Amortals: One helluva sci-fi thriller

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsSFF book reviews Matt Forbeck AmortalsAmortals by Matt Forbeck

It’s year 2168, and Secret Service agent Ronan Dooley is investigating a savage homicide, of which he happens to be the victim. In fact, this is the eighth time Agent Dooley has died in the service of his country.

Several of Ronan’s lifetimes ago, he took a bullet meant for the president. His heroic death won him the honor of becoming the first participant in Project Amortal: a medical procedure where the deceased’s mind and memories are downloaded into the brain of an exact clone. The project was initially intended for heads-of-state or those whose public service had proven exceptional, but of course the few with the means to afford it could sign-up too.

When I started this book, it seemed apparent that the character of Ronan Dooley is somewhere between the likes of James Bond and Dirty Harry: a typical action hero, easily found in any number of 70’s/80’s action movies or TV shows, with no few of them still around today. He’s a lone wolf, a cowboy, whose refusal to play by the rules causes constant friction with authority — and he’s obsessed with stopping the bad guy.

It just so happens that I love that type of character. I know many will groan “Not another one,” but you have to admit: there’s something appealing about the combination of coolness, bad-@$$-ness, and flippant disregard of danger or authority.

However, that’s just the first impression. Well, admittedly not just the first impression, because Agent Dooley is that type of character, albeit with a unique twist. And I must state, the plot really didn’t seem all that original to me either. Nonetheless, in the span of few chapters, I went from only slightly interested, to thinking, “Hey, this isn’t half bad,” to being genuinely sucked in.

Matt Forbeck does an excellent job creating depth in what is essentially the stated “typical action hero”. Plus, Ronan Dooley isn’t like the usual immortal character. He’s not a wise old sage or all powerful. Instead, he seems to be stumbling through his predicament of having lived several lives like he’s just as lost as the rest of us, maybe even more so.

I have a tendency to shy away from most near-futuristic science fiction, probably because I have to deal with technology on a daily basis to make a living. Still, I’ve always been interested in immortal or near-immortal characters living in the world of mortals, which is what this story is about. Mix that theme with the dark conspiracy surrounding the amortals’ existence and with two-fisted shoot-outs and chase scenes, and Amortals makes for one helluva sci-fi thriller.

Amortals — (2009) Publisher: Today you die. Today you are reborn. Today you hunt the man who killed you. It’s Lee Child vs. Altered Carbon in a high-tech blast of tough-as-nails future thrills. Matt Forbeck arrives as the new king of high-concept — with a blockbuster action movie in a book. In the near future, scientists solve the problem of mortality by learning how to backup and restore a persons memories into a vat-bred clone. When Secret Service agent Ronan “Methusaleh” Dooley is brutally murdered, he’s brought back from the dead to hunt his killer, and in doing so uncover a terrible conspiracy. FILE UNDER: Science Fiction [Future Thriller / Cheat Death / Rogue Agent]

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GREG HERSOM’S (on FanLit's staff January 2008 -- September 2012) addiction began with his first Superboy comic at age four. He moved on to the hard-stuff in his early teens after acquiring all of Burroughs’s Tarzan books and the controversial L. Sprague de Camp & Carter edited Conan series. His favorite all time author is Robert E. Howard. Greg also admits that he’s a sucker for a well-illustrated cover — the likes of a Frazetta or a Royo. Greg live with his wife, son, and daughter in a small house owned by a dog and two cats in a Charlotte, NC suburb. He retired from FanLit in Septermber 2012 after 4.5 years of faithful service but he still sends us a review every once in a while.

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