Altered Carbon – My Kind of Cyberpunk

Altered Carbon

“Where is the voice that said altered carbon would free us from the cells of our flesh? The vision that said we would be angels.” – Richard K. Morgan, Altered Carbon

Dark Fly
Altered Carbon Book CoverWhen I was considerably young, (Well, I still am, so I guess younger, I mean) I wrote an abomination of a story entitled “Dark Fly.” As much as I like it before, I have no idea how I’ve conjured that story out of my head. How did it materialise in my thoughts? How did it take form? Just how?

The story involved alien insects that inhabit humans as hosts. Only after a few years have I realised that this concept is not exactly new – cue The Host, Surrogates, Immotel (ad vitam) and a whole lot of other pertinent creative detritus that may or may not have involved alien insects. However, alien life and insane technological advancement have never been far from my thoughts. Much of these are a latent affinity for the cyberpunk genre.


Cyberpunk, of course, is a subgenre of science fiction in a futuristic setting that tends to focus on a combination of lowlife and high tech, featuring advanced technological and scientific achievements, such as artificial intelligence and cybernetics, juxtaposed with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order. Also, yes, I’ve lifted this description from Wikipedia.

In case you’re new or you haven’t figured it out yet, I show lots of tell-tale signs of my attraction to this genre. Just take a look at my previous posts:

Would You Upload Your Consciousness to the Cloud?

Are You Talking to a Real Person Online?

Genetic Enhancement – Yay or Nay?

Is a Totalitarian Government Good for the World?

It’s Happening – Robots Replace Writers!

Singularity, and Why We Should Be Wary of It

And of course:

Westworld – An Intimate Look on Artificial Intelligence

Besides the fact that most of my futuristic visions are inspired by Starcraft with lots of twilight doodads, dirty white Terran tech or neglected machines, floating spaceships, and glowing ditches on the ground, I do think a part of our future resembles the Blade Runner-esque world of Altered Carbon.

Cortical StackTo give you a backgrounder, in the year 2384, a person’s memories can be decanted in a disk-shaped device called a cortical stack, which is implanted in the vertebrae at the back of the neck. These storage devices are of alien design and have been reverse engineered and mass produced. Also, apparently religious coding can be encoded on them. Physical human or synthetic bodies called “sleeves” are used as vessels that can accept any stack. Just think about the possibilities of that!

Takeshi Kovacs

Takeshi Kovacs, a political operative with mercenary skills (and of course, the righteousness of the protagonist with just the right amount of violence in him for the audience to still find him adorable), wakes up 250 years after his previous sleeve is terminated.

He is given the choice to either spend the rest of time in prison for his crimes, or to help solve the murder of Laurens Bancroft, one of the wealthiest men in the settled worlds and probably a citizen of Elysium if it existed in this universe. Needless to say, Kovacs chooses to solve the crime and explores the world of imbalance – not much different from what we have now.


The reason why this is my kind of cyberpunk is because it’s one of the most accurate portrayals of the future as I see it to be – not too much like Aeon Flux, but also not too polished like, let’s say, The Golden Compass. (Okay, alright. I know The Golden Compass is a fantasy set in an alternate universe. Stop busting my balls, and just focus on the mis-en-scene a bit.) It’s a nice tickle in the mind, and of course, the season just makes you want to watch more. This is a show I highly recommend (despite the mixed reviews).

I mean just look at the images above and look at this shot of mine of the Lujiazui area of Shanghai from the Bund,

Don’t they look like the present already?