Science fiction and fantasy                                            


by Matt Forbeck


One of the limitations of non-supernatural ultra-violent science fiction is the fact that you can usually only kill each character once. If there's too much dying we either end up with a long succession of bit-part cannon-fodder characters who readers don't care about, or the story gets quiet really quickly. Matt Forbeck neatly sidesteps this problem by creating a near-future world where, at least for the lucky few, death is only a temporary inconvenience.

Agent Ronan Dooley is one of the few, a secret service agent who was the first to join the Amortals Project as a reward for selflessly taking a bullet in order to save the President. Dooley has died and been reborn eight times. However this time his reincarnation is deeply personal, because he was brutally murdered in the most deliberate and thorough way possible. His killer filmed the execution, but he left no traces of his identity or reasons.

So Dooley sets out to solve his own murder, with little to go on and a long list of enemies from his many years of active service for his country. He's missing his memories of this death, as well as most of the months leading up to his murder. He is partnered with Agent Querer, an attractive young woman with only one life to live. But Dooley likes to do things his own way, which is to say the most dangerous way. He's almost religiously opposed to taking orders, following protocol, or waiting for backup.

It's 2168, and Matt Forbeck's version of America is more divided than ever. Amongst mortals life expectancy has declined, whilst the super-rich enjoy the luxury of amortality for as long as they can pay for it. Healthcare is in decline now that the wealthy can get whole new bodies. Hovercars fill the skies, so roads have fallen into disuse. The religious right oppose amortals as abominations, and they're growing increasingly inclined to stage demonstrations and riots to make their point.

Dooley's life is further complicated by trouble with his descendants. He barely knows most of them, but they nevertheless have heated arguments with each other over him. His attempts to reconnect with his distant family make for an interesting counterpoint to his ice-cold secret agent persona.

The story comes together as a great multi-stranded thriller, peppered with some good red herrings. It's high-octane, with plenty of hovercars and crazed factions out for Agent Dooley's high-profile blood. Add this to his recklessness and determination to get to the bottom of the mystery and you have the recipe for an all-action, high-tech scrap and a half. Bullets fly, and layers of intrigue stack up like an enormous lasagne.

For the most part Amortals is pretty macho, featuring the kind of guns and fast cars mayhem that may turn off the most sensitive of readers. However it is complex and well plotted, and the ending left me grinning with satisfaction.

9th November 2010

Book Details

Year: 2010

Categories: Books

  Science fiction
    Male Protagonist  

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4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson

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