Fifth and last in the series about the quest for human immortality—or, as Stableford pedantically insists, “emortality.” In the 21st century, Adam Zimmerman, determined to cheat death, organized the financial coup that turned ownership of planet Earth over to the Secret Masters of the World. He used his profited billions to set up a foundation for emortality research—and then had himself cryogenically preserved before death. Madoc Tamlin, a 22nd-century fixer for a wannabe Secret Master, wakes in the 33rd century. Never sure that what he perceives is real and not some sophisticated VR, Tamlin asks his awakener, an asexual juvenile-appearing female posthuman named Davida Berenike Columella, why he was frozen and forgotten for a millennium. Equally puzzling, Davida has also awoken Christine Caine, a mass murderer from Tamlin's era condemned to cryogenic suspension. Davida maintains that both were woken as test cases prior to the revivification of Adam Zimmerman himself. Tamlin rejects this explanation and wonders what's really going on. It seems that war threatens to engulf the solar system, involving not only the various and extremely diverse posthuman factions but the self-aware ultrasmart machines as well. But what reason can machines have for fighting, and what do they want with Zimmerman and emortal historian Mortimer Gray? What of the Afterlife, voracious virus-like entities that threaten machines and posthumans alike?
Fascinating ideas and developments, though Stableford's heavy-handed, exposition-clogged approach often slows the narrative to a crawl: not the best of the series (that was Dark Ararat, p. 80), but a worthwhile wrap nonetheless.