The protagonist is an agent of a not-so-nice galactic empire run entirely by humans. The key technology is a sort of slow transporter, where an object (or human) is disassembled in one location, stored, and then reassembled at a later time and/or different location. Recordings can be edited to reassemble someone in a more youthful body or to modify a person for a different planet's environment. The computers that control this process are super intelligent, but programmed to be willing slaves to humanity. The protagonist is a troubleshooter of sorts, traveling between star systems to find and solve problems. He is a unique individual, no more than one copy of him ever exists in the galaxy. At one point in the novel, mention is made of the empire's judiciary, which is made up of replicated individuals; having the "same" person on each court ensures consistent decisions throughout time and space.

  • This kind of sounds like it could be Peter F Hamilton - but not any of the ones I've actually read... – HorusKol Apr 3 '14 at 0:01
  • Good guess, but it's not him. (Although you did have me tracking down several leads in Wikipedia.) i'm pretty sure that the author of this book only wrote one other science fiction novel, but both of them were IMHO pretty good. I thought that it might have been "Courtship Rite", but it turns out not to have been Donald Kingsbury. – samwyse Apr 3 '14 at 3:43
  • maybe details about the other book might help identify the author? – HorusKol Apr 3 '14 at 3:49
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    Sounds similar-ish to the Takeshi Kovaks novels (Altered Carbon) "Envoy" mercenaries are digitally stored, shipped elsewhere then downloaded into "Sleeve" bodies – Alex K. Apr 3 '14 at 12:36
  • Nope, no "sleeve" bodies, there's a scene where the process is described; the AI builds the person from the inside out in a fraction of a second. And as I mentioned, the AI adapts the body for the location's gravity, atmosphere, etc., and can also, if needed, edit memories. [Spoiler] In one scene, the AI explains to the newly restored protagonist that he has been rebuilt from a backup copy, with memories added from the badly damaged version just recovered. – samwyse Apr 7 '14 at 15:22

Per Alex K's answer, it sounds like you're describing the Altered Carbon series by Richard Morgan.

Slow transportation of bodies (by "needlecasting") is a major theme of the book and FTL travel is impossible. The description on wikipedia also suggests that the main character is some sort of multi-talented troubleshooter.

Kovacs is an ex Envoy, a military unit formed to cope with the challenge of interstellar warfare. Faster-than-light travel is only possible by subspace transmission, called needlecasting, of a digitally stored consciousness to "download centers" where resleeving into physical bodies can be carried out. Transmitting normal soldiers in this way would severely inhibit their effectiveness, since they would have to cope with a new body and an unknown environment while fighting. To combat this, Envoy training emphasises mental techniques necessary to survive in different bodies over physical strength, and the sleeve in which they are transmitted has special neuro-chemical sensors which amplify the power of the five senses, intuition and physical capabilities. The effectiveness of the Envoy Corps' training is such that Envoys are banned from holding governmental positions on most worlds. Kovacs is persistently wracked by his memories of the action taken by the Envoy Corps in a battle on the planet Sharya and especially by the military debacle on Innenin, in which the Corps suffered extensive casualties after their stacks were infected with a lethal virus, Rawling 4851.

  • Reading the Wikipedia entry, definitely not "Altered Carbon", although I will definitely try to find a copy; it sound very interesting. In the book I'm thinking of, the protagonist is more of a Captain Kirk character, except his ship carries only himself and the AI that runs everything. OTOH, it has as much or more firepower than the Enterprise, and is fully capable of sterilizing a planet if he judges it necessary. The book had a bunch of flashbacks to the protagonist's youth, and at the end [spoiler] he returns to Earth and visits his mother, which isn't really joyous for either of them. – samwyse Apr 7 '14 at 15:10

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