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Immortal Life by Stanley Bing

BOTTOM LINE: A mess of a disappointment

Genre: Science Fiction
Publication Date: 5 December 2017
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“An ancient mogul has bought the power to live forever, but the strong young body he plans to inhabit has other ideas. The battle for immortal life begins.

Immortal Life. A fantasy. An impossible dream. For now, maybe. But as we speak the moguls of Big Tech are pouring their mountain of wealth into finding a cure for death. Don’t tell them they won’t succeed.

None of these titans is richer than Arthur Vogel. This inventor, tech tycoon, and all-round monster has amassed trillions (with a T) and rules over a corporate empire stretching all the way to Mars. The newest—and most expensive—life extension technology has allowed him to live to 127 years, but time is running out. His last hope to escape the inevitable lies with Gene, a human being specifically created for the purpose of housing Arthur’s consciousness. The plan is to discard his used-up old carcass and come to a second life in a young, strong body with all appropriate working parts. But there’s a problem: Gene. He may be artificial, but he is a person. And he has other ideas.

As Arthur sets off to achieve his goal of world domination, Gene hatches a risky plan of his own. The forces against him are very, very rich, extremely determined, and used to getting what they pay for. The battle between creator and creation is joined as the two minds wrestle for control of one body.

This story is real. The tech is in development. The sponsors are the titans of industry well known to you. Eternal life may very soon be at the fingertips of those who can afford it. Mixing brisk action, humor, and wicked social commentary, Immortal Life imagines a day just around the corner. Welcome to a brave new world that is too familiar for comfort—and watch the struggle for humanity play out to the bitter end.”

My Thoughts: Plainly speaking, Immortal Life is a disappointment. Meant to be a satirical cautionary tale, it falls victim to its attempts at tongue-in-cheek humor. Meant as a nod and a wink to savvy readers, its references to tech industry titans have all the feel of convenient name-dropping. The story is choppy, and the science is nonsensical. Rest assured, this is no Andy Weir blockbuster, although it is valiantly attempting to be just like it.

There is no doubt that mankind has always been obsessed with living longer and finding that fountain of youth. The premise that the über rich are actively seeking ways to live forever is not a stretch of the imagination. What will strike readers as odd is the fact that it is the tech titans who are funding this immortality research. Mr. Bing mentions almost all of them by first name to leave no doubts that he means those giants of industry who created Apple and Microsoft and Tesla and all the rest. These are supposedly the men funding projects that would prolong their lives – using everything from bio-engineering to artificial intelligence to DNA cloning.

The thing is that if Mr. Bing had done his research, he would know that these titans have actively warned against the use of artificial intelligence in any form. They have warned about the ethical issues with bio-engineering. Their concerns are for the future of humanity, and they are not alone in that regard. They sit right alongside the likes of Stephen Hawking when touting the idea that artificial intelligence and robotics will mean the end of mankind. Knowing this information, it makes the entire premise that these One Percenters would ever go so far as to use robotic arms, legs, and internal organs to extend their lives, let along clone another human being into which they could transfer their personalities, utterly preposterous.

Granted, no one reading Immortal Life could ever take it as science fact or even science potential. The science portions of the story are laughable. If anything these passages read more like wishful thinking rather than anything possible right now. The theories mentioned and the science used throughout the novel have no basis in reality. For a science fiction novel, it appears to be more fantasy than science-based.

All this brings me back to the idea that Immortal Life is supposed to be a satire, but one has to wonder what exactly it is trying mock. One can see the ridicule of our obsession with youth, looking young and staying fit as long as possible. However, it is difficult to take the novel seriously let alone use it as a magnifying glass to highlight faults within modern society. In attempting to scorn certain trends, the story goes too far into the incredulous making it ineffective at the very thing it was trying to do.

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