Third entry in Stableford's future history series (Architects of Emortality, 1999, etc.). By the 26th century, humans no longer expect to die of natural causes—though accidents still happen; hence, they're ``emortal,'' not ``immortal.'' As a boy in Tibet, Mortimer Gray meets Julius Ngomi, one of Earth's true rulers, inside an abandoned lamasery. Later, Mortimer and eightyearold Emily Marchant are the only survivors of a shipwreck. These two events inspire him to become a historian. He embarks on a massive and ambitious multivolume history of death. The first volume begins with the remote past, examining how Neanderthals and CroMagnons developed rituals in order to cope with death. Emily, meanwhile, a brilliant sculptor and builder in ice, becomes very rich and eventually moves to the outer solar system. But Mortimer's developing opus proves controversial, as various bizarre cults and groups claim it validates their theories involving masochism, torture, or neardeath experience; some even embrace actual death. Mortimer himself barely survives an attack by a woman who's infected herself with a lethal disease that she thinks gives her perfect clarity of mind. As the centuries pass, though, his history grows larger and more comprehensive and ultimately makes him rich and famous. Humanity expands throughout the solar system and explores nearby stars in asteroidspaceships, eventually encountering true starfaring aliens. At home, meanwhile, various factions, including Julius and Emily, argue over the destiny of the human race.
Stuffed with ideas, but too nonfictionally pedantic to fully satisfy as a novel.