Volume 013, Number 2, Spring, 1995

The Immortality Option

By James P. Hogan

Del Rey, 1995, 323 pages, $21.00
Reviewed by Anders Monsen
July 1995

James P. Hogan's Code of the Lifemaker is one of my all-time favorite novels. It is memorable, uplifting, filled with a sense of wonder and joy of life and discovery. If ever there was a book demanding a sequel, this was it. Twelve long years later Hogan has fulfilled this demand with his latest novel.

The Immortality Option takes place only a few months after where the earlier novel left off. The contact established by Earthmen with the strange robot-like Robeing of Titan remain at an exploratory stage. Zamberdorf, the fake but savvy mystic who accompanied the scientist on the voyage, and who was instrumental in liberating scientifically inclined Robeing from conservative religious and political forces, slides center stage in Option.

Central to the novel is the introduction of a new race, the creators of the Robeings, far more chilling and alien than our friendly, or at least understandable self-aware robots. Victims of a planet-destroying nova, these creatures downloaded themselves into their ship and left for better worlds, and immortality. Awakened by human activity, they respond with ferocious egoism, threatening human and Robeing alike.

It is impossible not to compare the two books. Yet both novels espouse decent, noble values that make them a pleasure to read. Hogan details his love of science and the scientific method, its positive effects on people and culture, and the sheer joy of life itself in the best sense. If we forget that the science in science fiction is inherently human, Hogan reminds us of the importance of science, how integral it is in our lives. We are better off for these reminders.

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