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This is solid, if rambling, Anderson fun: scenes from the lives of a small group of immortals as they learn to hide their nature and cope with the natural suspicions of their short-lived compatriots. The oldest is Hanno, a Phoenician sailor, and the youngest is an African-American slave who eventually uses the name Corinne Macandal. The others who make it to the end of book are Aliyat (Syrian), Svoboda (Ukrainian), Tu Shan (Chinese), Yukiko (Japanese), John Wanderer (Native American), and Patulcius (Roman). Agelessness is not enough to ensure long lives, and we meet other immortals along the way, who from carelessness, bad luck, or deliberate choice, don't survive to share the ultimate fate of the eight survivors. Or rather, as they come to be known, Survivors.
Most of the book consists of the adventures the individual immortals in various well-devoloped ancient settings. Hanno joins a Greek expedition to Britain and Scandinavia. Aliyat lives too long in Palmyra while it is changing from a Christian to a Muslim city, and escapes the harem to become a prostitute--in Constantinople for a while, where she briefly meets Hanno, who has become a Rus trader. (Well, Welsh, really, for certain values of "really," but the Byzantines regard him as Rus.) Svoboda, already a great-grandmother, leaves her village before she can be killed for witchcraft, to become a merchant's wife in Kiev (and briefly meets Hanno), and later a nun, and still later a Cossack and then a soldier for Mother Russia during the Second World War. (Not for the USSR; the Soviets are better than the Nazis for Svoboda's people, but not much.) Hanno meets Richelieu; John Wanderer, under the earlier name of Deathless, survives the great cultural change brought by the arrival of the horse, and later survives the conquest of the Native American tribes by the expanding United States of America (and meets Hanno. Hanno is the unifying theme in this book.)
It's in these visits to different times and cultures that the book is strongest; it's always been one of Anderson's great strengths. Where the book drags a bit is in the late 20th century, where Hanno becomes a remarkably predictable libertarian. Only a particularly petty and unhealthy puritanism, for instance, can possibly explain laws banning smoking in elevators. Hanno's nemesis, Edmund Moriarty, a.k.a. "Neddy," U.S. Senator from some unidentified New England state, is a cartoon, about as subtle as a ton of bricks. Even John Wanderer's mild reminders that there are some real problems that are most usefully addressed at a level beyond rugged individualism carry little weight beside the fact that Moriarty's own aide has complete contempt for Moriarty's hypocrisy, evidenced in such telling signs as the fact that he has quit smoking, and the senator is too smugly oblivious to notice. Despite the fact that this is the section in which all the surviving immortals make contact, and the one in which hiding successfully becomes a serious challenge, this is a dull, draggy interlude. There is no explanation, not even hand-waving, for how clever Hanno hides them all from the nefarious forces of modern civilization for the remaining decades before aging becomes a solved problem for everyone. We then have another not very interesting section, set in the same AI-controlled world as The Stars Are Also Fire and other later Anderson works, before the real story resumes. The immortals leave this boring non-story for a far more entertaining encounter with two alien species.
Not Anderson's best work, by any means, but very enjoyable even with its weaknesses.
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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This is a tale of immortals. The direct ancestor of this book is Robert A. Heinlein's "Methuselah's Children." This is hardly surprising, given the libertarian affinity of Anderson and Heinlein. However, Anderson's work is much more detailed and ambitious. He starts in the Bronze Age and ancient Tyre and travels through our own age into the distant future. As usual, Anderson laces his writing with older words and descriptions not found anywhere except ancient epics. (It just wouldn't be Anderson without a "yonder" in there!) In his treatment of the immortals, Anderson describes the practical problems of memory, learning new languages, avoiding "witch burning," and finally, even our own scientific acquisitiveness. Unlike Heinlein's immortals (like the loquacious Lazarus Long), Anderson's people remain people; a bit wiser than the average, but not immune from their own prejudices, pasts, and proclivities. Indeed, by the end of the book, the immortals become the only "real" people left.
I love this book, and highly recommend it to lovers of science fiction and history.
I found it interesting that Anderson made all of his protagonists into libertarians. He gives a lot of examples of how governments turn against their citizenry as they acquire more power. Anderson describes how immortals would chafe at erosions of personal freedom. He also shows how America's civilization, too, can fall. He particularly takes shots at the IRS.
Much of the book consists of the immortals searching for others like themselves. Our immortals come from all over the world: Phoenician, Syrian, Russian, Gaul, Native American, Chinese, Japanese, and African-American slave. The latter part describes the future, and how the immortals cope with a world where they can at last reveal themselves, but which has passed beyond their understanding. The future Anderson depicts closely resembles the future he describes in the Harvest of Stars series. I just love the way this book ends. It offers hope and closure.
If there is a downside to the book, it is that some of the characters and chapters are not as interesting as others. Hanno, the eldest immortal, is the most opinionated, creative, and paranoid of his kind. Some of the chapters surrounding the other characters do not move as quickly. I found myself skimming past some sections that I'd read before.
Perhaps the least believable immortal in my mind is John Wanderer, the Indian (Native American, or pick your own favorite title). He seems to accept the lot of his people rather too easily. Mind you, I don't have an immortal's viewpoint, but I think I'd become depressed or mad as hell, not so assimilationist, as he comes to be. The rest of the immortals seek and find inner peace in their own ways, and their behaviors seem reasonable from my own limited view.
Also, sometimes Anderson's desire to provide sensory detail can get intrusive. By golly, he puts you into third century Gaul, but enough with the smells already! And oddly enough, just around the time where conjuring up a sense of place is important (the future), this type of sensory detail is replaced by airier discussions of mental states and human-computer mental interactions.