Research Report: Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

I am currently doing research for my next novel, the first installment in a private detective mystery series set in a near-future America where many laws allow citizens to file lawsuits against those who violate these statutes. In these research reports, I summarize what I’m reading and how that book helped me think about my project. In this report: Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan.

Cover of Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

Why I Read It:

Like Gun, with Occasional Music, this novel is also regularly mentioned as one of the best examples of dystopian/sci-fi detective fiction. I wanted to see what aspects made it a standout in the genre.

What I Learned:

There’s a lot to distinguish Altered Carbon from the Philip Marlowe novels, and even from another futuristic detective story in Gun, with Occasional Music. But the central character is relatively consistent across the genre: a cynical investigator with a high tolerance for abuse and a dogged determination to uncover truth in a world of crime and corruption.

My Biggest Takeaway:

While I want my novels to take place in a nearer future setting than Morgan’s imagined twenty-fifth-century universe and rely less on leaps in technology, I admire the way he throws readers into an unfamiliar world without holding their hands and explaining every little detail. And the problems of mistaken identity caused by the ability to transfer individual minds to different bodies (“sleeves”) is an issue that should arise with a related technology in my novels.

Who Would Like It:

Fans of imaginative, immersive, thrilling cyberpunk science fiction.

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