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SYFY WIRE Titan Books

Peek behind the cyberpunk curtain in Titan Books' Altered Carbon: The Art And Making Of The Series

By Jeff Spry
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Netflix's neo-noir cyberpunk series, Altered Carbon, just charged up its eight-episode second season on Feb. 27 and we're still catching our collective breath after a butt-kicking, body-swapping bonanza of hardcore sci-fi action set on the planet Harlan's World. First launching back in 2018 with Robocop actor Joel Kinnaman portraying legendary Envoy supersoldier Takeshi Kovacs, then continuing this year with The Avengers' Anthony Mackie in the main role, Altered Carbon has revitalized a fan-fave subgenre heavily inspired by Blade Runner's dystopian world and The Matrix's virtual reality mind meld. 

To further flesh out the backstory on how British author Richard K. Morgan's trilogy of bestselling novels was adapted to the small screen with such neon-drenched flair and detailed realism, London-based Titan Books is releasing a deluxe new hardcover companion edition by author Abbie Bernstein titled, Altered Carbon: The Art and Making of the Series on Mar. 31 — and SYFY WIRE is spinning up a special sneak peek.

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This 176-page coffee table book whisks readers into the far future worlds of the 24th century, from the super scraper skyline of Bay City and its lower-leveled urban decay, the lofty realm of the Aerium's elite and Bancroft's posh compound Suntouch House, to the Mayan-themed architecture of Harlan's World, strange sentient Songspire trees, and the extinct alien species known as The Elders.

Inside, fans will discover a treasure of stimulating concept art images, production stills, on-set photos, finished storyboards, and VFX builds from both seasons that illuminate how this striking show was conceived.

Fresh interviews with cast and crew also comprise this comprehensive volume, including revealing chats with series creator Laeta Kalogridis, showrunner Alison Schapker, executive producer James Middleton, stunt coordinator Larnell Stovall, and production designer Carey Meyer.

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"Discussing Altered Carbon with its makers revealed levels upon levels, philosophically and physically, that I might not have realized otherwise," Bernstein tells SYFY WIRE. ""I was impressed, and charmed, to hear that much of Season 1's cast came together to train with the stunt team, and that actor Joel Kinnaman persevered for half of the season with a broken foot. Actress Simone Missick pointed out that Season 2 is one of the few sci-fi action series with three African-American leads, as well as Asian-American and Middle Eastern performers in key supporting roles, and how meaningful this is."

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Bernstein found this Altered Carbon project somewhat tricky to write, in that many visual elements remain the same yet change entirely between seasons.

"Takeshi Kovacs, our hero, goes from being a man in a borrowed body to a man in a newly made body, while his original body with his original memories is challenging his new self," she explains. "It’s tempting to sit back and just ponder all the implications, instead of getting on with the job of talking about how all this works for readers.

"Most of all, I was intrigued by everyone’s varied takes on the material. There’s an argument that Altered Carbon is an exploration of how much our identities are influenced by our bodies, or a discussion on whether immortality would corrupt absolutely, or what constitutes empirical reality if virtual reality is perfected, or what it means to be human. Poe brings up the question of whether one needs to be flesh and blood to be human. It’s an extraordinary range of ideas, all laid out at once, intertwining together to draw us in intellectually, visually and viscerally. I hope I’ve done justice to the process."

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Now enjoy our exclsuive six-page preview in the gallery below and indulge in the fantastic wordbuilind and compelling characters brought to vivid life. 

All images taken from Altered Carbon: The Art and Making of the Series by Abbie Bernstein, published by Titan Books.