Carl slips into a new sleeve to review the INCREDIBLE new Altered Carbon reference book from Titan Books
If you sit and watch the show ‘Altered Carbon‘, one thing strikes you almost instantaneously. The look. You could be mistaken for thinking you’d made a mistake and had started watching ‘Blade Runner‘ instead. The thing is, it’s almost the same setup. A dystopian future, one where money talks and the less well off are left to fend for themselves. The show also has a lot more in common with the Phillip K. Dick created worlds, ones that we have seen time and again on the silver screen. It would surprise you to learn, however, that the show is actually based on a trilogy of books by the acclaimed British writer, Richard K. Morgan. The first novel in his literary trilogy gives the show its name and shares its storyline with the first season. However, although some of the author’s ideas made their way into the second season, based on the other two novels, ‘Broken Angels’ and ‘Woken Furies’, most of the storyline was completely different. The author actually sat down in the writer’s room with the writers of the show and together, they bashed out a new and original storyline for season two.
Altered Carbon: The Art And Making Of The Series | By Abbie Bernstein
Titan Books have commissioned writer Abbie Bernstein to create a volume dedicated to the art of what is seen on screen and an in-depth look at the making of the show. the author has a good track record when it comes to creating books of this kind with the likes of ‘The Art Of Mad Max: Fury Road‘, ‘The Art And Making Of The Flash‘ and ‘The Cabin In The Woods Official Visual Companion‘ among her list of credits. She is once again in her element here as she brings us a book that is worthy of any fan of the show. The book is broken up into sections. Starting off with the introduction, we are taken through three main sections, The Ground, The Aerium and Off World before we come to a storyboards section and a glossary before we reach the conclusion and the acknowledgements. Along the way, we will meet and discover the cast and crew alongside glorious photographs of what the show represents, behind the scenes pictures and anything you want to know about what goes into the making of the show.
The Introduction takes us into the process that went into bringing the show to the screen. Executive producer James Middleton and showrunner Alison Schapker take us through the inception of the show, the creative licence they have been allowed to take with the material and take us through the look and feel of what we will see on screen. Behind the scenes photographs and in-depth looks and discussions with some of the technicians make up this interesting and informative section. The piece of news that did give me a chuckle was the revelation that originally, the project was going to become a PG-13 rated film from Warner Bros. It most certainly ISN’T a PG-13 rated project now! And that is for the better as what the show gives the audience now is purely and simply decent adult entertainment, entertainment which is worthy of the books and the project in general. As we go through the section, much is revealed in a fun, interesting and informative way, leaving the reader in no doubt regarding the quality that goes into the show and the research and investment MS Bernstein has put into the book.
We now come to the next section, The Ground. It is here where we will start to look at the characters involved in the show. We start, of course, with the character of Takeshi Kovacs. We already know that in season one, Joel Kinnaman portrays Kovacs in the sleeve of Elias Ryker before handing over the role to Anthony Mackie in season two. Also, Will Yun Lee portrays ‘Kovacs Prime’ in both seasons. The section about the character goes into detail about the backstory and the development that has gone in to make him the main focus of the show, as he should be. The writing describes how Kinnaman trained for several hours daily to perfect Kovacs’ fighting style and how the characters wardrobe evolved throughout the entire first season. Everything that went into the character and his development over the two seasons is documented here with plenty of behind the scenes photography and comments from the actors themselves as well as the crew behind the scenes.
Next up, we take a look at Bay City and its Ground Level Living. Once again, the reader is reminded of Blade Runner and its neon signs and streets that made up the ground of the decaying view of the future. We are treated to production stills, storyboard drawings and completed scenes from the show to emphasise what exactly goes into bringing this world to life. Moving on and we come to Kristin Ortega, the detective who is played by Martha Higareda. Once more, we are given all the information and behind the scenes work that goes into bringing the character to life, to bring out her qualities and present them to the audience for them to digest. Throughout the section, we are shown the characters and places that inhabit the world we are thrown into from the very start of the first episode including the Jack It Off Club that features in the show.
We are now taken on a trip to The Aerium, the castle in the sky. Towering over Bay City, looking down on Northern California’s Marin County, we make a guest visit to the extremely wealthy area that houses the ‘Meths’. The Methuselah’s have the financial means to move their consciousness’ to other ‘Sleeves’ including off-world, another nod to Blade Runner. Throughout this section, we are given all the information and detail that goes along with this impressive and splendid looking garden of Eden that is housed in Bancroft’s Tower. We are now granted an audience with Laurens Bancroft himself. Actor James Purefoy plays this intriguing character on the show and we are granted a behind the scenes look at him alongside the characterisation that the actor and the showrunners have brought to him. Also, we are informed about the CGI that is utilised for the character’s appearance that we see on the screen. His wife of 118 years, Miriam Bancroft is also featured in this section, portrayed by actress Kristin Lehman. Once more, everything we need to know and desire to discover regarding this character is delved into alongside with personal details that make up the psyche of the lady. Throughout this part of the book, we get the inside scoop on everything that makes the Atrium tick including a delightful look at the Zero-G fight including all the work, planning and trickery that went into the sequence. We go through this part of the book and marvel at the sheer amount of work and dedication that has gone into bringing the novels to life.
We finally take the plunge and are taken on a journey Off-world. We first come to Harlan’s World, the founding planet, the original home of Takeshi Kovacs. It is here where, once more, we are handed concept drawings, behind the scenes and photographs from the finished product. We meet the Praetorians in all their glory alongside their biography. These squads of the fighting force of the Protectorate are charged with keeping law and order in all the inhabited worlds we encounter in the show. The VFX are gone into details here alongside the design of the suits the squads wear. Their weapons are shown to us in great detail and everything from the Police Rifle up to Ryker’s gun is covered in detail. The Stronghold, the home of the Envoys is dragged before our eyes and is a visual feast for us. The concept of the base is shown to us alongside the physical set, the landscape that is actually located in Vancouver, Canada. The thickets of Vancouver’s forests are shown to us alongside concept drawings of the interior of the base. We are honoured to meet the leader of the rebellion, Quellcrist Falconer and the actress who portrays her, Renee Elise Goldsberry amongst the pages we encounter here. We meet the Envoys themselves and discover where Quell trains her forces, mainly to be able to withstand the terrifying tortures they face. We are introduced to the sleeve and stack technology which make up the world seen in Altered Carbon. All the characters we meet Off-world are all here, present and correct alongside the Nevermore Hotel and the Elders themselves. The artwork and production stills we find here are exemplary alongside the brilliantly informative text, the interviews and secrets that are disclosed to us. It is wonderful.
We come across the section devoted to the storyboards. It is here where we are afforded the chance to see actual storyboards that made up Episode Seven, Scene Thirteen, Episode Nine, Scene Seventy-three, Episode Ten, Scene fifteen and Episode Ten, scene twenty-one from season one. It is a fantastic look at exactly how the scene was foreseen to be created for the show. Accompanying these storyboards is descriptive text informing us of everything we need or want to know about what we are looking at. It is a true wonder to behold. We turn over and we come to the glossary, explaining terms we will here nor encounter during the shows seasons, things that we have to understand and realise to get the maximum enjoyment out of what we are viewing. We discover all the information we need before we turn over again and reach the conclusion to the book. As we read the final words, we close the book and sit back and digest what we have discovered.
Abbie Bernstein has put everything she’s got into the book and believe me when I say, it shows. And it is to the book’s advantage that she does. A lot of things we find and discover in this volume are pretty heavy and will take some time to digest after the cover is finally closed. The book cannot be rushed through. Any attempt to skip parts of the text, to not view the images or to not give the contents your full attention will be to the reader’s detriment. This kind of book needs to be read SLOW, to concentrate on the text and what we are discovering. The book deserves the attention that the reader has to give it to get the maximum enjoyment out of it. Any fan of the show is in need of getting hold of a copy of this extraordinary book. What they will discover within its pages will only heighten their enjoyment of what they see on their screens. Is the book itself heavy going? Not in the slightest. It is a fantastic look at everything that goes into the making of a fantastic television series and something to read, digest and cherish. It is to Abbie Bernstein’s immense credit that the book is as enjoyable as it is and for that reason by itself is reason enough to shell out and grab a copy for yourself. And makes for a worthy and justified purchase.
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Carl Roberts is a Senior Staff Writer and Books and Literature Correspondent for Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter @CarlRoberts2 where he uses the force frequently!
Editors Note: A big thank you to our friends at Titan Books for sending over our advance review copy.