So much sf content in Netflix! I've abandoned Star Trek for now to watch Altered Carbon, because ooo high production values cyberpunk in my tv! It makes me happy jut to type that.

It's based on a book of the same name, which was quite a fun read. Hard-boiled and fast-paced and Altered Carbon is such a cool name for a book. (The sequel's title, Broken Angels, is so cheesy I found myself embarrassed reading it in public, even though I consume all kinds of low-value manufactured entertainment shamelessly and without blushing. Also, it was a much less engaging book – the vitality and pep and adrenaline rushes of the first book were missing even if complicated thriller plot and violent action were there. Third in the Kovacs series, Woken Furies, remains unread but perhaps one day if it falls on my lap I'll give it a chance.)

Much of what made the book enjoyable has been successfully translated into a tv series. It is infinitely satisfactory when our (anti)hero Kovacs kills all the torture corporation bad guys and coolly exits the building, pink backpack slung on one shoulder, against a backdrop of explosions. A sort of visceral pleasure of justice done + something even more instinctive, a deep-seated feeling of … how to call it? Being on he same side with the winning guy, the obvious leader of the pack, the strongest, the most assertive, machoest macho of them all. The opponents don't stand a chance, they get just the bullet or fist they deserve, and isn't that just glorious. Sometimes they don't even deserve what they get, but haha it feels good nonetheless because it's our guy dishing out the violence he's the toughest yeah. As entertainment goes, this is the hi-fructose maize syrup. Intoxicating and addictive.

And good grief, the concentrated masculinity. Maybe that's the MSG, makes all the flavors more intense. Or salt? Whatever. Just sprinkle it on, please! Altered Carbon is all about joyfully getting swept along with the testosterone wave, no nitpicking about gender roles or dissecting what it means or doesn't mean to be a 'man'.

Another book by Richard Morgan, Black Man (2007), which has a similar extremely violent, super-low-agreeableness protagonist, probes the concept of masculinity and that ends up being one of the main themes of the book. So Morgan can use the macho tropes to his advantage but also cut them open to see what makes them tick.

Not only the protagonists but also the romantic plots are interestingly close: in Altered Carbon, female lead Ortega has to deal with her lover's body being inhabited by another dude, Kovacs. Kovacs and Ortega end up falling for each other – familiarity, novelty and danger, a perfect romantic recipe. In Black Man, female lead Sevgi Ertegin (a tough cop, just like Ortega) used to have a genetically engineered super soldier ("variant") lover, who was then killed (I've forgotten the details). Protagonist Carl Marsalis is also a "variant" super soldier and as he and Ertegin develop a relationship, he has to deal with the possibility she just has some sort of obsession with variants and he's just a placeholder for the deceased lover. The central question appears to be 'does she really like me for me, or just this body?'. Not that it's vocalized at any point. Morgan's protagonists deal with problematic emotions by sitting on them until they asphyxiate. Because that's manly.

In Altered Carbon world, bodies can be switched at will, although they are expensive and only the very rich can afford to live forever. Some of the implications of this technology are discussed thoroughly, some skimmed over (like to what extent gender and attraction are based on personality vs body – it amazes me someone can write a several hundred pages book about separating mind and body and not engage in the tiniest bit of speculation about this! It's of course not an obligation but feels like a wasted opportunity).

When bodies can be grown to exact specifications, regular pretty would lose almost all value. Having all your teeth and several changes of clothing would have distinguished someone in the 17th century as a rather attractive romantic opportunity, while these days hereabouts it is such a baseline thing no-one pays any attention to it. The same thing would happen to beautiful/handsome features, were they easy to purchase. After something like that is (near-)universally accessible, fashion becomes the important force. Laurens Bancroft acknowledges this, by using an exceptionally old body – wrinkles, middle aged pouch, a touch of grey in his hair, it all gives a frisson of excitement to the society of immortal billionaires, who all can afford to have the most perfect, eternally youthful bodies. Carnage, who runs a fighting arena, uses a deliberately ugly synthetic body as a personality quirk.

Body switch technology would lead to situation where people with unusual bodies were in danger of body-hunting. Exceptionally colored eyes, rare birth marks, extra fingers or toes… just watch out! Someone out there wants to show up in a party in your unique body! Even scars and burns, when healed, would be desirable. Body leasing requires great trust in the client, but perhaps it would then be priced accordingly.

For lovers it would be a great experience to switch bodies every now and then, if not for anything else then at least for learning about each other's pleasure points. But do Ortega and Kovacs ever think of doing that? No. How can they lack curiosity and imagination so badly? Why are they so boring? Is there any fan fiction available on this theme?