This Immortal

Monday, October 8, 2012


This Immortal
Roger Zelazny, 1966

Hugo Co-Winner – 1966

Premise: Conrad Nomikos is a rather secretive fellow, when you get down to it. How he became Commissioner of Arts, Monuments and Archives for Earth is just one of many things he doesn't discuss. Neither does he discuss his feelings about the Vegans, an alien race who is “helping” the shattered remains of humanity, maybe. When he is called upon to escort a Vegan representative on a tour of historical sites, he grumbles about it, but he doesn't realize that the mission could change the fate of the entire planet.

Wow! This was easily one of my favorite Hugo-winners to date. I really enjoyed the style, the story, the characters, the mystery and more.

This Immortal is set in a future when the Earth is at a particularly low point. After some sort of catastrophic incident, several space colonies were cut off from Earth and by now the planet itself is mostly inhabited by mutants, gangs, clusters of survivors, and an administrative staff. The relationship between the human colonies, the human population of Earth and the Vegans is complex, realistic, and totally fascinating.

It's told in the first person, and I absolutely loved the style. Conrad's dark humor shines throughout, and I loved the way he wove little ironic references to various poems, songs, etc. into his narration. A quote on the back cover of my copy described this book as “...If you've ever asked yourself what would have happened if Philip Marlowe had been Odysseus...”(-New Worlds) The delightful prose certainly justifies that comparison in my opinion.

The plot is interesting to follow, there are plenty of twists and turns, and a few times I laughed aloud at certain developments. The goals of each character on the expedition are revealed slowly, and there are so many layers that it's hard to say when characters are telling the truth.

While the plot and the immediate concerns are resolved in the end, many questions raised by the book are left intentionally vague. What the Three Days devastation was, why many 'mutant' creatures are similar to things of myth or legend, and especially who or what Conrad actually is, beyond fantastically long-lived, are all left somewhat up to the readers interpretation, and I think it works best that way.

I really just flat-out enjoyed this book, and I highly recommend it for its unique characters and setting, and for its wonderful style.

4 Stars – A Very Good Book (but very close to 5)

List of Hugo Winners

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