To Live Forever
Written by: Jack Vance
Narrated by: Kevin Kenerly
Length: 7 hrs and 49 mins
Release Date: 08-25-15
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc
Genre: Vintage Sci Fi, Fantasy
My Rating: 4.0 of 5.0
Waylock had been granted eternal life - but now he was killing on borrowed time.
Gavin Waylock had waited seven years for the scandal surrounding his former immortal self to be forgotten and had kept his identity concealed so that he could once again join the ranks of those who lived forever. He had been exceedingly careful about hiding his past. Then he met the Jacynth. She was a beautiful 19-year-old, and Gavin wanted her. But he recognized that a wisdom far beyond her years marked her as one who knew too much about him to live. As far as she was concerned, death was a mere inconvenience. But once the Jacynth came back, Gavin Waylock's life would be an everlasting hell.
©2015 Blackstone Audio, Inc. (P)2015 Blackstone Audiobooks
Waylock is a man living in a society where levels of achievement determine the number of years a person lives. Men strive to increase their “sloop” through innovation, great study, artistic talent or remarkable work achievement. When a person reaches the top elite level, they are inducted into the Amaranth where they are granted eternal life. To accomplish this eternal life, they have ‘clones’ or replicas who are matured over seven years. The clones have the DNA coding and memories of their primary so it is as if they continue on for eternity.
The governing authorities do their best to maintain smooth operations with strict and swift enforcement, including humiliation and execution. But problems are beginning to be exposed in the calm society. It is difficult for the lower working levels to gain sloop and rise to Amaranth. Not only that but, to keep balance for the resources, for each Amaranth that is inducted, 1700 lowest levels must be removed from the city rolls. This causes depression or mental illness in some who can’t accept that they can’t get beyond the middle level.
Waylock was an immortal sentenced to death for killing another immortal. He is believed to have been eliminated as his replicates should not have had time to mature. However, he lives quietly in hiding for seven years hoping that his past deed will be forgotten and he will be able to work his way back to Amaranth. Then he meets a beautiful young woman, Jacynth. He is drawn to her until he suspects that somehow she knows his secrets. Waylock will take extreme measures to protect himself.
The second time Waylock meets the Jacynth he is again attracted but wary. He soon learns that she is now an investigator for the enforcers and she is determined to bring “the monster” to justice. They begin a cat and mouse dance trying to best each other. Waylock's ambitions drive him to use methods that may destroy the very foundations of the society in which he seeks to advance.
This story portrays an interesting, if sometimes depressing, future world. The story is built around a somewhat evil protagonist and the author develops the character with cleverness and perseverance. I didn’t like Waylock but he makes for an interesting character study. The story includes a dissertation on mental illness and political commentary woven in between the scheming mystery. I was once again struck by the irony in the ending which is a feature I have found in the vintage sci fi stories I have been reading. It seems to be a theme tied to the imaginative futuristic view of life. I recommend this to readers who like crime novels as well as those who like futuristic society sci fi.
Audio Notes: Kevin Kenerly delivers a solid narration that fits the tone of the story. Kenerly provided good character voices and an appropriately dry presence that added to the mystery. It is not flashy or exuberant but the accent added to the engagement for me.
Originally published in 1956, this is one of my books for Vintage Sci Fi month. This is from my own Audible library. It qualifies for Audio Challenge, “T” in Alphabet Soup and TBR Triple Dog Dare.