The Immortals by Tracy Hickman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I’m going to try and keep this short. Usually, when I say that, I fail miserably.
Just like there are characters (real and imagined) whom I love to dislike (Hate’s too strong a word for me) because of what they say, every now and then I come across one or two that allows me to put the others in perspective and become less enchanted with disliking them than before. I’m talking about those writers and their books… well, really their books… that find a crack in the wall and allow a new understanding of humanity that somehow includes those that I’ve spent so much energy disliking. For me, it’s humbling. I get so proud of the ivory tower I’ve built and my philosophy on life that’s worked so well for me that I become a pinnacle in my own mind aloof and above anyone who disagrees that I often get so wrapped up in being the best human I can be, that I forget that there are probably a few more humans around that I can learn from, share with and grow with if I just give myself a moment to listen and hear the cadence, tone and passion in what they say. If I can just stay calm long enough, I am able to hear what the person is saying, rather than getting bent and warped out of shape by the way he says what he speaks or where it leads him.
When it comes to books and I stumble across one that forces my eyes open and turns my face to the sun with irresistible force, when no matter how much I try to resist the idea that there is a message that is so much better, more profound or more useful than my own message, then, as I read, the incredible weight of humility crashes upon me like a tidal wave and forces me to take notice. Humility is a wonderful thing. Though it’s often a struggle because, humility involves us admitting that we are not as important, not as capable, not as strong, not as safe, or not as able to help our loved ones as we once thought we were, humility brings freedom-the freedom to learn and grow in spirit, the freedom to weep cleansing tears, the freedom let go and let the other forces in the universe that may be more powerful than us carry the weight of the universe on their shoulders and with freedom comes relief.
Spiritual relief knows no single religion, all are welcome. Spiritual relief knows no dogma or doctrine, there are many paths that lead to the truth. Spiritual relief does not require all to agree, understand each other and live in complete harmony. Spiritual relief is individual, and involves learning the difference between what is real, and important, and what is a reality of fiction built up to be salve to our fear, cool flame quenching water to our anger, and roses to our love. We build up so many issues as walls between us and them, or me and you and we hold them as gospel truths in our hearts, then, safe within our own fortress of solitude, holding close only those who have forged similar armor as us and feel empowered by the self licking ice cream cone of our own making. They believe me therefor I’m right, I believe them, therefor they are right. And then, in the most important times of our lives, when crisis abounds, futures bend together, and the world hangs in the balance, we forget the most important reality. That the path we have stuck to religiously, fervently, aggressively like ideological pitbulls with jaws locked on our enemy, our prey, that this path we’ve taken ourselves down did not start as the truth, but as a choice… a choice in how we want to live, and just as importantly, a choice in how we want to die.
When I am lucky enough to stumble blindly across a book that brings relief and lightens my spiritual load, by peeling back the layers of fear and anger so I can see the best parts of humanity, how those feel and how to create the best environment for them to flourish, I call it, for me, a treasure.
So let it be with “The Immortals” by Tracey Hickman.
Tracey Hickman is a devout Mormon, something that I would have never guessed and, after reading over 20 of his sci-fi and fiction novels. He’s written about dragons and knights, and the sweet endearing irascible Kinder creatures that make great thieves. He’s written about “The Lodi and the Little One,” (two of my favorite supporting cast members from sci-fi) and a tough as nails cyborg. Great stories but never in my life would I have thought he could write something as serious and seriously enlightening as this book.
Since I hate writing a synopsis I’ll be brief (yeah, I know, I said that before). This is a dystopian world set in the future as it was written, but, like the famous book 1984, time has passed this dystopian future by and it is now a dystopian alternate reality. In this story earth, AIDs has been cured but the cure created a new disease that is even more virulent deadly and contagious. Those who have not been infected have enough fear of those who have that they start rounding up the infected and interring them in concentration camps that are similar to those Japanese Americans were herded into by war fearing citizens of the United States and in other ways, similar to those Jews were herded into by Nazis who feared everything but their own beliefs in World War II.
Now, Michael Bearis, enters the dark, dangerous world of the infected and dying as he infiltrates one of these prisons in search of his son and he learns how the worst side of humanity creates tribes of the lost, almost walking dead, where might makes right and love and caring are dormant and unreachable for most.
I’d love to find a discussion about this, because I fear that “discussion” here will spoil any surprises and water down the results of those who want to read it (if they read her first), so I’m just going to give some general thoughts and hopefully you will be as impressed by what you find reading as I was.
First thought…This story has more going on in the unwritten parts hidden within the scenes than meets the eye. It’s not a story that finds a purpose along the way, it’s one that is written for a purpose from start to finish. That means that, even if you don’t get it, that most events, characters and events are there and happen for a reason. That doesn’t mean that those reasons are made clear just that, there is one.
Second Thought… I didn’t see anything significantly interesting with this book, other than being a decent Dystopian Fiction story, until about 40% of the way through. Even the speech the hero gave at the “big moment” when he finally has his chance seemed a bit lame to me and lacked that emotional punch that snaps your metaphorical head around seemed “lack luster.”
Third Thought … don’t stop reading until your more than halfway through. If you get more than halfway through and you still don’t want to read anymore… then drop it. (and call the Wizard in the Emerald City and see if he can get you a new heart.)
Fourth Thought – Tissues… bring lots of tissues, you’ll need ‘em. I did and I’m a curmudgeon.
Fifth Thought – The human story in this book is like exploring a giant funnel backwards, small end first. Walk a little bit, look a little bit, and it’s still looks like a narrow, tunnel. Then, without warning things change dramatically as you pass out of the feeding tube into the bell of the funnel. Talk about opening up quickly. In a few short chapters the possibilities of how things turn out, spiritually, humanly, tactically multiply quickly.
Sixth Thought – This reminds me of what I liked in “Swan Song,” (McCammon). Just when it starts to look like all hope has been swallowed up, we get crack, then another crack and as Leonard Cohen wrote in his Poem “Anthem,” that’s how the light gets in.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
Seventh Thought – The spiritual message is good for everyone, not just people of one faith or another.
The story starts as an allegory about AIDs, Homosexuality and Conservative Faith’s thoughts and fears of such things, but, instead of leaving us with that ugly conclusion and exclusive image, once you get to the middle of it, the book expands exponentially bringing everyone under the same broad tent of faith, life, love and Immortality and makes everyone guilty of the same conditoin, Humanity. I forgot about the distinction between gender preference in the story. It didn’t matter that all were domed to die, that realization was background noise to the real story- How do we want to LIVE with the time we have? What’s more amazing is, that was the author’s intention. It’s so nice to read something that doesn’t divide humanity into clans and tribes. So many of our beliefs do this already. Great story that turns bleak, cold darkness and sure death, into warm, comfortable light and living in the moment without fear of the future.
View all my reviews