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Would you listen to To Live Forever again? Why?
Absolutely! Jack Vance is one of the greatest of the science fiction authors, and this is Vance at his best. The story is tight, relevant, intricately crafted, full of intrigue and action, and demonstrates Vance's characteristic linguistic style, which is known for vivid description and an ability to use the English Language in ways that few can match. The story's social commentary is even more relevant today than it was when it was written. Highly recommended! The narrator's voice is excellent for the story and seems to relish the rich Vancian prose. I do so wish that someone will create audiobook versions of The Demon Princes, which is also Vance at his best.
What other book might you compare To Live Forever to and why?
This book is similar to many other Vance books stylistically, so, if you like Vance, you very likely will like To Live Forever. It is from his best period and reflects some of his best work.
What about Kevin Kenerly’s performance did you like?
Clear diction, great recording, fine character voices, good timing, seemed to really get Vance's subtle and sometimes dry and scarcastic humor and delight in the intricacy of the prose.
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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.