Altered Carbon is the latest provocative Netflix drama to mix sex, violence and philosophical musing on the meaning of life, love and the universe.
Based on Morgan’s original novel, which kicks of his Takeshi Kovacs series, the show has taken some major liberties with characters and plotlines.
Did you know Takeshi does not have a sister in the books, or that the Raven Hotel is radically different?
We count down the Top 19 differences, including the crucial reason the most upsetting part of that already incredibly upsetting torture scene was changed.
WARNING: MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS
Altered Carbon book to TV show – How much did they change?
Altered Carbon book: Takeshi and Rae are not related
1. RAELENE IS NOT TAKESHI’S SISTER
This one is probably the biggest shock. In the book they are not brother and sister or even related at all.
2. TAKESHI’S CHILDHOOD
In the book his father is still a violent abusive man and a drunk who beats his mother. However there is no cathartic moment where the vengeful son kills the brute. Instead his father gets a sleeve upgrade and abandons his family.
3. TAKESHI’S TRAINING.
In the book he is not recruited by the violent and ruthless CTAC. Instead he joins the regular Protectorate forces and serves for a few years before he defects to join the Envoys.
4. TAKESHI ABANDONS THE ENVOYS.
In a similar scene to the show where his comrades are driven into a homicidal madness by mind-bending chemical warfare, Takeshi leaves the resistance fighters but because he is disturbed by what he has seen, not because all the other Envoys are dead.
5. RAELENE IS SIMPLY HIS (EVIL) BOSS
After leaving the Envoys Takeshi becomes hired muscle in the criminal underground and works for Raelene Kowahara (not Kovacs).
She is far less complicated or apparently redeemable than in the books. A willing soldier for the yakuza from a young age, she tortured and killed her way to power. She became a meth and one of the most powerful people (criminal or otherwise) in the entire human solar system.
6. THE ENVOYS ARE NOT REBELS
In the book they are still elite, upgraded fighters with enhanced abilities and almost supernatural recall and predictive abilities. However, they are the brutal shock troops of the government, not a small brave band of ideological resistance fighters.
Altered Carbon book: Raelene is not his sister
Altered Carbon book: The original Takeshi loved Sarah not Quellchrist
7. QUELLCHRIST FALCONER IS LONG DEAD (FOR NOW)
Takeshi’s great love and mentor is simply a historical inspiration spiritual writer and founder of Quellism who Takeshi likes to quote. She appears later in the third book of the series, Woken Furies.
8. VIRGINIA VIDAURA
This is the Envoy who trains and inspires Takeshi, teaches him to endure torture and gives kick ass fighting talks. In the show she is a secondary Envoy character.
9. TAKESHI’S REAL GIRLFRIEND
In the book he is in love with a woman called Sarah. She is shown in the opening episode dying in a hail of bullets when the original Takeshi is captured by CTAC. The big reveal at the end of the show that Rae still has Quell’s stack is echoed in the book, but it is Sarah who Rae is using as insurance to control Takeshi.
Altered Carbon book: Takeshi is tortured as a woman
10. TAKESHI’S TORTURE
The horrifying endless virtual torture scene from Episode 4 is actually even more upsetting and revolting in the book. Takeshi is sleeved in a menstruating female body and the scene is far closer to rape and sexual abuse.
11. KRISTIN ORTEGA IS MUCH LESS IMPORTANT.
The main female lead of the show is far less central to the book. The dedicated detective doesn’t have that devastating fight with the Ghostwalker, nor does she get a superpowered new arm. Her subplot with her family and religion is not explored and she is not captured and tortured by Rae – although she is still tortured.
12. ORTEGA’S PARTNER
In the book her partner is called Rodrigo not Aboud and he is most definitely not dating her mother.
Altered Carbon book: Takeshi and Ortega
The ruthless and self-centred lawyer from the show is far less impressed by the Meths in the book and more sympathetic to Takeshi’s plight.
14. THE BANCROFTS
The books shows virtually nothing of the family beyond Laurens and Miriam. The troubled son Isaac does not feature at all and does not create a duplicate of his father. A kinky daughter does not wear her mother’s sleeve for sexual kicks. Laurens is not shown overtly keeping his children in their place, nor does he have a messiah moment ‘dying’ in front of the infected masses.
15. THE GHOSTWALKER
This character does not exist at all. Rae does have a (female) killer who does her dirty work, but unlike the zealot and devoted Ghostwalker she starts to sympathise with Takeshi and betrays Rae at the end.
Altered Carbon book: Vernon is called Victor and had a much smaller role
Takeshi’s grudging accomplice is called Victor and, again, features much less in the book than the show.
Vernon/Victor’s wife actually plays a much larger role in the book with a much richer storyline. She is essential to defeating Rae but does not get put into a man’s sleeve.
Poor traumatised trainee killer Lizzie is a very minor character in the book who does not become a fierce warrior or even go to Rae’s floating pleasure palace in the final act. Her storyline has been lifted from Layla, another pleasure slave/prostitute who was used by Laurens and then brutally battered by Mirian Bancroft to kill her unborn baby.
Altered Carbon book: The Raven hotel is the Hendrix and Poe doesn’t exist
19. THE RAVEN HOTEL
The AI boarding house is completely different in the book. The TV show presents a lavish and genteel gothic Victoriana establishment run by the erudite and cultured Edgar Allen Poe. In the book it’s a mind-bending tribute to psychedelia called the Hendrix. The rooms and bar are named after famous Jimmy Hendrix songs like The Watchtower.
The change was made because the estate of the legendary singer is very protective and prohibits the association of his name or image with violence. Cleary that rules out Altered Carbon.
ALTERED CARBON IS OUT NOW ON NETFLIX