Recommendation: Altered Carbon: Download Blues

Download Blues coverI posted a while back on the Netflix series, Altered Carbon, based on the books by Richard K. Morgan.  The series presents a universe where everyone has a device implanted in their brainstem shortly after birth that records their personality, so that if they die, the device can be moved to either another human body, or an android one.

Morgan’s take on this arrangement is pretty bleak, presenting a largely dystopian future, where only the rich can afford new bodies on demand, or to be backed up in case their stack (their implanted device) is destroyed.  Regular people do get stacks, but they usually can’t afford new bodies until they’ve used up the one they have, and most people stop after three or four and put themselves in long term storage, to be waked up only for major family events.

Despite once being a big comic fan, I don’t read many graphic novels these days.  I decided to try this one, Altered Carbon: Download Blues, because I was already familiar with the writer and the character, and I was interested in what Morgan might do with it after returning to Takeshi Kovacs after so long.

The answer is a typical Kovacs story, with greed, corruption, struggling police, and a justice system completely bypassed by the powerful and elite.  Kovacs is his usual cynical jaded self with his own sense of justice.  He doesn’t come across quite as vicious or angry as in the novels, although that might be a factor of our limited ability to be in his head in a graphic novel.

Be warned: there’s a fair amount of gore and nudity in this graphic novel.  But if you saw the show, this shouldn’t surprise you.

My only disappointments are that the story could have been longer, and it doesn’t really move Kovacs’ arc forward.  It’s just another episode in his life, albeit an entertaining one.

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26 Responses to Recommendation: Altered Carbon: Download Blues

  1. Wyrd Smythe says:

    I didn’t watch the show, so I plead complete ignorance here. Think I should check it out?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I usually ask people if they like Blade Runner 2049. If you do, then you’ll probably enjoy the series. It’s pretty dark.

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      • Wyrd Smythe says:

        As I vaguely recall, I was fairly underwhelmed. I barely remember seeing it, so I obviously found it unmemorable.

        I’m okay with dark in movies, but I’m less inclined towards it in TV shows that spend so many hours in my life. (It’s why I rejected Breaking Bad.) If a story balances dark with light, I like that a lot better. (Don’t really care for stories that are all light, either. 🙂 )

        For me it’s quality of story and the extent it takes me some place new. Altered Carbon struck me as potentially “been there, seen that.”

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        • AC isn’t a clone of BR, but it has a similar noirish feel, with the added take of its particularly limited version of mind copying (which preserves character jeopardy). And the AC universe is actually broader and less claustrophobic than the BR one. But if BR didn’t work for you, then there’s a good chance AC won’t either.

          You could always try the first episode and see how it feels.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Wyrd Smythe says:

            True, I could indeed. (With so many TV shows on Prime, I’ve been enjoying watching the first episodes of some old favorites. That could easily be extended to new shows.)

            Liked by 1 person

          • I saw that they have Kung Fu now, which is pretty cool. That’s a show I haven’t watched in a long time.

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          • Wyrd Smythe says:

            I’m delighted to have The Saint available and even more delighted to have Danger Man (aka “Secret Agent Man” with Patrick McGoohan). Plus they just added I Spy another childhood favorite. And Perry Mason, too!

            I also just found out my Prime membership has access to some free Kindle books, so I downloaded the Kindle app for my iPad, and now I have yet another TO READ list. [sigh]

            My guilty pleasure: Petticoat Junction. That show induced what, IIRC, were my first actress crushes. 😀 (I should check the dates things aired… I also had a thing for Samantha on Bewitched and Judy on Lost in Space.)

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          • Many of those shows are before my time, and I didn’t see them in reruns (except for Perry Mason).

            On free Kindle books, that reminds me that I have Kindle Unlimited, something I need to tap more often. Do they have a page somewhere focused on the free books? I occasionally come across them individually, sometimes after I’ve already paid for another edition. (Although often the paid versions are more polished.)

            For Lost in Space, my (six year old) crush was on Penny.

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          • Wyrd Smythe says:

            “Many of those shows are before my time, and I didn’t see them in reruns (except for Perry Mason).”

            Very early Perry Mason (it ran from 1957 to 1966) I saw in re-runs, but most of the other stuff I saw when it first aired.

            I was a big Perry Mason fan from the books, by Erle Stanley Gardner. Some of the earliest episodes are versions of those books (of which there were scads). I even had the pleasure of very briefly meeting Raymond Burr — I saw him walking to his gate in the Minneapolis airport and followed him so I could say “Hi!” and tell him how much I enjoyed his work. (I was a big Ironsides fan, too.)

            “Do they have a page somewhere focused on the free books?”

            It’s pretty well concealed. I saw a link on an Amazon webpage once and followed it. But then I had a hard time finding it again. It’s a little easier in the app, if you have that, but they don’t exactly advertise.

            A lot of the free stuff, as with Apple ebooks too, is free first books of series. Or stuff that isn’t selling anyway and, therefore, usually isn’t interesting. I did notice Prime has a lot of free comics, but I suspect another case of free samples there.

            If I wasn’t already so invested in Apple ebooks, that Kindle Unlimited would be interesting. But I already have years of reading queued… [sigh]

            “Although often the paid versions are more polished.”

            I’ve noticed that, too. Quite a lot of quality variation in ebooks.

            “For Lost in Space, my (six year old) crush was on Penny.”

            My cousin, who is my age, also liked Penny. (I figured he and I could have double-dated.)

            The other one I’ve noticed is many of my contemporaries fell for Barbara Eden on I Dream of Jeannie rather than Samantha on Bewitched. But even as a kid I preferred the sensible Samantha to the air-headed Jeannie.

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          • Hmmm. I don’t usually shop in the app. I’ll have to give it a try. I do know you can find them as a tab on the bestsellers page, but that’s just what happens to be moving at the time.

            I was more of a Jeannie fan myself, but mostly, I think, because my local stations ran reruns of I Dream of Jeannie and not of Bewitched. I didn’t see Bewitched until I was older (and less easily impressed).

            Liked by 1 person

          • Wyrd Smythe says:

            I was pretty smitten. I named my black Lab Sam(antha) after her. 😀

            Liked by 1 person

  2. J.S. Pailly says:

    I’ve been trying to read more graphic novels myself. As an artist, I think they’re a good influence on me. But it is hard getting myself into the right headspace for them, if that makes sense.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know what you mean. I’m like that with a lot of movies and TV shows.

      My biggest issue with graphic novels is that, left to their own, they always seem to gravitate toward superhero type stories, which were great when I was 10, but far less interesting today. And in the case of science fiction stories, their scientific accuracy is about where most movies and TV shows are. I’ve learned to tolerate it for media, but still struggle with it for comics.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I own an extreme debt to graphic novels — they served as a crucial bridge from which to help me teach my son to read. He has an extreme case of dyslexia, which is often misdiagnosed as ADHD. But to compound matters he has a strong case of that as well. Graphic novels, like the Star Wars themed ones for young readers, gave him interesting pictures that he could hold on to, unlike the nightmare of printed words alone. We’d alternate reading word bubbles. He’s currently going into the 10th grade and reading fine. Over the summer we’ve instead been working on his algebra.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good to hear your son is doing well.

      Graphic novels do make an excellent ramp into reading. My dad once told me he was delighted when I as a boy I started reading comics for exactly that reason, although he later became annoyed when I started spending money to collect old ones. The modern format eschewing captions and relying on images to carry the story make them easier still.

      Liked by 1 person

    • BTW, although it sounds like he has this problem licked, has he ever tried reading with electronic apps like the Kindle one? It lets you choose fonts, and one of them is supposed to make it easier for dyslexics to follow the text. Probably something you’re already very familiar with, but thought I’d mention it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m going through Peter Martin’s Kindle book right now, and so have converted the text to “Open Dyslexic”. To me this seems like pure gimmickry. I can’t imagine it helping.

        It’s not fonts that mess him up. In fact he bizarrely had no problem going from graphic novels, which are all caps, to the far more civilized structure found in normal printing. But even when we got off graphic novels, it was still enormously difficult for him to pay attention to punctuation. He’d run through periods and commas, and thus things wouldn’t make sense even when he got the words right. So I’d over emphasize punctuation when it was my turn, and it still took years of daily practice until he could non-consciously interpret such crucial symbols.

        The early years were hell. We couldn’t even read at home because he knew that he could scream to have his mother come bitch me out. So instead we’d read in my truck, sometimes even while parked in our garage — a confined place where he had no escape and so could get more right mentally. During third grade he decided that he could hold things together well enough to read with me at home, and fortunately he was right.

        I wouldn’t say that the problem is licked, though he does read effectively today. Writing is another matter. We’ve never held him back a grade and he does seem on track, though with much effort and special schooling. The main thing of course is that he’s a happy kid. We all have our own burdens to carry, and I’d say that he has far fewer than most.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Eric, I sincerely apologize. I’m usually more careful about these kinds of things. That’s what I get from going off hearsay. A momentary google would have told me it was dubious and not worth mentioning, the minimum you should expect from a skeptic.

          Glad he’s happy. In the end, that’s really all that counts.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Callan says:

    I kind of get an off feeling about this – I do get novels that speculate on the future and maybe try to influence us now to avoid the bad things the author speculates on. I get authors raging at current situations in the world right now. But sometimes it feels like an author basically makes a straw man and rages on it like it’s a current situation of our time and should be raged on as many authors do for current situations. It’s like using moral outrage as a method of escapism.

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    • Authors definitely manipulate our emotions to produce their intended effect. In many ways though, that’s the fiction compact. We allow an author into our heads to generate the experience of their stories. It’s all for entertainment and escapism, and perhaps for some social commentary as well, although if the commentary is too over the top, it may ruin the escapism aspects for many people.

      But any specific type of fiction definitely isn’t going to work for everybody. I know many people who can’t stand science fiction or fantasy. It’s just not their preferred emotional rollercoaster. But I often find their preferred types of fiction just as unappetizing. It’s all in what works for you.

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      • Callan says:

        To me the fiction compact doesn’t exist if storytelling isn’t Aesop fable like and has something to say about the shape of human societal structure. Yes some authors might be entertainment only, but they should be the outlier. Otherwise I think authors are just contributing to making the world worse, keeping the real world problems as the man behind the curtain to not take notice of and anesthetizing with images of the great oz. As a great philosopher once said, a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down. But pure entertainment authors – it’s all sugar, not sugar mixed with medicine.

        And it’s not even just some kind of cultural therapy thing – it’s also like playing poker without any money on the table. The entertainment author isn’t playing with any real stakes in the book when it’s just entertainment, it’s just matchstick poker. To me the thrill is when a book touches on real life nerves and suddenly your reading it is like not just watching a game of poker with real money on the table, but actually having a stake in that game yourself! To see yourself in the text because you’ve a stake there. To me that is exciting! I’ve felt that from comics at times, from books at times, and it is electric when it comes. Something like early star trek when they had an interracial kiss (under the guise of kissing an ‘alien’)…this is money on the table stuff. Along with all the fun sugar of phasers and space ships and warp drives.

        So sometimes something that has less entertainment in it is the most thrilling thing of all.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Wyrd Smythe says:

          Well,… I just love a good rippin’ yarn. I think there’s plenty of room for both. (There’s a similar divide in popular music: some of has something to day, some of it is just a sheer celebration of life.)

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          • Callan says:

            In olden days before corporations and such I can see that. But now you have neurocognitive research by corporations on how to push more and more sugar fiction as if you the ‘consumer’ were a mechanism to be operated – it’s the actual cyberpunk behind the fictional cyberpunk and other fiction. It’s the sort of thing we need rippin’ yarns about (Maybe like Crash Space). Not another story of a fictional ‘dystopia’ which is itself the tool of a real life dystopia and also a distraction from that real life. Sugar knives.

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          • Wyrd Smythe says:

            [shrug] To each their own.

            Like

          • Callan says:

            Which isn’t the motto of various corporations, but whatevs

            Like

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