Review by John for: The Immortality Virus ~ by Christine Amsden (2011)
A dark, dystopian detective novel that puts an interesting spin on the perils of immortality.
About: In the middle of the 21st century, the world’s population suddenly stops aging. For the relatively wealthy this is a boon, with long and healthy lives, but for the masses it soon results in overpopulation, lack of work, dramatically changing social structures, starvation, desperation and violence.
Fast forward four hundred years and Grace Harper, a discredited private investigator, is hired by an incredibly rich businessman to find the man responsible for “the Change”. The man she goes looking for might be dead (he was old four hundred years previously); he was certainly wanted for murder and he had no intention of being found.
Grace soon finds herself in an investigation where she has deadly enemies on all sides. Even the man who hired her has questionable motives and likely wants her dead, whether or not she succeeds in her quest. In no time at all she is immersed in corruption, slave labor farms, torture, an underground world, a rebellion against the powerful cities and war – not to mention potential love interests that threaten to eat away at her cynical, hard-bitten attitude towards personal relationships.
John’s thoughts: This was an enjoyable read and more thought-provoking than I’d anticipated. It begs some questions: How might society evolve if everyone stopped growing old? Would a possible nirvana inevitably be corrupted by man’s greed and selfishness? Who has the right to impose long life or immortality on society? What happens to people when they have little or no possibility of a better life? What is wrong with growing old gracefully? Why is death such a bad thing? Not that the book sets out to answer all of those questions, but it does make you noodle on them as you read what is essentially a futuristic, fast-paced, detective thriller.
Interestingly, Grace Harper is a cynical, humorous character that develops as the novel progresses. While she has some typical hero/heroine characteristics, she is also all too fallible and comes to realize that she cannot survive without help and companionship. She lives in a harsh world that Amsden does a great job of creating and vividly describing. It really is quite awful, but all too believable if you accept that the immortality virus could strike.
I liked this book and I’d rate it 3 stars. It’s based on a fresh idea and it’s a bit different from anything else I’ve seen out there. Give it a go if you like a bit of dystopia or a strong female lead in a detective thriller.
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