Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Book review: The Immortals

I just finished reading "The Immortals" by James Gunn. It's a 1962 book consisting of 4 short stories published in science fiction magazines between 1955 and 1960. Each of the stories are related.

In the first we follow a doctor who has given a blood transfusion to an elderly and wealthy dying patient. That particular unit of blood had been donated by a man named Cartwright who was unaware that he's immortal. The old man spends a week going from nearly dead to being 30 years old again. Once he figures out what happened he launches a search for the donor in the hopes of being able to pump him for his blood forever. But the doctor finds him first and warns him to hide.

The second story talks about a special organization dedicated to finding the secret to immortality and funded by a cabal of millionares. They find one of the heir of the original Cartwright. One guy tries to play each side off the other but only succeeds in getting them both captured. Luckily for them the original Cartwright has been working as a janitor in the organization for decades so he'd be in a position to know and free any of his children who were captured.

The third story takes place in a world where the quest for health care has almost completely consumed the economy. The cities lie in ruin as toxic fogs ebb and flow. To either live high in a tower or out in the suburbs. Medics training to be doctors travel in ambulances built like tanks to deter bandits. Still, one medic gets kidnapped and brought before an old man who is also a powerful mob boss type when he goes to treat an old blind man whose coverage has expired. Naturally they - the medic, the old man, and a young lady with him - manage to escape. The old blind man used to be a doctor and teaches the medic the difference between a doctor and a healer.

The fourth story continues in this same world. It's been about 200 years since the first Cartwright has been discovered. Several Cartwrights have been captured. The countryside is filled with people who will try to capture you and sell your body for it's organs. A doctor is given the task of taking a message to the Governor now that the communication lines have been cut. He's also to escort a blind man, the governor's daughter, and one other to the mansion. The three he's escorting don't much like the doctor but he's fastened to the governor's daughter so they can't get separated by much without pain. They escape several traps and attacks only to find that the Governor is about 200 years old and has swollen up like Jabba the Bloated Tick. The girl is his daughter but she's also a Cartwright and the governor wants to breed with her and use her blood to keep him young and healthy. So naturally, they have to kill him.

It was a decent book. I'd like to see other books that unfold in a series of short stories like this.

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