A noted yarnspinner at short and medium lengths, Anderson usually proves a creaky novelist (Orion Shall Rise, 1983, etc.). True to form, here's a prolonged, patchy, episodic immortals-secretly-among-us churner that spans thousands of years, and subjectively feels almost as long. Throughout human history, a very few individuals have been born immortal--though they're not, of course, proof against accident or fatal injury. Beginning with Hanno, a Phoenician seafarer of around 3,000 B.C., Anderson traces the lives of eight such individuals--with fairly persuasive historical backgrounds but less-than-compelling fabulographies. Once in a long while, the paths of the eight cross; couples form (fortuitously, they are four men and four women), but not till the 20th century do they come together as an organized group. Not long after, ironically, immortality for the entire human race becomes possible. But these billions of nouveau-immortals soon begin to develop in ways incomprehensible to Hanno and his associates--so they decide to leave Earth and go in search of a habitable planet to settle. Finally, hundreds of years later, there's contact with alien robots and races, as dissension within the group of eight threatens to tear it apart. Bulky but not particularly spellbinding, with two-dimensional characters who irritatingly refuse to grow despite the supposed passage of millenia. Inessential variations on familiar themes.