What is a soul? What is consciousness? These aren’t new questions. They might actually be the oldest. Stories that ask these questions aren’t rare…but stories that provide a single definitive answer are (I think anyway). And Altered Carbon has made that answer the premise of it’s universe.
This is the physical manifestation of your Ghost that brings a shell to life, or in this case a “sleeve”.
Cortical Stacks or just “Stacks” feel weirdly grounded and plausible in a day and age where questions like “Why Die?” are entering public discourse more and more. Part of what makes this feel so real and grounded is that it’s not immortality. It’s more like indefinitely extending people’s life spans. Death is still very much a reality and apart of life in this universe, but the relationship to it has changed drastically.
In the first episode we’re introduced to what are essentially Altered Carbon’s Anti-Choice street harassers. But instead of attacking women for going into health clinics that offer abortion, they attack anyone coming out of a police department where several people recently received new sleeves and were released. They’re called “Neo-Catholics”. They’re a specific branch of Catholicism almost entirely made up of converts, as their faith mainly revolves around the idea that people should only die once. So converts Stacks are re-coded in such a way that prevents them from being able to be brought back to life. As the show goes on we’re introduced to less zealous and more fleshed out characterizations of these people.
Humanity’s relationship to armed conflict (as of 5 episodes in) is one of the least (directly) focused on and most interesting aspects of this universe to me. If only because of how realistically horrifying and distant it’s aftermath is portrayed. It’s one thing for there to be a display case in a museum full of the dog tags of enemy combatants or their helmets. But putting the physical manifestations of the souls of enemy combatants in a display case in a museum, that’s driving a point home.