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If By Reason of Strength (A Techno-thriller) [Kindle Edition]

Jamie Todd Rubin
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $2.99

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Book Description

"There were 3,260 rivets lining the walls, floor and ceiling of the airlock. Norman had plenty of time to count them. He remembered very little of the day in which (so he was told) he killed four of his crew-mates..."

After serving nearly 300 years in prison, convicted murderer, Norman Gilmore is released a free man, and the oldest living human on record. But he shuns his fame and heads off to Mars to find the answer to a question that has been plaguing him for nearly his entire lifetime.

A 280-year-old crime. A one way ticket. A pharmaceutical company. A bioengineering discovery. A gripping story filled with the ghosts of the past.


Jamie Todd Rubin is a science fiction writer and blogger. His fiction has appeared in Analog, Apex Magazine and Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show. He writes the Wayward Time Traveler column for SF Signal and he vacations frequently in the Golden Age of science fiction.

Product Details

  • File Size: 271 KB
  • Print Length: 34 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: 40k (September 28, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005QSTIL8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,018,471 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A 4-life sentence September 30, 2011
By Kitsune
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Norman Gilmore was one of the first humans on Mars and he's the oldest man alive. Being almost 314 years old, Norman has past 280 years in prison convicted for murder (doing a 4-lives time); so when he's a freeman again, he feels the urge to go back to Mars to look for an answer he needs in order to die in peace. In the long way to the formerly red planet, Norman will also vindicate with himself and will make Dev (a new friend) understand that "without meaning, without something to strive for, a body is just another form of prison. It's not about having the time-it's abut making the best of the time you have."

Norman's story is not just a reflexion about life and its meaning, it's also a way to question the future and consequences of people's actions. What are the odds of finding a new "life form" which can give us many good things, and simply destroying it?

Jamie Todd Rubin's narrative keeps the reader interested in the story because of his great way to manage time and setting. The narrator tells just the amount of information he wants so the thriller sense is maintained during the whole story. The use of intertextuality is also a wise move in the text, so you can find references to Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, the Bible and Bradbury that enriches the reading.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Melancholy Tale of Deep Regrets October 17, 2011
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To whom does life belong? Who has the right to determine how it is used or allocated? Who has the responsibility for giving it meaning, and by what means do they accomplish that?

To Norman Gilmore, all life is sacred, although he was convicted for the deaths of four of of his crew mates on mankind's first excursion to Mars. Two hundred eighty years later upon his release, he seeks atonement, in part, by giving mankind the secret to his own longevity. But will his gift really be a curse to people who don't have something to strive for?

In contrast, the powers that be treat life as a commodity. To them, life is subject to the same kind of calculus we use to allocate material capital. Gilmore is convicted on the basis of a clumsy calculation - a lifetime for a life - as intention is seemingly never considered by the court in the case of his own crimes. The martians are eradicated for the expansion of mankind. And when the remnants of their species are discovered still alive, they are subject, yet again, to a type of cost/benefit analysis that benefits possibly everyone. But does that make the calculus morally sound?

Jamie Todd Rubin raises these questions in this haunting, melancholy tale of a man who wrestles with them and his own deep regrets after four lifetimes and the long return trip to Mars.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And I'm not a Science Fiction reader October 14, 2011
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I have read several stories from Jamie Rubin over the years, and this was by far my favorite. I don't usually read many science fiction stories because I prefer stories about sports. What I like, was the story grabs you quickly and keeps your attention. Stories that are too predictable aren't worth reading. I was actually expecting a different ending, and actually wanted to read more. I know it's a short story, but I actually could see a movie being made from it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An homage to Golden Age SF writing October 12, 2011
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The story revolves around one of the first men to reach Mars, Norman Gilmore. He has also just served a 280 year prison sentence for a quartet of murders, and is the oldest person on the planet. These three facts are not unrelated, and the story focuses on Norman's actions upon being released. His long life now nearly over, he needs to go back to the now terraformed Mars...

The story feels and invokes the Golden Age of science fiction, to its credit and benefit, as well as its detriment. Jamie holds strong and fast to the idea he invokes, and any science fiction short story that invokes Dr. Seuss is more than okay in my book.

If by Reason of Strength, in addition to its Golden Age production values, has a good backbone of further ideas beyond the "300 year old murderer being released from prison". I hesitate to reveal the gems of ideas that the author brings forward here, for fear of spoilers on a relatively short novella. But, that, too, is pure Golden Age, ideas tossed casually at the reader rather than parsimoniously hoarded. The author is a reader and reviewer of old science fiction, and the love he has for that time period clearly comes through in his own writing, but it is more informed and infused than straight up imitation. Call it a homage to Golden Age SF Writing. The story keeps humming along and doesn't have time to flag.

However, there are a fair sheaf of implausibilities in the scenario presented in the story, which threatened my sense of disbelief.

That said, however, the story was well written on the mechanics, was entertaining, and did very well in pulling this reader forward, to uncover the mysteries the author had waiting to uncover and decipher. Implausibilities aside, the story was an interesting read, and the themes invoked well developed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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The title of this novel caught my attention, and I added it to my reading list. When I was offered a copy by the editor of 40k, I really couldn't resist. 40k, as I discovered, is an Italian eBook publisher which specialises in original short fiction. I don't read a lot of short fiction, but this story drew me in.

Norman Gilmore was a pilot on the first manned mission to Mars. He is also a convicted murderer, and at 313 years of age, the oldest man alive. While on Mars, Norman and some other crew members picked up a virus-like alien disease. Norman survived, and when he returned to Earth, he was tried and convicted for murdering four crewmates. He was sentenced to four life sentences, a total of 280 years.

Norman lived to complete that term, and he's released, famous as the oldest living human. Now he wants to return to Mars. The only way he can achieve this is by making a deal with the world's most powerful pharmaceutical company. Will he find what he's looking for when he reaches Mars?

`Without meaning, without something to strive for, a body is just another form of prison. It's not about having the time - it's about making the best of the time you have.'
It's an interesting short story which invites the reader to reflect on the meaning of life, and to question the future. All of our actions have impacts and consequences.

My thanks to Letizia Sechi, editor of 40k, for providing me with a copy of this story.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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More About the Author

Jamie Todd Rubin is a science fiction writer and blogger with stories appearing in Analog, InterGalactic Medicine Show, Apex Magazine and 40K Books. He wrote the Wayward Time Traveler column on science fiction for SF Signal, and occasionally appears on the SF Signal podcast. Jamie also writes occasional book review and interview columns for InterGalactic Medicine Show.

His interest in the history of science fiction led him to begin his Vacation in the Golden Age, a series of biweekly posts reviewing each issue of Astounding Science Fiction from July 1939 through December 1950.

He is the Evernote Ambassador for paperless lifestyle, writing frequently about going paperless.

Jamie lives in Falls Church, Virginia with his wife and two children.


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