The Everlasting Beyond of Eternal Happiness reminds me quite a bit of Harry Harrisons "Bill, The Galactic Hero" series, which itself is in part a parody of Heinlein's Starship Troopers - there is a very similar irony running throughout and the book even shares some of the same vernacular. There are faint hints of the Red Dwarf series too and all combined with the authors own unique voice.
The Everlasting is a lot more subtle than those series mentioned though and rather than make a play on the action hero as Harrison and Heinlein do Amos does the opposite, the protagonist here is a nerd, in fact almost an Arnold Rimmer - an everyday biologist with as much chance of winning a war as he would have marrying a supermodel. This lonely microbiologist known as Anthony Germaine is made a science officer on an epoch-making journey into space and is poised to be a part of a discovery that could mark a new chapter in human history.
This astro-nerd isn't the real Anthony though; it's a digital copy, a virtual entity from a scan of Anthony's brain. The problems begin when his "personality" files become corrupt and he develops obsessions with sex and death while being plagued with virtual acne and mooning after the delectable chocolate addict Marlene who also a digital copy, as are the entire crew. As if that wasn't bad enough the computers due to switch itself off next Tuesday and therefore end their virtual lives - while someone or something is bumping off the rest of the crew.
It doesn't leave much time to answer the big questions of science, belief and God, win the heart of Marlene, and find some spot lotion.
I was pretty much entranced throughout much of this novel; there is an effortless quality about the book that makes reading it very easy and comfortable. The subtle humour helps, as does the great storyline and I loved the idea of using virtual astronauts. The author manages to keep you on your toes too with a pretty fast relentless plot with very little downtime at all.
As you can probably imagine from the title religion plays a large part in the story with a pretty strict dystopian future that appears to be largely ruled by one quite overpowering religion. The author has a lot of fun with this future where just about everything is sponsored by a brand - even down to the names of the space ships. The message of overpowering religious dogma and the idea that science and religion can co-exist is well balanced and considered without appearing judgmental or over-reaching.
For a debut novel The Everlasting Beyond of Eternal Happiness is quite exceptional, it's funny without going too far, thoughtful without being too preachy and above all a very fine read.
Written on 16th December 2011 by Ant.
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