SF & Fantasy

Cage Match 2011: Takeshi Kovacs versus Jon Snow

The Contestants

Takeshi Kovacs.jpg

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Jon Snow.jpg

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Takeshi Kovacs
Age: Physically early-40s
Race: Human, mixed Slavic and Japanese
Weapons / Artifacts: Smith and Wesson 11mm magnum; 15 cm Tebbit knife
Anticipates and deflects your every move

Jon Snow
Lord Commander of the Night Watch
Age: Late-teens
Race: Human
Weapons / Artifacts: Hand-and-a-Half Valyrian steel sword
His albino direwolf rips your throat out

The Breakdown


  • Superhuman intuition and reflexes, neurachem enhancement
  • Psycho-Spiritual envoy training
  • “Soul” stored in cortical stack at the base of the skull; essentially immortal

  • A skilled warrior
  • Commitment to honor and duty–all around good guy
  • Has a friggin’ direwolf

  • Takes a while getting used to new bodies

  • He’s a bastard…no, seriously.

  • N/A

  • N/A

Check out the comments below to see what Richard K. Morgan thinks of his character’s ability to destroy Jon Snow

George R.R. Martin chimes in

How we think the fight will go

Ex-UN Envoy Takeshi Kovacs, having downloaded into this sleeve just 6 hours earlier, takes a quick inventory of the neurachem and physical attributes this new body has to offer: enhanced reaction time, emotional controls—all mercenary standard. He tugs at the wool and leather outfit that was waiting for him when he woke up. Not really his style, but it’s keeping the sleeve warm in this frigid field.

Scanning the crowd, Kovacs feels physical stirrings in response to all the lithe young women in the audience. The body’s previous owner must have been quite the skirt chaser—in addition to a smoker, as the itching in his fingers keeps reminding him. He quells both desires and levels his gaze at his young opponent.

Jon Snow stands facing him, black hair blending into his dark wool cloak and armor. His pale, oblong face stands out like a gibbous moon in a starless arctic sky. Tall, severely angular and sinewy, the boy’s stance belies combat training and experience beyond what his young age implies. His hand rests easily on his sword’s hilt, a white wolf’s head set with red stones. Fancy, Kovacs notes. But not spoiled.

“Mr. Kov-aks, welcome to the North,” the young Night’s Watchman hedges, eyeing his opponent.

Kovacs’ neurachem signals are warning him something is seriously amiss; he needs to buy some time, assess this odd, long-faced kid. “It’s Kovacs, son. The Slavic pronunciation is ch. But it’s your first offense, so,” the Envoy takes out a cigarette pack and shakes one out, “I’ll let it slide.” His free hand slides under his coat, grazing the handle on his Smith & Wesson nuzzled in its form-molding holster at his rib. He lights the cig off the ignition patch on the side of the pack. Good a fighter as he may be, Kovacs thinks, the kid seems a little too confident for a second-year recruit.

Snow draws his sword but holds, shifting from foot to foot. He has heard about the enemy’s projectile weapons and knows he must bring the fight in Longclaw’s striking range. The older man looks ill-fitted in his borrowed northern clothes, even more so in the battle-scarred body he has been loaned.

Kovacs leisurely smokes and fondles the handle of his revolver, still beneath his coat. “I’m new here, son. Can’t assume too much. But word on the street tells me you’re a man of questionable character. Shifting loyalties.” He watches the boy’s anger build, trying to gauge how much will make him sloppy. “Some might say… a real bastard.”

Snow’s face is burning with rage, and Kovacs’ can feel his sleeve’s pulse quickening. He worries he may have taken the taunting too far. Closely controlling his adrenaline response, Kovacs draws his revolver as Snow lunges at him, sword poised to skewer.

Snow jabs savagely toward the older man’s torso, but Kovacs anticipates and dodges deftly, rolling on the floor and rising with his gun out. He fires off three shots, fully expecting his ammo to penetrate Snow’s armor, but the new-sleeve shakiness is still with him and two of the bullets fly wide. The third catches in the chainmail at Jon’s shoulder with a meaty clank. Snow reels, and spins, maintaining his grip on Longclaw. He looks down at his hit shoulder in awe—the small hunk of metal remains lodged in the links of his chainmail, hot to the touch. It has not penetrated his skin. Still, it feels as if his entire arm has been smashed with Baratheon’s warhammer.

“Technology, kid. Sometimes it’s helpful, sometimes a real bitch.” Kovacs retrieves his still-burning cigarette from the ground where he dropped it and retreats, senses groping to figure out the level of organic damage he’s inflicted. The look on the kid’s face suggests this is a novel pain, the shock may be easy to take advantage of.

Snow shakes out his throbbing arm, mind racing. He curses himself for letting his rage control him. If this off-worlder can read his mind, as it seems, he must act without further thought. He grips Longclaw in his good hand and runs his injured shoulder full speed into the smoking man’s gullet.

Kovacs sees the attack before it hits, but is temporarily shocked by the boy’s turnabout. Snow’s armored shoulder hits him in the gut and they fall hard to the dirt. Bruised though he is, Snow’s stamina belies long campaigns at the onset of hard winter. The two wrestle, vying for dominance, and slowly the strength in Kovacs’ new body ebbs, craving the sleep required after downloading.

Rising, Jon Snow places a boot on Kovacs’s neck.

“For the honor of my brothers in black,” he raises Longclaw for a killing blow. Before it can land, a long, gray knife flashes out, sprung from its hidden sheath strapped to Kovacs’ forearm. He slashes wildly at the bastard’s leg, slicing the calf but not quite sinking blade into flesh. Snow’s swing falters and Longclaw grazes Kovacs’ graying hair. Taking his momentary advantage, Kovacs staggers up and throws Snow to the ground. He pins the boy with one arm, while the other reaches for his cast-off revolver.

Kovacs presses the barrel into the young man’s temple when a growl emerges, barely audible, somewhere in the crowd behind them. He observes the sudden smugness on Snow’s face, the answer to his earlier confidence. The expression says: “I’ve got you,” though all evidence points otherwise.

All the alarms in this sleeve send chemical warning sirens through Kovacs’ body, his training demanding he flee. But it is too late.

Ghost descends from behind, materializing with animal grace from the parted crowd. Before the Envoy’s enhanced reflexes can kick in, the direwolf’s teeth are on him. Kovacs’ neck gives way to the massive jaws, his vertebrae crushed, spinal cord severed. Ghost swallows the tiny metal cylinder of Kovacs’ cortical stack along with the flesh surrounding the cervical vertebrae.

It’ll be messier than usual re-sleeving this one.

Predicted Winner: Jon Snow


Check out the previous match!

Check out the next match!

Check out the Bracket

Takeshi Kovacs is a character from Altered Carbon and other Takeshi Kovacs novels by Richard K. Morgan; Jon Snow is a character from the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin.

Takeshi Kovacs image courtesy of ~MKorey. Jon Snow image courtesy of Michael Komarck.

Hope Ewing contributed to this Cage Match

74 Responses to “Cage Match 2011: Takeshi Kovacs versus Jon Snow”

  1. blake says:

    Who ever put together these match ups is an idiot .

  2. Jesse Kessler says:

    Ghost never makes a sound guys. There wouldn’t be a growl at all. Other than that, great write up.

  3. Raven says:

    It’s true what Jesse said. Not to be picky or bitchy, but it could make a difference in later rounds. Ghost is eerily quiet. I know he never makes a verbal noise–not once–and I think he doesn’t make noise when he moves either. Or he’s just really quiet. Either way, it’s a borderline supernatural characteristic, which is what makes Ghost creepy.

  4. QsQuared says:

    Jon Snow vs Perrin Aybarra. Now this is a match that I’ve been looking forward to. Would Perrin be able to talk with Jon’s direwolf Ghost? And what happens when Jon attempts to change skin as Ghost. Can’t wait! Hopefully both makes it to the finals though.

  5. Arstan says:

    finish the book george

  6. Arstan says:

    You money hungry old man. You think we are so stupid as to believe that the release of dance just so happens to coincide with the HBO series. How damn ironic.

    I am going to steal dance, you aint getting my hard earned money.

  7. Dawn says:

    The person who wrote this needs to look up what “belie” means.

    “the boy’s stance betrays combat training and experience…”

    “Snow’s stamina proclaims long campaigns…”

  8. K says:

    This is basically caveman vs astronaut.

    Haven’t decided there, haven’t decided here. I guess it depends what you count as winning: If Kovacs’ sleeve gets killed is that enough, or does Jon have to destroy his stack? If Kovacs’ kills either Jon or Ghost is that enough, or does he need to get both?

    I do agree that the cage match puts Kovacs at a disadvantage, going side-on to a problem is always more his style, and the write up was awesome and all, but seemed a bit unfair that Jon had been told about the gun but Kovacs had no idea about the direwolf.

    Either way, I abstain.

  9. Mongoose says:

    Umm…Arstan? Has it occurred to you that you could just borrow it from your local library?

  10. Badger says:

    Arstan…. seriously that is one of the dumbest things I have ever seen written. Books are a business. Not sure I know of any author/publishing house who wouldnt take advantage of the HBO marketing machine. If your so grumpy about it just dont bother to read on…..that will teach him!

  11. Yaniv Berman says:

    Interesting match – But I wonder how Jon will do without Ghost…

  12. Dasaniel says:

    Actually the ‘cs’ in Kovacs is pronounced ‘ch’ in Hungarian, by the way it’s a Hungarian name, in Slavic the ‘ch’ sound is written something like ?,? or the like.

  13. The Great John Umber says:

    The Starks are a tough bunch indeed but far from unbeatable, as I can attest. Having talked to other members of the Night’s Watch I know that Lord Stark’s byblow is only a competant swords man with potential.

    In the cold winters of the North I remember reading the Kovac trilogy. Kovacs was sending skilled fighters to their grave before Snow was even an itch in Lord Starks britches. The first shot from the gun would have taken Snow’s arm off at the shoulder. There is a reason why chain mail when away with the invention of gunpowder. It doesn’t wok.

    Snow might have eventually won but it would have been inside the body of Ghost as a bloody Werewolf.

  14. The Great John Umber says:

    “If you were to separate Frodo and Shelob from the narrative and hold one of these silly contests you people would be making the same argument.”

    You know that Frodo lost to Shelob right?

    Btw read the book. Kovac’s is good but he gets the mess kicked out of him plenty of times. He just wouldn’t lose to Jon Snow.

  15. Hungarian says:

    Hungarians aren’t Slavic or whatever, they are Magyar (separate “race”), and their language is Finno-Ugrian which ain’t Slavic either.

  16. darkskye55 says:

    actully, to be very picky, ghost does make one noise, in all 4 books in GRRM’s series it happens once. when the dire wolves are first found as the stark boys are walking away jon hears a soft wimper that draws him to ghost who had crawled away from the other littermates.

  17. emper says:

    I call bull on this one.

    Sorry, bhut Kovacs is a completely cold sonofa…. he’d just put a few slugs in the guy and be done with it.

  18. Seven says:

    I have to agree, there is no way Tak is losing this match. A better match would have been Ringil Angeleyes.

  19. RS says:

    Echoing \John Umber\ — Kovacs has literally *hundreds* of years of combat experience, and perhaps more importantly, a gun. Kovacs would never let the dude get close enough to him to use the sword. Gun beats chainmail and sword every time.

  20. akos medveczki says:

    A, Kovach is super human,
    B,has at least100 hundred years of compat experience
    C,Any kind of gun,even the crudest penetrates chainmail from 30 paces, 25th handcannons do it from 2000.John will still die, and his lucky Kovacs hasn’t got a Sunjet.( Ghost mght wound Kovach if he is unlucky,but not kill him since he has a knife, but probably the first gunshot will frighten the soul out of Ghost for a moment, having never encounteterd such a thing before, and the secon will pass trough it’s head)

  21. Ann Koo says:

    All Kovacs needs is a shard gun dialed to the widest aperture and Jon Snow’s red mist along with Ghost. Having read all of the Takeshi Kovacs novels as well as reading up on ASoIaF, there’s no way in hell Snow wins this one, Ghost or not. Also, someone spread that misconception that Kovacs is an assassin who can only fight from the shadows. Need I mention that his final fight in Altered Carbon was physical, hands-on combat? He did the same thing in Woken Furies and was highly competent at taking someone down fast.

    The one thing that would kill Snow the fastest is that Kovacs has no violence inhibitor; he has to work to restrain himself from killing someone. His concept of honor is different from Snow’s, which would be a disadvantage to the Stark boy. If anything, Kovacs would go in for the kill and not leave Snow any time to get a killing advantage. Sure, Kovacs has been killed before in his own series but only by someone wielding a gun that can turn your insides into one big gory hole. By instinctual and bred reflexes alone, never mind weapon advantage, Kovacs has this in the bag. Also, if that Tebbit knife is the one he acquires in Altered Carbon, all he needs to do is get Snow with the poisoned edge. That will kill Snow in the time it takes for him to breathe.

  22. HunterXV21 says:

    Smith and Wesson 11mm magnum; 15 cm Tebbit knife

    This isn’t what Kovacs uses.

  23. Redeye says:

    Funny how every single person who has read both series sees this matchup as roughly equivalent to Random Toddler vs. Darth Vader. But Toddler has an HBO series, so . . .

  24. NullMode says:

    Seriously?! Jon Snow is the predicted winner? Talk about pandering to the audience of a more popular series. Tak would blow Jon’s head off and shoot Ghost before they were ever in melee range. It’s really a no brainer. Even say Tak doesn’t see Ghost right away Jon’s still dead. Sword vs firearm…there’s a reason modern militaries don’t issue swords anymore.

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