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First Immortal Hardcover – January 20, 1998
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In 1988, Benjamin Franklin Smith suffers a massive coronary and is placed into cryonic suspension, igniting a storm of controversy among his suspicious relatives. In 2072, on his 147th birthday, he is reanimated by his great-grandson, rejoining a world in which such procedures--along with eugenic selection, virtual reality, and nanotechnology--have become commonplace. Ben's friends, children, grandchildren ,and mother are also given second chances in this brave new world; technology has even made it possible for Ben to have his dead wife cloned as an infant, raised by their son (also frozen and revived) to an adulthood in which she marries him again.
If this sounds a bit bewildering and overwhelming, it is, but it's also fascinating and often has the ring of genuine prediction. As in Halperin's first novel, The Truth Machine, the technology is always front and center, but this is ultimately a story of people and the political and sociological implications of near immortality.
From School Library Journal
YA-A family saga spanning 200 years. The catch is that most of the relatives remain on the scene throughout this whole time period, or show up again by the end. This remarkable feat is accomplished through cryogenics, the science of freezing a person in liquid nitrogen shortly before death, with the hope of resurrection at some later date. Ben Smith, born in 1925, marries his high school sweetheart, fathers four children, and becomes an advocate of cryogenics. After his "death," his children squabble among themselves and institute a suit against the estate in an attempt to unfreeze both their father's body and his assets. Each new period is introduced by what reads like a CNN clip of current news through the year 2125. The scientific ideas and possibilities presented capture the imagination, and YAs are sure to ponder and question the images with which they are left. What happens to the soul? Would anyone want to clone dead parents and raise them as their children? How is immortality to be lived? An afterword gives information about cryogenics. A challenging and fascinating glimpse of one possible future.
Carol DeAngelo, American Chemical Society Library, Washington, DC
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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The material was great, but the REAL suprise was the *hopeful* outlook for humanities future. It was the first thing I read- that really struck home anyway- that saw the possibilities of what technology could do rather than assuming humanities future was extinction or slavery.
P.s. I actually am following up on the main idea of the book, which is cryonics.
The tone of the book is polemical - for never a moment is there a doubt that this is a diatribe against religion and superstition. I have a low tolerance for superstition and less for religion, but the constant harangue is tedious - I end up feeling like I'm being lectured.
The book did not entertain or educate me. I found it depressing that such inconsequential and unsympathetic characters should be rewarded with the gift of a longer life.
So, what did I like?
-very good exploration of likely possibilities
-nice consideration of the technical as well as the human side of the implications
-accurate representation of technology (at least as of 1998!)
-very accurate representation on the mythology (religion) of the day and how it restricts human potential
What did I not like?
-there is WAY TOO MUCH back story; you spend the first 3rd or so of the book before anybody gets frozen! I might care about the main character's WW2 experiences if this was a different sort of story but here it just makes it tedious!
-then you have to wait until the last 3rd of the book before anyone gets thawed
-the author has a very simplistic writing style; dialog is predictable and stilted; reads like a "young adult" novel
-the interactions between the characters are just painful
My bottom line...
-if you are fascinated with cryonics then you should plod through this as it explores the topic nicely
-if you are just looking for a good sci-fi novel skip it
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