TO SCREEN: ALTERED CARBON (TBA)
Richard K. Morgan sold the rights to his book Altered Carbon
producer Joel Silver and Warner Bros. back in 2006 when it was first
published. Since then the project seems to have died a quiet death . . .
One however easily understands why Silver bought the movie
rights in the first place. Joel Silver made his reputation in Hollywood as
the producer of action movie franchises such as Die Hard and
Lethal Weapon amongst others back in the 1980s. (His most recent
credits include Book of Eli,
Sherlock Holmes and Ninja Assassin.)
Being part-SF, part-detective noir thriller and
part-action movie, Altered Carbon fits the bill perfectly as it
often feels like the novelization of a Hollywood spec script. Just how
spec is it? One scene has the hero going mano a mano with an opponent in
an arena of death. The action climax has the villain plummeting
dramatically to her death – just like they do in the movies . . .
Here’s the plot according to the back flap:
It’s the twenty-fifth century, and advances in
technology have redefined life itself. A person’s consciousness can now be
stored in the brain and downloaded into a new body (or “sleeve”), making
death nothing more than a minor blip on a screen.
Onetime U.N. Envoy Takeshi Kovacs has been killed
before, but his last death was particularly painful. Resleeved into a body
in Bay City (formerly San Francisco), Kovacs is thrown into the dark heart
of a shady, far-reaching conspiracy that is vicious even by the standards
of a society that treats existence as something that can be bought and
sold. For Kovacs, the shell that blew a hole in his chest was only the
Altered Carbon is one of those books we
desperately wanted to like, but somehow didn’t find as gripping or
interesting as we’d hoped.
The New York Times Book Review called it
“rousing” adding that readers should check out the book if they have “ever
wondered what kind of science fiction Raymond Chandler might have written
for a futuristic Philip Marlowe.” Brit author Peter F. Hamilton (whom we
admire greatly) had the following to say: “An astonishing piece of work .
. . a wonderful sf idea . . . Altered Carbon hits the floor running and
then starts to accelerate. Intriguing and inventive in equal proportions
and refuses to let go until the last page.”
Maybe it’s just us, but we found the plotting too
complicated. Often it felt as if one needed a flowchart with photographs
of the various characters to keep track of everybody. (“Who the heck is
Irene Elliot again?” I scratched my head at one point for instance.)
Simplifying the plot for a two hours or so’s running time would be the
screenwriter’s first task. Still, it shouldn’t be too difficult. The book
rests upon a few action sequences and the director only needs to keep
things moving briskly in-between them.
There are also a few graphic sex scenes which would no
doubt have to be excised as movies do not have any sex in them anymore.
For the rest, Altered Carbon is a by-the-numbers futuristic action
/ detective flick except for the whole chip in the brain that means people
don’t die anymore thing.
Only problem is that that isn’t particularly
novel or original either – the whole body swapping thing has been a
science fiction genre staple for years now. Heck, it has even been made
into a straight-to-DVD cheapie titled XChange
starring one of the Baldwin brothers back in 2000!