‘Altered Carbon:’ From Book to Screen Comparisons

Lauren Gallaway
Streaming Netflix
Streaming Netflix TV

Netflix’s newest sci-fi series Altered Carbon is officially now streaming. The series, which stars Suicide Squad actor Joel Kinnaman, explores a possible future where humans can upload themselves into bodies when they die. The show explores themes of immortality, wealth, class and robotics 300 years into the future.

The show is based on Richard K. Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs novels, the first of which is called Altered Carbon. So far, the show shares a lot of similarities with the book. The same protagonist, Takeshi Kovacs, the same setting, Bay City (a future San Francisco), and the same challenge: solve the murder/suicide of wealthy “Methuselah” Laurens Bancroft. But the show is also different in its own ways. Let’s take a look at the similarities and differences — mild spoilers for the first episode, “Out of the Past”.


Altered Carbon Netflix

The television show kicks off right where the book does: with Kovacs hiding from a military squad and watching Sarah, someone very dear to him, die. The images of Kovacs’ last day before his imprisonment and Sarah’s death are cut over scenes of Kovacs’ waking up in a new body on a new world.

Kovacs is picked up with Bay City Police Officer Kristin Ortega and dropped off to meet the man who brought him out of cold storage: Laurens Bancroft. Bancroft explains why he believes his own suicide was really a murder, and Kovacs takes the day to consider Bancroft’s offer.

During their exchange and other times during the first episode, Kovacs has flashbacks to his previous life. He has memories of rebellion leader Quellcrist Falconer. He sees Reileen Kawahara as a child. He remembers watching Sarah die. He is haunted by these women. He also deals with the jarring effects of being sleeved into another person’s body. So far all of these things happened in the book in a very similar fashion.


Altered Carbon Netflix

The first difference is the AI hotel. While not a huge plot point, the hotel is a key location in the books. It was originally called the Hendrix, named after the late guitarist. In the show, it’s called The Raven, appropriately named after the poet, Edgar Allan Poe.

The hotel is completely run by Artificial Intelligence, and the man in the photo above it well, not a man, but a robot. He hilariously helps Kovacs check in to a room and then obliterated the men who show up to kill Kovacs. First-rate service if you ask me.

These are just a few examples of the where the show follows the book and where it turns slightly. The show also expands on some secondary characters as well, including revolutionary leader Quellcrist and Reileen Kawahara. As of the first episode, these women are only shown in memory flashbacks, however, Episode 8 “Clash By Night”, is a complete episode devoted to Kovacs’ time in his previous sleeve.

Altered Carbon is now streaming on Netflix worldwide.

Lauren Gallaway
TV editor at FANDOM. Creator of The Marvel Report. Journalist, Comic-Con reporter, Podcaster.
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