The Last Immortal by Anne Spackman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Last Immortal(Seeds of a Fallen Empire Book1)by Anne Spackman
I tried reading this a while back and ended up putting it off to the side. When I picked it up again I had to examine it closely to better understand why I put it aside. This is one more novel to place on my love to hate list and that's not always a bad thing, so read on. Which is what I did this time and I'm glad I did read on. This is a book that deserves a five but for me there were some style choices that drop a star just in that the writing style made it difficult to read. It's a long enough novel at over 400 pages; but to have to stumble along while reading it, makes it cumbersome.
I often read the reviews before purchasing and I can see where some people might put this book down easily while trying to get into it; I know I did. My suggestion is to persevere, because the writing is good and the plot is good and the characters are well developed. There is the caveat that the reader has to work extra hard sometimes to understand all of this. Still there are a larger number of people who loved reading this and it does prove itself to be well worth reading. I'll try to explain.
I loved the concept in this novel and once I understood the style of writing and slowed myself down I was able to see the complexity of the characters. In fact; this is an epic story that might have been better split somehow into two separate stories. Yet again that's a style choice and much of the story becomes framed stories that tell the back-story that feeds the basic series plot. The story from which they are framed is the novel story and that fact adds to the confusion and again the need to slow down and absorb the two plots as they both converge and then diverge to reach the end of book one. The science in the novel could be somewhat flawed; but honestly I'm not sure exactly where; still if it was all solid, why then we'd be using it to get all over the universe wouldn't we. It is solid and well established within the story and I think the author holds it to be consistent within the story and it's so fantastically neat that it adds to the story.
So then what did I find so difficult about this novel. The prologue starts us out well because there is only one character in that portion; but as soon as we jump into chapter one the problem starts and persists for a period. This is told in a somewhat Omniscient point of view that likes to get subjective quite a bit; and that would work if it weren't for the immediate head hopping that comes out of the mix. Sometimes it became difficult for this reader to keep track of which head I was in. But more so it doesn't help that we dig inside the head then come out and get a full description of the character from some omniscient point above them. This is where the style choices work against the reader. It becomes difficult to feel the characters and see their depth when we keep spinning outside their heads to an un-anchored point that gives us a detailed description that this reader often filed away and forgot quickly. Still I can see one reason it was done this way; and that boils down to the fact that the author is trying to give the reader two epic stories in less space than it might take to do that.
The best parts of the novel are when we drop into the frame story that is first person from Alessia's point of view. But it takes a lot of back-story and world building to get the reader up to this point to connect a number of dots to make this makes sense. And even when it drops into the frame story there is another round of world building simply from the point that Alessia is not of the same world as Eiron; although the whole of cosmic history between races strives to bring everyone under the same universal origin. To that end Alessia's back-story is two fold which can again become confusing. Alessia has a past with Eiron's people; but she has a more urgent past with another civilization that could some day intersect with Eiron's people and she has a mission that she's, by all appearances, abandoned.
This is a story about immortals of two varieties. The machine's with downloaded intelligence and the biologicals with extended life; and the oppressive government that comes from having the long lived intelligent machines guiding humanity for so long. Through a horrible accident Alessia is the last of the biological immortals and she is tasked with finishing the task of thwarting the mechanicals; but she sidetracks her mission to a remote colony to look in on some of their normal people who were long ago sent to colonize a planet. While there she lets her emotions cloud her judgment and she creates a monster within a political environment that is already volatile.
On the other hand it's the story of two worlds on the brink of war while approaching a moment of impending doom that could take them both. It's also a love story and that's another piece I had some difficulty with. There are two love interests for Alessia and the first she rebukes for reasons I couldn't clearly define, though as the story works out it becomes apparent that he would be a bad choice. The second love interest felt as though it occurs too quickly and since the union is integral to the continuation of the series plot it almost seems a bit contrived. The whole dynamic created between the two men is made more interesting in the long run; though the realization of consequences of Alessia's actions plays a greater part in rounding out the story.
This is good SFF for those who love the epic fiction and have the patience to carefully sort through the multilayered plot presented through the back-story framing. There are some elements within the story that reminded this reader of the long story behind Battlestar Galactica.
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