By Matt Forbeck
Amortals is a science fiction thriller of high octane action and is the novel of Matt Forbeck, published by Angry Robot Books.
The year is 2168 and Secret Service agent Ronan "Methusaleh" Dooley is hot on the trail of a vicious killer, but this case is a bit of a twist as the victim happens to be himself. It's not every day you get to see a thrid (3D video) of your own murder but for the first ever "Amortal" being killed is just a temporary setback.
Scientists have managed to solve the problem of Mortality by growing an adult clone that contains "backed up" memories of the person in question and Dooley was the first person ever to have received this treatment, over 100 years and 8 deaths ago. When combined with his selfless acts which have included taking a bullet for a President of the US, he's one of the most famous and the oldest person on the planet (nearly 200 years old).
Amortals is one of those science fiction novels that manages to cover some big topics without getting bogged down with techno-babble or a huge back-story. The Character of Ronan Dooley is portrayed very well, a 200 year old man in a 30 year old body, with holes in his memory and most of his private life in his past. A living legend that has outlived great grand children and seems to live and breath purely for his career in the Secret Service, which is quite ironic for the most famous person on the planet to work for a supposed secret organisation. Having a character in a future setting that has been born in the same era as the reader is a great way to ground the story and helps the reader to form a real bond with the protagonist.
The back-story of the novel is a real stroke of genius and told in a casual fashion, apart from the Amortal's project (kept out of the reach of all but the most rich and powerful) we have hover-cars, layered cities and personal "nano servers". This last bit of tech has been fantastically realised and described in excellent detail, essentially a built-in server maps digital information directly to your eye sockets and allows the user to experience a very advanced form of AR (Augmented Reality). Scan someone's face and you can get a raft of information about them, make eye contact and you can send them money. The system uses different layers for different features, for example Dooley has a "friend-foe" layer that tags friendlies and hostiles. The ability of a very powerful computer at hand instantly with everything described in a very plausible manner.
Against this backdrop we have the actual story, which is fast paced and contains enough twists, turns, intrigue and red herrings to keep you hooked from beginning to end (although I did guess quite early on who the real killer was). The underlying messages throughout the novel are subtle enough and intelligently underplayed. A measure of this can be seen by the fact that I read the book in one day in 3 sittings, despite spending most of the day looking after the kids. This happens very rarely when your spare time is spent helping to look after 2 very energetic and noisy preschoolers who are always wrestling over who gets to play with the same toy (despite there being a hundred others in the room).
Amortals is an action packed sci fi thriller full of fantastic tech and a great ending, highly reccomended.
Written on 11th October 2010 by Ant .