by Gene Doucette
When Gene Doucette said he was taking Adam on a 2011 Blog Tour I knew I had to sign up. As I mentioned on my writing blog, my accidental new avocation includes "book reviewer" and that means that my reading habits have been bumped up from voracious to almost incomprehensible (since not even I'm sure how many books I read last year). But my favorite book of 2010, and really even the decade 2001-2010, was far and away Immortal.
Reading is a very personal thing, so you are now wondering if you will also like this book. To quote Sean from Psych, "Are you a fan of delicious flavor?" Alright, that was still a subjective answer. So let me tell you what it is and what it's not, then give you a taste of that delicious (to me) flavor.
Part of what Immortal is... is difficult to describe. It is a first-person account of the recent happenings for an immortal man and since the action takes place in our current world the best genre description would be contemporary fantasy. The main character, Adam, has pretty much been around forever, at least since before the creation of language, and we spend the story inside his head. It is an important caveat to note that at times the book can be rude, crude, and salty so you are forewarned that it may offend your delicate sensibilities, if you have any. The book has elements of mystery, thriller, and urban fantasy but doesn't fit in any of those boxes. It has vampires but fortunately none of them are sparkly. Adam is the ultimate cynic because he really has been through it all and some readers have interpreted this mean that Adam is a bit of an ass, but I don't think he is. We could all only hope to be half as upbeat and forgiving after thousands of years of exposure to humankind. He has lived through various periods of slavery, the Inquisition, and the Dark Ages.
So what is it not? It is definitely not a romance, at least not in the classic Jane Austen style. There are relationships, sex, and romantic yearning but not combined in a way that would make the typical romance reader at all happy. It is also not a simple book, for all that it is fast-paced and thrilling. I love books that make me think and this one definitely does. It is not a book you should expect to read casually because it is engrossing and will make you lose sleep since the stakes are very high and you never know what might happen next.
Among my favorite parts of the book is simply Adam's voice, exemplified by this passage early in the book:
I'm a pretty sad example of what one should do with eternal life. I've never reached any higher level of consciousness, I don't have access to any great truths, and I've never borne witness to the divine or transcendent. Some of this is just bad luck. Like working in the fishing industry in Galilee and never once running into Jesus. But in my defense there were an awful lot of people back then claiming to be the son of God; I probably wouldn't have been able to pick him out of the crowd. And since I don't believe there is a God, I doubt we would have gotten along all that well anyway.The underlying message of the book is both heartening and disturbing. People are people. Thousands of years of living will give you some perspective but it won't alter your underlying humanity (provided you started with some). It won't make you all-knowing or all-wise. So in many ways the underlying philosophy beckons me in the way that existentialism always did. We're here, it's now, and that's ok. Well, except for the part where Adam is being hunted by an international cabal and running up against vampires, demons, and other supernatural creatures. I don't remember Camus having anything like that.