Amortals (Matt Forbeck)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Amortals is a near future sci-fi thriller that deals with the concept of longevity extending technology and its potential to stagnate society into a dystopia. This is definitely a thriller first and sci-fi second. You won’t get a lot of long winded explanations on society or philosophical spiels on the preciousness of life due to the fact that in every other paragraph the protagonist is tossed around in flying cars, shot at with missiles, or having fistfights. There is definitely a sci-fi component here, and some non fully articulated thoughts on the nature of man, but it’s kept mostly to the margins and serves more as set piece for the protagonist to fight around rather than the driving force of the book. As a thriller it’s good. The characters are interesting enough for you to invest in them without being overly complicated enough to slow down the story, the action is well visualized and exciting with actual tension, and the plot moves along quickly enough that you don’t get bored. I wouldn’t recommend Amortals to every hard sci-fi fan out there, but for someone looking for a quick action thriller with enough sci-fi elements to make you think a bit between fist fights, then I don’t think you’d go wrong with Amortals.

Greater Detail:
Ronan “Methusaleh” Doonan is the oldest man alive. 200 years ago he was a Secret Service agent killed in the line of duty and brought back to life in a newly cloned body with a cloned mind. This rejuvenation technology has since completely reshaped society and the world is starkly divided into those who can afford death insurance and those who can’t. When Ronan is killed under mysterious circumstances he comes back to life with no memory of the last few months and must track down his own killer.

The premise sounds a bit like a mystery, but there really isn’t much of one here. Rather than delicately pursuing leads, the protagonist instead goes from one confrontation to another until he eventually stumbles upon the identity of his own killer. It’s not poorly plotted or anything, but to call it a mystery greatly exaggerates the sleuthing the protagonist does.

The protagonist is well portrayed and feels believable for someone who has lived for 200 years. He is a tragic figure who has outlived everyone and everything that he held dear without being melancholy and morose. Ironically, since this is mostly a two-fisted action-packed thriller, I think other, much more cerebral, serious sci-fi books could learn quite a bit from his delicate portrayal for their long-lived characters.

I felt like some of the ramifications of the life extension technology on society didn’t really make sense or weren’t fully explained. Questions such as why people who live for an unlimited amount of time don’t care about promoting new technology or would stop caring about pollution didn’t really make sense to me. I would think extremely long-lived people would seek constant technological advancement to stave off their own boredom and seek a pristine environment given that they are going to be stuck in it forever, but I suppose one of the primary purposes of sci-fi is to make you think about questions like this, so the book should generally be considered a success in this area.

Comparisons to Other Authors:
In his author’s notes at the end of the book, the author acknowledges a similarity to Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon. I think Altered Carbon is definitely the better book of the two, but they are quite similar and fans of one will probably like the other.

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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

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