In Kauffman’s intriguing sci-fi novel, his debut, scientifically altered human immortals are being hunted down as the world approaches global catastrophe.
In 1998, brilliant scientist Mitchell Hilliard performed an experiment on 16 people to extend their life spans indefinitely. Decades later, in 2059, although Hilliard died three decades earlier under mysterious circumstances, the participants are alive—albeit living under new identities—to potentially face the “End Date,” a new ice age set in motion by the effects of global warming. It might spell the beginning of the end for life on Earth. One of the immortals, Herschel Hatton, however, has had a religious awakening, which has convinced him that he and his fellow immortals are abominations in the eyes of God; he’s inspired to track down and kill each of his former friends. Another of them, Nate Kristopher (formerly known as Skip), who travels with an AI robot dog companion, Dugan, is committed to stopping the End Date. He believes the answer lies with convincing Hilliard’s granddaughter, psychobiologist Campbell Devereaux, about the true nature of her grandfather’s work. Kristopher follows a different religion, the Church of Abraham, which believes God to be an extremely advanced alien who, since biblical times, has been visiting Earth via a wormhole. With extreme clarity of purpose and prose, Kauffman weaves a sophisticated sci-fi tale that grapples with issues of science and religion. What it sometimes lacks in character emotion it makes up for with intriguing philosophical issues, admirably brisk pacing, and overall creativity. Structurally, the early chapters feel a bit repetitive, most following the same pattern of opening on a character and then bouncing into the recent past via flashbacks and back again—a conceit that works well at first but grows overly familiar. Once that lets up, however, the novel proves to be a strong, thoughtful work of ideas with a simultaneously grim yet strangely optimistic prognosis for our not-so-distant future. It believes in humanity’s strong will—for better and for worse.
A strong sci-fi debut from a promising new author.