BOOK REVIEW: Matt Forbeck's Amortals
They brought him back from the dead, that was their first mistake...
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Angry Robot Books continues to release a plethora of fine sci-fi and fantasy. Following Andy Remic's Soul Stealers, I've just recently finished up yet another of the new publishing house's recent releases: Matt Forbeck's Amortals.
Our story follows one Secret Service Agent Ronan Dooley, whose selfless sacrifice to save the President's life in the early 21st century earns him the opportunity to undergo an experimental procedure and become the first "amortal," brought back to life in a new clone body thanks to the latest science and medicine.
Now it's the year 2168 and, having died eight times in the line of duty, the 200+ year old Dooley is investigating a murder unlike any other: his own. Killed at the hands of an unknown murderer who's made Dooley's brutal death a public spectacle, it's up to Dooley and his new partner to find out who killed him and why.
Amortals starts out with a thunder cracker and accelerates full speed ahead, forcing readers to delve headlong with Dooley on this exciting quest to not only find and capture his killer, but understand why he was killed. Along the way, we - as readers - are forced to examine a number of morality questions, including what we believe constitutes life, the value of human life, and what it mean to have a soul...if the soul really exists.
Like our present time, the future of Amortals has two distinct classes: "haves" and "have nots." Forbeck does an excellent job of defining the stressed relations between the governing wealthy class and those in poverty and need. While crime still happens and criminals still get rich, most of the wealthy (including criminals) have little concern with health or life due to their accumulated wealth and the ability to be resurrected.
The development of the Amortals Project has thus lead to health care and medical research all but coming to a standstill. Forbeck again does an impressive job of reasoning this, as there's really no need for medical tech to grow once death has been defeated. As such, this somewhat startling future sees poverty rise for the needy while the rich and wealthy grow even more so. Likewise, government officials stay in office far longer than current elected officials; such as "career politicians" who never truly die could potentially have careers lasting a century or more quite easily.
The story's plot is well paced, with Dooley constantly on edge, questioning his actions and the actions of others throughout. Forced to play, at times, the run-and-gun shooter and, at other times, the quiet, reflective investigator, Dooley seems at once one part Dirty Harry, one part Jason Bourne, and one part Takeshi Kovacs.
With little regard for what others say or do, Ronan Dooley, after 200+ years of life experiance, would seem a man with little remorse and even less guilt; however, Forbeck writes him as unique amongst the Amortals in that - as he is amortal only because of his self-sacrifice for the President over a century ago - his life is essentially dependant on him remaining a Secret Service agent. Likewise, he does not have the wealth of other Amortals. Forbeck writes Dooley as the lone wolf in need of a pack, one part of a bigger and better whole that's missing. Though in search of something worthy of joining, Dooley instead has, because of his age and experiance, overstayed his welcome and thus interrupted the natural order of things. At once both unique and common, Dooley is that old man with lots of life experiance and little wisdom to impart on others.
Amortals features a plethora of interesting and realistic futuristic tech, including cranial access to the web as well as sight "layers" which people can switch on and off to help them identify people, places, and things. Other tech includes hoover cars (a mainstay of many modern sci-fi novels and movies), power armor with cloaking abilities, and more.
When I first picked up Matt Forbeck's Amortals, I was concerned it was a cookie-cutter clone of Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon, a modern classic of sci-fi literature. However, upon reading the book, Amortals - while featuring similar themes and ideas - is its own animal and develops a story that is at once intriguing, action-packed, and suspenseful.
I'm a huge fans of near future sci-fi as it allows the author to explore possible futures the likes of which some of us can seemingly imagine and others of us can't possibly fathom. If you look back 100 years to 1910, there's no way the folks living then would have ever thought 100 years of technological progress would see cell phones with GPS and bluetooth, flat screen TVs in every house, nuclear submarines, naval warships with rail guns, and space shuttles and telescopes in space. It seems too far out, right?
Wrong. Science fiction authors have for decades (if not centuries) been predicting the future on the fictional page. And maybe - just maybe - that's what Matt Forbeck's tapped into with Amortals.
I would recommend Amortals to sci-fi fans looking for a solid murder mystery, action-adventure. If you a fan of Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon, Warren Hammond's Kop or Ex-Kop or if you're a fan of Jeff Somer's Avery Cates novels, you'll find Amortals right up your alley.
Matt Forbeck's Amortals is available at fine book sellers now.
- Jess C. Horsley