There’s an old adage that admittedly most of the younger generation knows only variations of; I grew up with my parents informing me that I shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but it quickly became “Don’t judge a song by it’s cover” and “Don’t judge a movie by the TV show (/ Video Game / Etc)”. But, per usual, I digress. Over the last year, there’s been an explosion of amazing Science Fiction shows entering our sphere of entertainment – from dystopian movies like Elysium, Interstellar and The Arrival to television shows spanning from Black Mirror, Dark Matter, the latest Star Trek: Discovery, Dark, The Expanse and Incorporated (ps. Kudos to Netflix and SciFy for their creative and mind bending content!). Until now, I hadn’t much found one as enthralling in both story line and technological potentially as Netflix’s Altered Carbon, and the second I found out it stemmed from a novel series by Richard K Morgan – I had to see how they measured up to each other.
Set in the 2500s, in a world that’s evolved out of our current San Francisco, Digital Human Freight is currency and your memories are stored in a cortical stack from birth; though your body has an end date – your soul no longer does. Takeshi Kovacs is a man of many hats, and sleeves – Quellest, Envoy and now Detective, he’s been brought back from the ether to solve a murder…or, has he? Over the course of ten high-octane, vividly lit episodes, we dive into Kovac’s past, present and potential futures. Thanks to Netflix’s formatting, we sped through the series in a weekend, injecting ourselves over and over with Altered Carbon’s universe and potentialities. It’s a slippery slope for me to fall digital head over digital heels with a concept, because I will do my best to uncover anything and everything about it; loopholes, cut chapters, the unnatural evolution of characters. Low and behold, I discovered that Altered Carbon (like most good things that just came about this year), is a remake.
Originally a trilogy of novels, the Takeshi Kovac’s series – consisting of Altered Carbon, Broken Angels and Woken Furies – is even more apocalyptic, militaristic, sexualized and dystopian than even the series would have one imagine. I’ve never once believed that Netflix held back on a show, but the raw carnal nature of Kovac and Miriam’s relationship was heavier in the book, as were the guts, gore and good stuff that I thought they would have surely capitalized on for television; not that I minded though, I love when books and shows truly can deviate. Now, the first half of the book was spot on – however, slowly but surely the show begins to deviate and take liberties of its own.
I have to say: both the novels and the show become worthwhile, altered, story lines – but each remain equally compelling for their own reasons. Not surprisingly, the critical acclaim the show has received almost matches the book., which earned the prestigious Phillip K Dick award back in 2003 when it was penned. Now that I’ve migrated to the second novel in the series, Broken Angels, and have the third to look forward to (Woken Furies), I can’t help but think of how the show could surpass or manipulate the books to become it’s own universe all together. For as much as I love the adaptation to television and the presence of more of a female protagonist in Ortega, I very much prefer the novels, with their raw grit and truer dystopian lone wolf feel to Kovacs.
To learn more on the series, show and author – head to the links below; I promise you: this is a ride you will not want to end. To those of you that both read the series and watched the show, what did you think of the nuanced differences and what did you prefer?