Altered Carbon is one of my all-time favorite cyberpunk novels and is probably one of the few which I rank up with Neuromancer, Snow Crash, and Blade Runner. It's a sci-fi noir with blackmail, sex, murder, and an antihero protagonist who verges on being completely psychotic but never quite crosses the line into villain (at least until the second or third book). So, I was incredibly exited about the announcement of a series being made by Netflix. Netflix, like HBO, is one of the few networks I know who could do a proper R-rated genre story.
I was also excited about the cast members of Joel Kinnaman (Robocop, Suicide Squad) and James Purefoy (Rome, The Following, Solomon Kane) being among the cast. Dichen Lachmen (Agents of SHIELD), Michael Eklund (Wynonna Earp) Hayley Law (Riverdale), and Will Yun Lee (Sleeping Dogs) also add a huge benefit to the show's star power even though those are mostly things only geeks like me would like. I didn't know Martha Higareda before this show but her role as Detective Ortega makes me want to see her in anything else she does.
|Nice bits from the book.|
So, was it good? Yeah, sort of. No, let me be fair, it's really-really good. However, it's a good which isn't as good as the novel because it goes off the rails toward the end due to the fact they want to streamline the story as well as improve it in places. This isn't always a bad thing as I consider Blade Runner to be far better than Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Here, however, all of the changes basically seem to be designed to make the story more personal when it didn't really need to be personal at all. Its changes can be likened to changing the Maltese Falcon to having Gutman turn out to be Sam Spade's long lost brother and making sure the villains get locked up at the end. You can do it well but it's a bit contrived, to say the least. It isn't a spoiler that fans of the books will find Takeshi Kovacs much-much closer to the events of the setting than he is in the books and this is annoying single time it happens.
|Martha Higareda is gorgeous and tough at once.|
Generally, though, this is very much in the spirit of the books and is all about the class struggle and misuse of technology by the super rich. In the future, most of humanity lives in squallor and while Methuselah (those who are centuries old) engage in their most depraved fantasies. Deprived of any fear of death or judgement by the apparent immortality which Stacks provide, they have all seemingly become evil psychopaths. That's a bit blunter than the books where Laurens Bancroft is a dirty old lecher but not the monstrous deviant he is in the show but hammers on the themes of the book--which is money is a trap that all of society has fallen into.
|Miriam is a bit disappointing.|
There's a couple of weak links in the show like Kristin Lehman who has the unenviable task of trying to portray the World's Most Beautiful and Desirable WomanTM. That's a heavy task in itself but is also coupled with the fact she's supposed to be a genius and incredibly dangerous but never rises above petty in her scenes. There's also a few unnecessary subplots which seemed designed to make us care about characters right before they're killed. The series also seems very skeptical of Sleeving technology, which is weird since the books aren't even though it is very off-kilter technology (and amounts to mental cloning writ large).
|He needs to get to work on Sleeping Dogs 2, stat.|
In conclusion, I very much enjoyed Altered Carbon the series but it didn't hold itself together for all ten episodes. The show is entertaining but tried too much to make it entwined with Takeshi's personal life and past when it was perfectly serviceable as a murder mystery he's roped into. In any case, I recommend it to all cyberpunk fans but note it's not perfect.