I’m going to warn you right now, this review is going to be awful.
I don’t mean negative–not at all. I mean the review itself is going to be crappy and unhelpful.
See, this book shouldn’t have taken me over a week. Not at all. It’s a fast-paced 213 pages. It should have taken me between 2 and 4 sittings. However, I spent about a week coming down with something, plus about two days being actually sick curled up in bed watching Dollhouse marathons on my tablet and trying to move as little as possible so I don’t throw up again.
All this adds up to a brain that isn’t working very well. I’m pretty sure there was a day that I fed the cats, crawled into bed, and asked Mike to feed the cats, and he told me that I had just fed the cats, and I absolutely didn’t believe him. That might have been a dream. I don’t even know. I know similar things happened. For example, I also asked my boss about something that she had hung on the wall that I swear I had never seen before, only to find out that she had pointed that out to me a while ago and we’d talked about it for 20 minutes or so.
And about halfway through my book, I realized that what the characters were doing didn’t make any sense, at which point I flipped through to the beginning and suddenly understood something awful. See, there are some characters who only really are referred to by their first name, and some who are only referred to by their last name, and the whole time I’d been reading, I’d been equating them. So halfway through, I realize there’s no Phil Myshtigo. There’s Phil, and there’s Myshtigo, and they are not remotely the same person.
After I got that cleared up, the book made a lot more sense and I finished the rest of it rather quickly.
This book takes place on a post-apocalyptic Earth where most humans have escaped to live on other planets, where they cohabitate with an alien species called Vegans. (Another source of confusion to my sick-addled brain–I wasn’t quite sure why the characters all seemed to hate vegans so much. Were they really pushy vegans who wouldn’t let you enjoy your steak in peace?)
This Immortal straddles the line between Science Fiction and Fantasy, though in general, I would classify it more as SF and recommend it more highly to SF fans. I’m pretty sure I mused a bit in my review of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? about the differences, but reading This Immortal and thinking about how to classify it, I’ve come across something else that I’ve noticed. I find that most amazing fantasy that I read makes me feel, while most science fiction that I read makes me think. It’s an emotional vs. philosophical difference. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, of course–American Gods, for example, is definitely fantasy and definitely a thinking book.
I was going to talk about how it’s a little bit of both. I already mentioned the post-apocalyptic thing: Highly radioactive bombs have destroyed most of the Earth, and what life is left is pretty much forced to live on islands. Those who remained on the mainland are horribly mutated and have reverted to an animal-like state. Vegan tourists come to see the Earth, tour its monuments, and take it as a warning of what can happen if they stop living at peace with each other. Humans who have left the Earth and share worlds with the Vegans are treated as inferior and of lower caste, partially because, I think, their species was so stupid it destroyed its planet, and partially because they lack some natural abilities that the Vegans have–we can’t, for example, see nearly as many colors as they can. The people remaining on Earth want the Vegans gone and struggle to maintain control of their planet. “Rachael,” you’re saying, “This is definitely just hard science fiction. I don’t know what you’re talking about when you say it’s both.”
Sheesh, I haven’t gotten there yet, okay?
The main character, Conrad Nomikos, is a creature out of Greek mythology. He is suspected to be a Kallikanzaros, which I just looked up and is apparently some kind of goblin thing that tries to ruin Christmas, and this is one of those situations where I really don’t think Wikipedia is giving me the whole story because I believe the actual word for that is “Grinch.” He is immortal. His son is Jason, of Greek myth fame, and his wife may or may not be Cassandra, also of Greek myth fame, though that was only kind of hinted at and we don’t really know if she’s immortal. There’s a group of Satyrs, a hellhound, and a giant boar. So, definitely fantasy.
The book follows Conrad as he reluctantly gives Cort Myshtigo, a powerful Vegan surveyor and writer, a tour of what’s left of Earth’s landmarks. They’re accompanied by an eclectic group of friends and acquaintances, most of whom I can’t really tell you anything about because my brain wasn’t working well enough for the first half of the book to really have any idea what was going on to talk about them without giving away major spoilers, but the general gist is this: Some of them want Myshtigo dead, and Conrad isn’t sure if he agrees.
I definitely enjoyed this book as I was reading it, and I loved the second half once my brain cleared up a little and I figured out what was going on. I definitely need to re-read this, possibly the next time my brain isn’t fully clear to be able to actually understand what’s going on, because two half-understandings might lead to a full understanding. In the meantime, I have a few more Zelazny books that I’ll get around to before too long.
And, for book 5 of the 50 Book Project…