Portland, Oregon, was once a beacon of promise and prosperity. Now it’s the epicenter of a world gone wrong, its streets overrun by victims and hustlers, drifters and gangsters. Lowly contract cop Lane Anslow struggles to keep afloat—and to watch out for his brilliant but bipolar brother, Johnny, a medical researcher. Lane soon discovers that Johnny is part of an experiment veiled in extraordinary secrecy. But he has no idea who’s behind it, how astronomical the stakes are, or how many lives might be destroyed to make it a reality.
Now Johnny’s gone missing. To find him, Lane follows a twisting trail into a billionaire’s hilltop urban fortress, a politician’s inner circle, a prison set in an aircraft graveyard, and a highly guarded community where people appear to be half their biological age. Hunted by dueling enemies, Lane meets a beautiful and enigmatic woman at the center of a vast web of political and criminal intrigue. And behind it all is a sinister, desperate race to claim the biggest scientific prize of all: eternal life.
From its synopsis The Forever Man sounded like an interesting near-future SF thriller and it was. Pierre Ouellette’s latest novel from Random House Alibi was an interesting story, with some original world building and a sympathetic main character. Yet while I enjoyed reading the book, I had a number of problems with it that made the book less compelling than it could have been.
My biggest problem was that there is a lot of science in the book. This isn’t a problem in and of itself, but in this case the science was related in a very info dumpy way and these scenes rather made the narrative drag in places. For example, to explain how the main villain Thomas Zed has reached the age he has and what sort of research he’s tried to discover a cure for ageing, he’s given a scene where he’s looking at himself in a mirror and reminiscing about all the failed experiments. Or his right-hand man explaining the process they’ve developed to a third party, which feels a little too detailed. Another example that springs to mind is Lane’s visit to Crampton’s office and labs at the Institute, which is also littered with explanations.
My second big problem is that the bad guys are almost villain caricatures. They’re all power hungry and ruthless and most of them don’t seem to have any redeeming features. Even gang boss Bird – who is most definitely a bad guy, yet is oddly likeable – turns out to be a somewhat stereotypical gangster. The flatness of the adversaries also makes the good guys less interesting, as it’s somewhat of a black and white proposition with very little shades of grey in-between. I would have liked to see a little more depth to Zed, Arjun, and Green to give them a clearer motivation other than elementary greed.
I did enjoy Lane’s character. He’s the white knight beyond his prime; he still has the instincts to protect and serve, yet his body is slowly letting him down. His relationship with his brother Johnny is central to the novel and its complexity is well built, though Johnny’s being brilliant yet mentally unbalanced is rather cliched—at least he wasn’t autistic. The interplay between Lane and Rachel is also interesting, with an undeniable chemistry between the two of them. I liked that her role in uncovering the mystery is vital and she is never relegated to merely a love interest or a sidekick.
There were a number of locales in the novel that I found completely fascinating. There is the creepy gated community Pinecrest, where everyone looks prosperous, young, and healthy. There is a strange obsession with youth using different rejuvenation treatments to reduce their physical ages. They even give their ages in a split way to differentiate between seeming age and true age, for example 26/61, which means they look 26, but are actually 61. The other location is Pima. Essentially it’s a free-for-all jail where inmates are thrown in and left to fend for themselves as long as they remain inside the compound. This gives rises to a cutthroat environment with strict rules and hierarchies, the fringes of which are deadly more often than not. The prison is located inside a military base that serves as an airplane graveyard, with the abandoned fuselages serving as barracks to many of the men. It makes for an incredibly visual backdrop to this section, even if only painted in words. I also liked the characters Lane encountered there, especially Sam.
The Forever Man was a solid thriller, with plenty to enjoy yet with some large flaws. By the end of the novel everything is wrapped up nicely, though the ending wasn’t altogether happy, something that was a bit of a let down. I certainly don’t mind unhappy endings, yet this one just didn’t sit right with me, but in this your mileage may vary. I enjoyed reading Ouellette’s book and for those of you that enjoy science near-future thrillers, The Forever Man is definitely a book to check out.
A Fantastical Librarian is just one of the stops on this blog tour. Please visit the other stops for different views on the book and giveaways.
Monday, July 7th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Tuesday, July 8th: From the TBR Pile
Wednesday, July 9th: Crime Book Club
Thursday, July 10th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Monday, July 14th: She Treads Softly
Wednesday, July 16th: Bewitched Bookworms
Monday, July 21st: Reading Reality
Wednesday, July 23rd: Back Porchervations
Thursday, July 24th: Mom in Love with Fiction
Monday, July 28th: The Year in Books
Wednesday, July 30th: Dwell in Possibility
Monday, August 4th: A Book Geek
Tuesday, August 5th: A Fantastical Librarian
Wednesday, August 6th: Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot
Thursday, August 7th: My Shelf Confessions
Friday, August 8th: Drey’s Library