reviewed by Zeke Teflon
This is the sequel to Hogan’s amusing and insightful Code of the Lifemaker, which we reviewed in June. It takes up where Code of the Lifemaker leaves off, with the Taloid mechanoid civilization on Titan, the mutant spawn of a damaged interstellar alien probe a million years ago, temporarily saved, but still under both internal threat from religious and political authoritarianism, and under external threat from GSEC, a rapacious Earth-based corporation.
The cast of characters is mostly the same as in Code of the Lifemaker. Like that book, this sequel is a combination of hard sci-fi and social sci-fi, and the political and social subtext is essentially the same: that science, free inquiry, and free expression are essential to progress, and that religion is inimical to progress, and its practitioners often irrationally and sadistically cruel.
What’s new in The Immortality Option is the revelation of where the interstellar probe came from that set off the explosion of mechanical evolution on Titan: the Borjilans, an avian-descended race from a star a thousand light years off. The description of that race and their ultra-competitive civilization is highly amusing. From reading it, I strongly suspect that Hogan was at least somewhat familiar with avian behavior; here, he focuses almost exclusively on its negative, darkly comedic aspects.
The one real problem with Hogan’s description of the events leading up to the launching of the probe is that it hinges on a cover up of an existential threat to the Borjilan home world that would be impossible to hide in any even remotely open society. That’s unfortunate, because there were ways Hogan could have avoided this implausibility. But he didn’t, and at least the chapters on the Borjilans are so intricate and amusing that it’s fairly easily to overlook the implausibility of the pivotal cover up.
Without giving away too much, The Immortality Option deals largely with the encoded personalities of one the Borjilans (especially Sarvik, the primary Borjilan character), the pompous scientist (Weinerbaum, a new character) who discovers them, GENIUS, an AI created by Sarvik, and the machinations of the Borjilans and the Taloid priests and authoritarian politicians, and their rational foes among the Taloids and “Lumians” (humans).
While probably not as good a book as Code of the Lifemaker, The Immortality Option is still a lot of fun in its own right.
Recommended — but do yourself a favor and read Code of the Lifemaker first.
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Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia (pdf sample here). He’s currently working on the sequel and on an unrelated sci-fi novel.