By Gene Doucette
Copyright 2010 by Hamel Integrity Publishing Inc., direct inquiries to HIPinc@live.com
Available October 1, 2010
$14.95 from Amazon
Immortal by Gene Doucette introduces a character, currently called Adam, who happens to be immortal. His earliest memory comes only in the form of a prehistoric dream at the beginning of the story, when his name resembled something like “Urr.”
Adam’s story flashes between the present and his experiences of both the recent and distant past. Through the millennia “Adam” has appeared as different people with different names depending on the time and place he is currently living. He has been all races, varying them according to the predominance of the region. No explanation is given for this ability. Adam lives continuously and never dies or is reincarnated so this poses a slight problem, but in no way interferes with the ability of the reader to suspend belief and enter deeply into the story. Also, Adam is a random name chosen by the character for the time being; at other times and in other places his names have been as varied as his appearance.
Adam appears unable to call this skill at will though, which is a shame as it would be infinitely helpful with some of the situations that occur in the book. The ability to change appearance at will would also help to explain, to a degree Adam’s mysterious skill throughout the ages. Exactly how and why did his changes come about? Was it simply a matter of geography and racial predominance or was there some great, mystical aspect at work and if so, why won’t this mystical force help him at a time when his very existence is threatened?
Doucette’s character in Immortal is well-rounded. He comes with his flaws as well as his redeemable qualities. At times he is brave and fearless; at other times the preservation of his own life is his highest priority. He is in general a complex enough character to have survived through the ages.
Immortal, generally speaking moves clearly and easily between the present, the past and the distant past. Recollections are vivid and seem as though they could in fact be the recounting actual historical events. The character has lived through some interesting times and events and his retelling of these stories, via memories, is lively and interesting.
Pixies – who by the way like mushrooms and are incredibly innocent, but not too astute – are figures in a few significant events in the story. A dragon appears once. There are a few vampires that Adam has become acquainted with over time and Adam has had the misfortune of coming across a few demons in his lifetime too. I find the inclusion of these “mythological” beings add to the story rather than detracting from it. In fact, in a few places they are keys to action scenes or supply a bit of comic relief to ease the story’s tension. Immortal manages to avoid the pitfalls of these characters and uses them in only relatively small ways that do not interfere with the readers’ ability to maintain the suspension of belief necessary to enjoy the fiction/fantasy elements of the story.
My biggest complaint with Immortal has nothing to do with its writing style or storyline, both of which are very good. My complaint comes in the somewhat stereotypical presentation of Adam’s young, nubile “girlfriend”. Within less than a day of their meeting she has him in bed. She walks around her curtainless windowed apartment naked or clad in only a pair of panties. Actually I believe in one scene she has a bit more on – a belly shirt and a pair of panties. No male erotic fantasy in that scene.
Reasonable explanations are given as to how Adam manages to remain immortal, though no explanation is offered as to how he came to be that way to begin with. Was he born immortal or did something happen to him? He has astounding immunity, to date there has not been an illness that can affect him, which, as he points out was a great benefit when the average lifespan was 30 and the seasons were measured by the plagues they brought. Incidentally, Adam appears around thirty and for reasons that are unclear is sterile. If this is somehow connected to his immortality is never made clear, but there is a sense that it could be.
While Adam is immortal he is not, as he points out, invincible. He has had close calls with death before. He simply now does his best to avoid those situations. His immortality does not give him any special or superhuman powers. It has merely endowed him with an unspeakably long life in which all those he has known, and in some cases cared about, have died while he has lived on. He is an alcoholic, though he doesn’t see himself as such. To him, even decades spent drunk is no worse than the average human going on a bender. Time, after all loses relevancy when you have eternity ahead of you and his decades are perhaps the equivalent of weekends or holidays are to those of us endowed with 75 years if we are fortunate.
What follows is an excerpt from Immortal:
I returned to my immediate concern, which was the stuff I’d been able to carry from Stan’s Escalade. I would have just driven the car someplace where I could search it thoroughly, but that struck me as a dangerous thing to try. There was too much I didn’t know, such as whether his car could be tracked or whether he would be found and connected to the car soon enough for the police to consider looking for it. So I had taken what I could, tossed his keys into the sewer and left the scene.
I found only two things worth keeping: a large square suitcase and an oversize manila folder. I slid the contents of the folder onto the bed and examined them by candle light. There wasn’t much: just the phone Stan had talked about and a two page info sheet.
Page one had a bad black-and-white photograph of me. It was recent. Within the last six months recent. I couldn’t fathom how anyone had managed such a photo, as I take great precautions in this regard.
The rest of the page was notable for its lack of information:
Age: looks early thirties
Height: 5’ 11”
Weight: 180 (Approx.)
Scars, other identifying marks: None
Clearly whoever had sent Stan knew enough to list race as various, which is not the sort of thing one customarily sees in a tally of vital statistics. I flipped to page two.
Target is an immortal man, but in all appearances and mannerisms a normal human being. He is immune to all diseases but can be physically harmed with ordinary weaponry. He typically travels alone but has been known to befriend humans at times, and also various underspecies. He prefers to use cash when he travels. (Source of cash is unknown.) He will rarely stay in one place for an extended period. He was last spotted in Cleveland.
Target is not usually armed. However, he is extremely cunning and is not to be taken lightly. His greatest weakness is his penchant for alcohol, which makes him sloppy and overly reliant on strangers.
Goal: Target is to be taken ALIVE. Use of lethal force – or damage caused leading to his subsequent demise – will result in nonpayment or forfeiture of payment. Once you have safely secured and positively tested target, contact is to be made via the enclosed phone. NO OTHER FORM OF CONTACT IS ACCEPTABLE. Transfer of target and the necessary payment arrangements will be negotiated at that time.
As is clear from the above passage Adam is being hunted, rather ruthlessly by a person or group of people. Whether he will escape their clutches, and their intent for him remains to be seen. All in all, it is a book that is worth the read. The suspense and unusual storyline make it well worth the time.
In Pigeon terms it is not gold or droppings but hovering somewhere in the air looking for an appropriate place to land. Where exactly that shall be remains to be seen. Except for the stereotypical female role I enjoyed the book so I suspect it will land on the edge of the nest nearer the golden side.