Reviewer Steve Moore: Steve is a full-time writer and ex-scientist. Besides his many technical publications, he has written six sci-fi thrillers (one a novel for young adults), many short stories, and frequent comments on writing and the digital revolution in publishing. His interests also include physics, mathematics, genetics, robotics, forensics, and scientific ethics. Follow Here for his WEBSITE.
Author: Lawrence Lapin
This novel is about immortality—whether it’s a good thing and what you do when you get it
Author: Lawrence Lapin
This novel is about immortality—whether it’s a good thing and what you do when you get it. This is heavy stuff. Immortality’s opposite, mortality, is a topic most people prefer to avoid. Like many teenagers I felt mortality was an abstract concept that had little application in my personal life. As I’ve aged the concept has become less abstract and I ponder some of the questions Lapin’s hero ponders.
Lapin’s protagonist is a researcher in genetics by the name of Adam Boatwright. If you’re wondering whether there is a Little Joe or Hoss around, you’re also probably old enough to be thinking more about your own mortality, or should be. Adam’s immortality is the kind achieved by not aging using a technique he discovers. This kind of immortality is more common in sci-fi than that of vampires or werewolves where the fantasy creature can’t be killed. In particular, there is the old sci-fi conundrum that if you can’t die from old age will you become so careful that you’re frozen into inaction, afraid that even one false step will place you in a fatal accident? In other words, the longer you live, the more you value your life.
This is Book One of the Boatwright Chronicles. That should give you the hint that we won’t discover by the end of the novel whether Adam can really handle not aging. These deep philosophical questions aside, once you start reading you find a book full of science, mostly genetics. Being a sucker for science, and particularly genetics, I loved it. There are interesting omissions, though. There is no mention of telomeres and their role in the aging process nor of the fact that our DNA contains residues of ancient viruses that we have co-opted, fact which gives credence to Dr. Boatwright’s supervirus idea.
In case you are thinking that this is just a treatise on the philosophy of immortality and the science of genetics, be forewarned that there is also suspenseful action. Our hero is unjustly framed not once but twice, in somewhat similar circumstances. The adage that a fiction writer must put his hero in dire straits is followed, but repeating things is a little too much. Oh yes, there is an evil cartel and terrorists lurking in the background that Adam must defeat with the help of his wife, Vera. Too often she provides the ideas, giving fictional proof to the other adage that behind every successful man is a smart woman. She’s an accomplished concert violinist and blond (otherwise Adam has a thing for redheads). She’s also a pedantic wench and I can’t really understand why she loves Adam, who seems to be an egotistical snob most of the time. She gets on my nerves almost from the start.
Why do I say that? Adam’s supposed motivation for his research is to protect his wife from breast cancer. Not breast cancer victims in general—just his wife. In fact, Adam spends the whole novel following his personal agenda. He ends up killing a woman that reluctantly worked with the terrorists and feels little remorse about the act or the situation the woman found herself in. By the end of the novel I really disliked the guy. I’m sure that was not Lapin’s intention, so I suppose I’m reacting strangely.
Adam holds his wife in high esteem. Not only does he listen to her ideas, he drags her on a spelunking expedition which she has no prep for. This episode has nothing to do with the framings, the terrorists, or the cartel, but has everything to do with establishing the background for the other novels. I admire the author’s ability to plot out four novels at a time, but I would have preferred that he not describe so much of what will come in future Chronicles. Yes, the novel stands alone, but I don’t see how future novels can.
The author claims that the novel is not exactly sci-fi either. I disagree. It treats standard themes of sci-fi, themes we can’t talk about in real life because they’re taboo or embarrassing. It’s what good sci-fi is all about. To the author’s credit, I found the idea of the book intriguing. I’ll even grant him that there could be a geneticist with both terrorists and a cartel after him. I just didn’t like his characters.
The book is also badly in need of editing. I understand a new edition is forthcoming. The author should have done it right the first time. While I have found errors even in mega-blockbusters, they can be distracting.
I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. With all my complaints above, I still enjoyed it. You might find that there is too much science, too much explaining; I didn’t. You should certainly go to the author’s website and read the excerpt before you decide to put in your order. Then again, that’s only the first chapter. You haven’t met Vera yet!Click Here To Purchase Super Virus: Immortal Sins