Mortimer Gray’s History of Death • 1995 • Posthuman SF novella by Brian Stableford

★★★★

Synopsis: Mortimer Gray lives as an emortal in the 29th century with nanorobots repairing his cells and providing him a lifespan of hundreds of years. As historian, he writes ten volumes about human death culture, starting from early Egypt up to the new Thanatics cult who decline the immortality treatment. Gray’s life stages – living in a multi-partner marriage, or on the Moon, or as parent – influence the writing of the next volume.

Review: What sounds first as a boring study, starts very lifely with a life-threating scene and continues with evermore fascinating concepts like contractual group marriages, publicly staged deaths, or bioengineered humans with arms replacing legs to adapt them to a life in outer space. There is not much action involved, but more of a detailed character study and thoughtful deep dive into the sociological meaning of death in an immortal world. Stableford interleaves the dry reviews of the ten volumes with first person narratives of Gray’s life. Gray’s evolving insights of mortality lead to his philosophically founded and dedicated answers to the Thanatics cult and cyborganics. The novella has a very satisfying ending. Structure, pace, and engaging narrative make this a wonderful piece of work of science fiction.

Together with a citation from the last part of Star Trek:Picard, this novella left a deep impression on me:

Commander Data: “Mortality gives meaning to human life, Captain. Peace. Love. Friendship. These are precious, because we know they cannot endure. A butterfly that lives forever is really not a butterfly at all.”

Meta: isfdb. Available online.

 

 

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