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Takeshi Lev Kovacs (Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈkovaːt͡ʃ]; from the Slovaks word for "[black]smith") is the protagonist of the books Altered Carbon, Broken Angels, and Woken Furies by Richard K. Morgan, which take place in or around the 26th century.[1]

Fictional historyEdit

[Note that Kovacs backstory, and that of the Envoys, differs significantly in the TV adaptation from that of the novels. This depiction reflects that found in the novel]

A native of the planet Harlan's World,[2] Kovacs is of Japanese and Hungarian descent.

Kovacs is a former Envoy, a member of an elite military force of futuristic soldiers, part intelligence operative and part shock trooper, trained to adapt quickly to new bodies and new environments.[3] Envoys are used by the governing Protectorate to infiltrate and crush planetary unrest and maintain political stability. Envoy training is actually a form of psychospiritual conditioning that operates at subconscious levels.[4]

After leaving the Envoys,[5] Kovacs returned to criminal life and became a mercenary. He was eventually imprisoned, his cortical "stack" stored without a body (or "sleeve") for decades at a time as punishment, before being paroled or hired out to work high-risk situations.[2][6]

Takeshi Kovacs has to be the worst friend you can have. Everyone who's affiliated with him eventually ends up slaughtered. His enemies die in smaller numbers than his buddies and allies. If you had a choice, you'd be wise to get on his bad side.

Paul Di Filippo[7]

Envoys possess total recall and are able to discern subtle patterns within seemingly unrelated events. They possess a thorough understanding of body language and vocal tonality, such that they can discern intention and manipulate others with ease. They are able to control their physiological and psychological responses, such as fear and anger, at will.[8]

Another aspect that figures prominently in an Envoy's training is the systematic removal of every violence-limiting instinct a human is born with. Due to this training, most worlds prohibit past or present Envoys from holding any political or military office. The fear elicited by the mere mention of Envoys is often used by Kovacs to threaten and intimidate.[9]


In the Netflix series Altered Carbon, Kovacs is portrayed by Joel Kinnaman (in the body of Elias Ryker) in the show's first season,[10] Will Yun Lee (original body),[11] Byron Mann (Takeshi's prior body),[12] and Morgan Gao (Young Tak).[13] Anthony Mackie will portray the character in a different host body for the show's second season.[14]

The Television adaptation makes several significant changes to the source material of the novels, including changing the nature of the Envoys to freedom fighters, creating a relationship between Takeshi and Quellcrist Falconer, and changing the character of Reileen Kawahara to be Takeshi's sister (amongst many).


  1. ^ Morgan, Richard K. (2003). Broken Angels. Victor Gollancz Ltd. pp. 332–36. ISBN 0-575-07323-3. 2089 pre-colonial reckoning. ... the decoding of the first Martian data systems brings in evidence of a starfaring culture at least as old as the whole human race. (pages 332–33) 'We've still only ever found a couple of hundred intact Martian corpses in over four centuries of archaeology' (page 336)
  2. ^ a b Hopper, Jim (9 October 2005). "It can get dicey when you delve into an AI's id". Sign on San Diego. Retrieved 2 October 2008.
  3. ^ Morgan, Richard K. (2002). Altered Carbon. Victor Gollancz Ltd. p. 34. ISBN 0-575-07321-7. That's where you get the Envoy Corps.
  4. ^ Morgan, Richard K. (2002). Altered Carbon. Victor Gollancz Ltd. p. 34. ISBN 0-575-07321-7. They took psychospiritual techniques that oriental cultures on Earth had known about for millennia...
  5. ^ "Altered Carbon". Science Fiction Weekly. 17 March 2003. Archived from the original on 20 August 2008. Retrieved 2 October 2008.
  6. ^ Andrews, Stephen (2007). 100 Must-Read Science Fiction Novels. A&C Black. p. 98. ISBN 0-7136-7585-3. A former member of an elite military corps, neurochemically treated criminal Takeshi Kovacs operates on Marian's World
  7. ^ Di Filippo, Paul (17 October 2005). "Woken Furies". Science Fiction Weekly. Archived from the original on 31 October 2008. Retrieved 2 October 2008.
  8. ^ Morgan, Richard K. (2002). Altered Carbon. Victor Gollancz Ltd. p. 154. ISBN 0-575-07321-7. Psychodynamics/Integrity training.
  9. ^ Morgan, Richard K. (2002). Altered Carbon. Victor Gollancz Ltd. p. 34. ISBN 0-575-07321-7. ...instantly forbidden by law to hold any political or military office.
  10. ^ Wagmeister, Elizabeth (12 May 2016). "Joel Kinnaman to Star in Netflix Sci-Fi Series 'Altered Carbon'". Variety. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
  11. ^ "'Altered Carbon': First teaser trailer for stunning Netflix sci-fi series". Retrieved 6 December 2017.
  12. ^ "Altered Carbon's Joel Kinnaman: accusations of white-washing are "lazy"". Retrieved 7 February 2018.
  13. ^ "Netflix's 'Altered Carbon' review: An ambitious cyberpunk thrill-ride". Retrieved 28 February 2018.
  14. ^ "'Altered Carbon' Renewed For Season 2, Anthony Mackie Succeeds Joel Kinnaman As Takeshi Kovacs On Netflix Series". Retrieved 1 August 2018.