such that they can adjust to different bodies, different environments right after being "resleeved."

Takeshi Kovacs (柯伐契, 武), the protagonist of the story, is an ex-Envoy from one of the off-world colonies called Harland's world. He is hired by Laurence Bancroft, a rich man and a "Meth" (stands for Methuselah) on Earth to investigate Bancroft's previous death. But finding the truth is a painful way for Mr. Kovacs.... especially in the dark/violent/lustful San Francisco (Bay City) ....

The novel combines sex, violence, and desire into an intricate structure. I was stunned by some sections of virtual interrogations and was amazed by the vivid/lengthy sex scenes. But the most important of all: The ending is great.

(1) The movie rights was sold to famous producer Joel Silver and Warner Bros. (wow!)
(2) This novel is 2003 PKD award winner.


Richard K. Morgan 算是這幾年竄起的新秀,第一本小說 Altered Carbon 就拿下了2003 年的 PKD award。接下來又路續出了兩本同一主角,Takeshi Kovacs,的續集:Broken Angels 和 Woken Furies。

Altered Carbon 的世界觀 (發現我每次一開始都喜歡講設定): 西元二十五世紀,聯合國攝政統治人類宇宙,包含許多 off-world 殖民地。死亡不再是個問題,人類可以把意識備份起來,再下載到身體上。另外,人們也可藉由這種意識傳送方法在不同星球間移動。

主角 Takeshi Kovacs 在主線故事還沒開始時就已經被掛掉了,被存放在硬碟裡面。他出生於,長於 Harland's World,一個由日本黑道和東歐移民建立的殖民地。他混過日本黑道,最後成為 UN 的特別幹員 "Envoy"。因為有經過神經改造,傳送下載後可以很快適應不同的身體 (穿著不同身體到宇宙各處去打仗)。故事描述 Kovacs 醒來後發現他被下載到一個陌生的身體上,而自己身處地球。已經活了三百多年的企業家 Bancroft 雇用Kovacs 調查自己前一次的死因...。Kovacs 逐漸抽絲剝繭,不過也同時陷入另一股勢力的威脅。

我覺得這本小說雖然充滿了暴力和色情,但是份量拿捏得相當好。動作和調查的比例也安排得恰到好處,不會讓人昏昏欲睡。裡面一些設定也很有趣 (像是虛擬刑求和色情小廣告的部分),從小地方刻畫出未來舊金山的血腥/黑暗。一開始 Kovacs 和 Bancroft的會面也讓我不自覺地想起 Blade Runner 裡面 Deckard 和 Tyrell 對話的場景。Richard K. Morgan 把 noir/hardboiled 風格很有技巧地融入了科幻小說中,希望拍成電影後能夠延續這個風格。 (華納兄弟已買下電影版權,製片是 Joel Silver)

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