Immortality. Blood. Medicine. Power. The Price of Longevity. Doctors vs. Healers.
The Immortals by James Gunn is composed of a series of short stories. Versions of some of the stories were published in the mid 1950’s. Many of the stories have since been revised and new stories have been added. The final book was published in 2004. With the recent attention to healthcare, the story continues to be relevant.
The overarching plot spans over 150 years. In the first story, a man named Cartwright donates blood in order to earn some extra money. The person who receives the blood miraculously has his symptoms reversed and appears decades younger. But the effects only last a little over 30 days. Throughout the rest of the overarching story, various people attempt to find Cartwright and his children in order to use their blood for immortality. People also attempt to create an elixir that simulates the effects of the blood. As the story progresses, medicine takes on a larger and more grandiose position in society. Towards the end of the story, society has become a dystopia, where people spend over 52% of their income on medicine and defaulters are used as spare parts to keep the rich alive. One of the major characters in the stories is Doctor Pearce, who first realizes the properties of Cartwright’s blood.
This is the first book that I remember reading by Gunn. I am impressed by his writing and the way he describes scenes. The short story format helps give the plot a lively pace. Pearce gives us someone to feel sympathy toward. The last short story does a nice job of wrapping up the plot.