# First Monday Book Day: Do you really wanna live forever?

I felt the need for some good, old-fashioned, rock-em, sock-em space adventure stories recently. So I reached for a volume with the appropriate cover art (manly man with bulging muscles and movie-star good looks in futuristic, military-style outfit, set amidst post-apocalyptic ruins): L.E. Modesitt Jr.’s omnibus, The Forever Hero, a stapling together of three novels: Dawn for a Distant Earth, The Silent Warrior, and In Endless Twilight.

This one is part post-apocalyptic saga, part superman story, and part tragedy. Yes, the hero in the story is a genetic freak who, as it turns out, is all-but-immortal (I’m not giving away any spoilers here; the “I” word shows up on the back cover blurb). Yes, the hero takes on the Herculean task of mucking out the Augean Stables restoring a devastated Earth to habitability, and of course succeeds. It’s not the existential kind of tragedy. OR is it?

I was swept up by the story. Lots of action to be had here. But Modesitt also manages to add some philosophical heft, non-ridiculous historical/political/economic thought, and thoughtful, tragic twists that make this more than just a shoot-em-up. The hero struggles with the burden of myth-making and the complexities of moral choices on a galactic scale. And he struggles to maintain his humanity in the face of a long, long, long existence. I was thoroughly entertained and more than willing to suspend disbelief on many of the more ridiculous parts (like, umm, the fantastical interpretation of how evolution actually works).

### 46 LTEs written in response to First Monday Book Day: Do you really wanna live forever?

• New Britain Bo

The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye. Interesting child murder mystery in 19th century New York, Irish coming off the boats en masse from potato-famished Ireland, and initiation of the first police force.

What I liked in the book was the use of Flash, the street lingo used by the underworld at the time. Also the portrayal of the anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic sentiment that is rife in the city.

About sixty pages left of Ron Chernow’s George Washington. It has rekindled my disgust of Thomas Jefferson. I have yet to read a single book (except a bio of Jefferson) touching upon the 1770-1820s that didn’t allude to Jefferson being very … um… difficult.

• Philosofer

Also, a dirty, unoriginal thief.

Oh, I forgot that I also started and got through about half of the 1987 Bill James Baseball Abstract. I had a few thoughts while reading that I might create into an entirely new entry once I eventually finish.

• bhiggum

Ah, Modesitt. I’ve only read Dawn for a Distant Earth of that trilogy, but most of the Modesitt novels I’ve read are similar- long-lived supermen, difficult moral choices, lots of philosophical discussion with a little bit of action sporadically sprinkled in. I keep reading his books, but they’re not really high on my favorites list.

• AMR

I read the Children’s book The Tale of Despereaux after seeing the movie a few years ago and thinking “OK, this is interesting, but I bet it’s much better in the book.” I think I was wrong: I preferred the movie. I don’t exactly remember how it went down, but it seemed more complex and suspenseful.

The book has chapters that average 3 pages. The narrator is always breaking the fourth wall* in a condescending way: “Now, dear reader, why do you think that he did this?” or somesuch. And the climax is almost perfunctory. It’s as if the author built up this large story and background and hoped that she could have a suspenseful climax, and it just didn’t work out, so she sped right past that in three pages and then there was six pages of denouement and it was over, and won a Newberry anyways.

*What do you call this a) when the narrator does it and b) when it’s in a book? I’d check TV Tropes, but I have plans for June. (Is that even the name of the site? I’m afraid to look.)

I’m not even sure what age this book might be targeted to. The short chapters and low-suspense points towards the youngest of chapter-book-readers, but then some of the other concepts seem a bit more mature, like a girl sold into slavery by her father for trivial things, and then beat mercilessly every night.

• brianS

The short chapters and low-suspense points towards the youngest of chapter-book-readers, but then some of the other concepts seem a bit more mature, like a girl sold into slavery by her father for trivial things, and then beat mercilessly every night.

This comment could almost be about The Forever Hero as well. But, as I’ve said before, I’m easily entertained.

When I read that to the girls, they made me skip the Ferris Bueller moments while reading. (I don’t know the real name for it but that is what I will call that thing of talking directly to the audience.)

• I’m continuing the “Hutch” stories by Jack McDevitt; after reading The Engines of God, I read Deepsix, Chindi, Omega, and am currently on Odyssey. I have to admit that they are keeping my attention. SciFi fare surrounding the scientific branch of the government and their explorations into neighboring star systems. The books dabble in archeology, first contacts, and extinction events, with plenty of mystery and action interspersed.

So, how’s the reading of Rip Foster: Ride the Gray Planet going, bS?

• brianS

• I still think there’s enough action in that one that a good screenwriter could bring it up-to-date and have a nice light-weight movie out of it.

• I read Packing For Mars about the history of the space program, especially with regards to what research has been done into long-term space exploration and what exactly that means in terms of a trip to Mars. It was written rather informally and with a great sense of humor. The topic could have been rather dry and boring, but was anything but.

I’ve started The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. I’m to about 1928 right now. It’s a huge book, something like 1200 pages. I got it while it was the Kindle deal of the day. Price came out to approximately 5 pages/$0.01. Can’t beat that with a stick. • Philosofer Can’t beat that with a stick. Damn e-books. Alternatively: Ahh, but I’ve got an e-stick. • cheaptoy As I work on my first e-book, I’m finding I prefer real, physical books. Maybe I’m just being stubborn and anti-technology, though. • hungry joe Maybe I’m just being stubborn what? you? • two reasons I would prefer an e-book: for a big honking hardcover, and for travel • Travel is the big reason I love my Kindle. It’s so nice to have a ton of books at my disposal without having to take up precious suitcase space. Additionally, in an non-English speaking country where English books are hard to come by it’s so nice to have super easy access to English books, be it through Amazon, Gutenberg, or wherever. • hungry joe two reasons I would prefer an e-book: for a big honking hardcover, and for travel in mags case, rise and fall of the third reich would match both of those criteria • sean for a big honking hardcover Absolutely this. I can either lug a several pound book or an eight ounce ereader that can contain a hundred weighty hardcovers. Also, as Mags said, it’s nice to have access to all of Project Gutenberg. • cheaptoy The hardcover thing is a very valid point that I will agree to. • Also, I don’t necessarily think ebooks or printed are better than the other. If I’m at home with access to either, I’ll gladly read either. I always get annoyed when the ebooks v. printed discussion devolves (not that it has here, but elsewhere) into essentially one is great and the other is some sort of abomination, as though both aren’t good in differing ways. • You are absolutely right. There is a time and a place for either medium. I always prefer a real book, but I have to admit, with the hand fatigue with the lastest series of hardbacks I’ve been reading, my wife’s Nook Tablet would have been preferable. • Philosofer For what it’s worth, I have no opinion, and didn’t mean to prompt a discussion. I was just going for a joak. • cheaptoy Oh yeah, I can agree with this, also. I’m just not completely used to reading on the ipad yet, but once I get there I will probably only have a preference based on context. My only real complaint about e-books is that library e-book collections are not as robust as I’d like. I don’t want to have to buy a book all the time, dammit. • hungry joe my library’s becoming better than it was, but still not that great. • brianS Not just hardcovers. I’ve recently read several ginormous (1,000 pages or more) paperbacks. Damned tiring to hold up in front of your face when you are lying in bed • hungry joe i can’t remember if i’ve asked this, but has anyone had any experience with the infinite jest e-book. i really want to slog through that to the end, but the footnotes make it such a pain. i’m a bit of a completionist, so i have to read them all, but flipping to the back of the book every .75 pages is discouraging. are the footnotes done in a logical manner on the e-book? • I’ve been working on it for about a year now. The footnotes aren’t too bad at all. • Philosofer I’ve been thinking of picking that one up too. You mean the footnotes aren’t bad in e-reader form? • Right. I have IJ on my Kindle. It’s easy to get to a footnote, then click “Back” to return you right to where you left off. • hungry joe is it as easy as you press the number, it jumps to the footnote, and then you hit back? • You move the cursor to the * or 1 and click. It jumps to that footnote. Hit the “Back” button on the keyboard and you go back. Sometimes if the * is in the middle of the page, it takes slightly longer, maybe a whole 3 seconds, to get to the * in the first place, but it is nowhere near difficult. • I’m reading The Disappearing Spoon (a history of the periodic table) and it’s great except he makes liberal use of end notes, so I’m always flipping back and forth. DO I LOOK LIKE I HAVE TIME TO FLIP BACK AND FORTH ALL THE TIME? Seriously, it’s irrationally annoying. • AMR I’m with Strat: Footnotes for any additional sidebar-type content. Endnotes for citations. • The Dread Pirate Rise and Fall is fantastic. Of course, it was humorous (to me) that about 950 pages gets you to 1940 and the fall is only about 1/5th of the book. Also, I bought my copy at Salvation Army or somewhere like that used for$1. Quite a bargain as you noted.

• hungry joe

heh, i totally forget about this: ironically, when i was reading infinite jest, i kept thinking “now why can’t the footnotes just be on the page like they were in rise and fall?”

but, yes, fantastic book, that.

Yes, I loved all the footnotes and the fun symbols Shirer used to denote each one. Normally if I read a book with footnotes, they seem confined to one or two a chapter rather than three or four a page. Still, I remember reading every single one and enjoying them.

• hungry joe

dido. i love how, not only is the book long as hell, but a good 20% of it is footnotes at half the print size.

• The wife loved ‘Packing For Mars’ -- she listened to it in audiobook form. One of those I may read at some point if the mood strikes.

• Philosofer

I’m, um, still working on The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell. I was at this point last month too. That’s what you get when you go a whole month and your only reading happens on the can.

• brianS

Huh. Apparently you have too much fiber in your diet, Phyllo. You need to slow down and enjoy those precious moments of solitude.

• SBG

Or maybe not enough.

• freealonzo

I wrote a review of The Wordy Shipmates some three years ago. I should dig that out sometime.