Amortals is a science-fiction novel by famed game designer Matt Forbeck. While not every game designer can write fiction, Amortals certainly demonstrates that Forbeck can.
The novel postulates a not-so-distant future in which cloning has been perfected, along with memory transfer. Unfortunately, only the very rich and the government can afford the immortality this confers, so the common folk are left to die. As a matter of fact, with cloning solving any troublesome disease for the wealthy, spending on other medical innovation dwindles. The gap between haves and have-nots has reached a proportion beyond even that you may have seen in Blade Runner.
Into this setting, the protagonist, Dooley (a Secret Service agent who was the first test subject for the technology, and hence the oldest man on earth), is revived into his latest incarnation, to solve the gruesome murder of his previous one.
The Good: The novel does a great job of portraying a well-conceived future. If science fiction is about projecting a trend decades or centuries forward, to predict and discuss its consequences, Amortals convincingly shows us what a world of wealthy “immortals” might look like. The main character through whose eyes we experience this world is a well-rounded personality, not just a sci-fi gumshoe, and the secondary characters are equally interesting and believable. The story is carried along with plenty of action—fights, chases, and personal conflicts. More importantly, however, it spins into a veritable tourbillion of a plot that delivers wilder and wilder revelations, as security and freedom (aka law and chaos) do battle, with the main character unwittingly poised at their center. This is a plot that will remain with me, among my favorites.
The Bad: About the worst I can suggest is that a few too many chapters end in cliffhangers for my taste. To my mind, the author needn’t have worried that people might lose interest without them. This story sinks its claws into you early, and you won’t want to stop reading. Also, a few typos (for example, two chapter three’s, a chapter “thrity”) blemish the etext, though nothing major or extensive.
The Verdict: Amortals is thoroughly enjoyable. It’s hard to put down. The premise left me mulling over the future and watching current events, as all good sci-fi should. Here’s hoping that Forbeck sets aside more time out of his successful game-design schedule to write more fiction!