“Immortality, Inc.” by Robert Sheckley

“Immortality, Inc.”
by Robert Sheckley
read by Bronson Pinchot
published by Blackstone Audio (2011)
Approx 6 hours.

Okay first of all I want to apologize for the time between reviews, this time around I have picked 2 long audiobooks and one extremely long printed book. But soon I’ll be back on track. They have all been worth it, especially squeezing in this 6 hour fun journey into the future.

I knew this was the right book to be listening to, right now, because of the subject matter and the side stories created. First of all this book is a nice piece of classic science-fiction that involves time travel and immortality. So right there you know this is going to be interesting. But the book also involves ghosts, spirits, the afterworld, hauntings, and zombies. The cool part of this was that, of the other books I was reading or hearing at the time, one was a zombie book, one was a time travel book and then there’s this one. As for the ghosts, well, in case you didn’t know it I’m also a paranormal investigator with a local group (on facebook http://www.facebook.com/psiofi ) and one of the side ventures I was doing that may have helped to delay this book was a little ghost hunting on the side, so all the subjects covered in this were fitting in with all my other projects.

“Immortality, Inc.” was first published in 1959 and gave a bit of a grim look at humanity’s future. Sheckley’s unsettling vision of the future is told in a bit of a witty sort of way so as not to be one of those depressing dystopian novels, like “1984” or “A Brave New World,” I loved those books, but every time I read them I get just a bit depressed. This book however had some fun moments. In fact there is one moment in the book that is so humorous it was represented in the animated series “Futurama.” The moment is when the main character, Tom Blaine, finds himself transplanted from the year 1958 to the year 2110 and in trying to escape the hustle and bustle of the city of the future, finds himself in line for a suicide booth.

This story was said to be the basis of the 1992 film “Freejack,” starring Emilio Esteves and Mick Jagger. But from what I remember of the film, Hollywood took some creative license and mucked around with the story quite a bit. I’m going to have to rent that again and compare sometime soon.

Before I get into the meat and potatoes of this intriguing and thought provoking sci-fi piece of art, I need to first talk about the reader. Bronson Pinchot is the reader, and after listening to the whole book, I have to say he does a superb job. I will admit that starting out the story I was worried because he seemed to be delivering the story in a very dry manner, but looking back that worked for the intro. As the story progressed and the characters started making their appearance, Pinchot shined. His ability to create voices for the separate characters was stunning. In some cases it was quite comical and worked perfectly with the humor written into the story. My favorite was his representation of a sleazy “transplant” street seller. Transplant is the ability to place your mind into any other body (and it doesn’t necessarily have to be human) and the salesman was like the combination of a pimp and one of those old trench coat wearing counterfeit watch sellers, and the picture i got while he voiced the guy almost made me feel slimy listening. Bravo!

So, what’s this story about anyway? Well, Tom Blaine dies in a car crash in 1958 only to wake up alive in the year 2011. The Rex Corporation has taken Tom’s essence, soul, spirit from the past and put it into a “donated” body. The breakthrough of time travel is not new, but this form of transplanting the soul through time is new. They plan on using Tom as their poster-child for the process, until they learn the Government won’t allow this process. So they shut down all the plans to use Tom. He is released from Rex Corporation and goes out to explore the world in his new body. Maria Thorn, a representative from Rex Corporation soon rescues Tom from a body snatcher and helps him to properly view life. Body Snatchers take young healthy bodies (people) and kill them to allow the older rich people to reincarnate into them.

The rich can do this legally but the illegal bodies are usually healthier and easier to come by. In fact, one of the doctors that brought Blaine over to 2110, is about to be reincarnated into a young body, but something goes wrong and the doctor is pushed out in the process by another spirit. The other spirit takes too much time acquiring the new body and becomes what is known in the year 2110 as a zombie. A zombie is a spirit that inhabits a body but the body is still dead and decaying fast.

This zombie soon starts following Tom around, because he has some tie to Tom but cannot fulfill his mission until he remembers what that is. The zombie population help Tom escape when Tom is placed on a wanted list, but the threat of the one zombie still lingers.

Tom is soon hunted down and after receiving conditioning to be able to make the journey into the afterlife, by being gifted with hereafter insurance, the Rex Corporation wants to kill him to cover up their crime of saving a soul without prior written consent. Tom then has to travel the world to escape the hunting squads and to find what the purpose of the zombie’s constant companionship.

A story about man’s future and how even after finding there is an afterlife, humanity finds a way to ruin that. Some funny moments and even some nice thrilling moments. This should be added to any true sci-fi fan’s library.