A cyberwarrior from another planet is reborn on Earth to do a rich man's bidding and is none too happy about it. Takeshi Kovacs is a hard-case kid from the colony-planet Harlan's World (guess which two ethnic groups comprised the majority of its settlers) recently decommissioned from the Envoys—overtrained, amoral shock troops that enforce the laws of the galaxy laid down by the United Nations—and more recently turned to a life of crime. A police raid leaves him and his accomplice/girlfriend dead, but that's not an immediate problem, since in the 25th century the dead are simply taken to clinics where their "stack" (a small metal tube embedded in the spine that contains a backup of their personality, memory, DNA, etc.) is then loaded into a new "sleeve," or body. Resleeved and woken on Earth, Kovacs finds himself summoned to the Bay Area home of Laurens Bancroft, a filthy-rich member of the class known as "Meths" (for Methuselah) because they could afford to be continuously resleeved over the centuries. Bancroft thinks that when someone shot him in the head the other day and ruined that sleeve, somebody was trying to murder him, though the local cops think he was just trying to kill himself and doesn't remember because his stack hadn't been backed up yet. His only choice being to return to Harland's World, Kovacs is sent off to find his new boss's killer. The way ahead is quickly littered with the bodies of the unsavory types he comes across and with enough juicy future-detail to make any veteran SF scribe jealous.
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