Altered Carbon: Guns of the Future

The Netflix adaptation of the famous cyberpunk series of novels premiers this Friday, Feb 2.

This Friday, Netflix debuts its 10-episode take on the gritty and futuristic series of novels, The Takeshi Kovacs Books with Altered Carbon, the show being named after the first book in the series.

Anyone who has read the cyberpunk classics by Richard K. Morgan knows that firearms play a big part in the turbulent, violent universe where people have conquered the difficulties of interstellar travel in a rather unconventional way (see note below), and have also conquered the minor complication of physical death.

You see, almost everyone in the Altered Carbon universe has their entire consciousness and personality backed up in a physical unit called a cortical stack embedded in their spine. If a person's body should die, the cortical stack is simply removed and implanted into a new body to live on as if nothing had happened.

Some bodies are custom grown from scratch for specific purposes, others are the bodies of actual people that can be swapped almost as easily as getting in and out of a car.

The book series was fairly violent, considering bodily damage doesn’t carry the same stakes it does in our world, and that means a lot of guns.

In the books, which contain just as much Raymond Chandler hard-boiled detective stuff as cyberpunk, the firearms were a blend of aspects of guns today mixed with some sci-fi tech. The first book contains passages like the one below, which describes the Phillips Squeeze Gun, which the main character, Takeshi Kovacs, acquires near the beginning of the story.

"A solid steel load. Uses an electromagnetic accelerator. Completely silent, accurate up to about twenty meters. No recoil, and you've got a reverse field option on the generator that means the slugs can be retrieved from the target afterwards. Takes ten."


"Specs are for between forty and fifty discharges. After that, you're losing muzzle velocity with every shot. You get two replacement batteries included in the price and a recharging kit compatible with household power outlets.”

In this promotional still of Joel Kinnaman as Takeshi Kovacs, we see him with a large handgun that might be built on a Chiappa Rhino revolver.
In this promotional still of Joel Kinnaman as Takeshi Kovacs, we see him with a large handgun that might be built on a Chiappa Rhino revolver.Netflix promo photo

So it's basically a tiny rail gun, which the U.S. Navy has pretty much perfected as of last year, albeit on a much larger scale. There are a number of guns like this in the book, along with all kinds of innovative projectiles.

Certain names also survive into the future, such as Kalashnikov, though it no longer applies to a rifle platform from 1947.

While the firearms in the fairly quick-cut trailers seem rather conventional, with a long-barreled revolver and a pump shotgun clearly seen, there might also be some more high-tech guns. After all "slug-throwers" were still viable tools in the books.

We will certainly keep our eyes peeled and figure out just what everyone in this likely binge-worthy new series is carrying.

Altered Carbon premiers Friday, Feb. 2 on Netflix.

NOTE: Instead of physically traveling through space, human consciousness is transferred through the cosmos, sort of like a radio signal, via technology called Needlecasting, and downloaded on the other end into a waiting body. Of course, this requires an initial physical journey of some kind to colonize new worlds and build some infrastructure, but subsequent travel is basically instantaneous. But the scale of time has shifted with all this new technology. For example, when we meet Kovacs, he just spent the past 250 years in digital storage without a physical body, as a prison sentence. Suddenly, a 100-year space journey to colonize a new world doesn't seem that big a deal.

Rich folks can afford to have multiple bodies on different worlds and backup bodies in reserve in case anything unfortunate should happen to them. The richest of the rich also have their consciousness remotely and automatically backed up at a re-sleeving facility every so often, meaning that even if their cortical stack were destroyed, they wouldn’t truly be dead. When you start to realize consciousnesses can be copied like burning a CD (against which there are serious laws in the AC universe), it brings up all kinds of question about what life and the human mind is at its core.