The Immortals by Tracy Hickman

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So there I was browsing through Podiobooks.com when suddenly I see the name of an author I had been reading for years; Tracy Hickman. It was a bit unexpected since, to be honest, not a lot of authors that are fairly well known and have been writing and been published for years have offerings in serialized form. I wasn’t completely surprised though as he has been doing some online work with his content for some time. I remember back around the late 90’s or early 2000’s when he had the worlds of his “Starshield” novels made into an immense online “Galactipedia” and there was talk of a huge RPG but unfortunately it never made it past the initial Galactipedia, which was pretty detailed in its own right. He also had his own forum set up at one time as well as a podcast called Dragonhearth at www.dragonhearthproductions.com. He also has a subscription based serialized story called “Dragon’s Bard: The Journey to Mordale” at www.dragonsbard.com (subscription is not free).

The story takes place in the United States and is centered around the fact that martial law has been declared due to the rampant breakout of a mutated AIDS virus called V-CIDS. The government has set up “quarantine centers” in an effort to contain the outbreak but it turns out to be similar to that shown in “Escape from L.A.” where anyone considered “undesirable” is lumped in with the infected. Michael Barris smuggles himself into one of the camps to find his son but discovers a sinister truth about the camps and their purpose. He and those he allies with along the way must find a way to escape to tell the world what is happening before it is too late.
I had never read The Immortals, originally published in novel form or even remember seeing it listed even though I had been a fan of Tracy’s writing for quite awhile so I thought I had better have a listen. The book was originally published in 1996 and was produced in serialized audio form in 2006. The novel form of the book won the Parsec award in 2007 for speculative fiction. It is classified as science fiction most likely due to the fact that it is set in the future of the original writing but there is not much of a sci-fi element to it. In my opinion it is much better classified as alternative reality but as that isn’t a common genre it gets lumped in with a more broad category. The characters and narration are done by Laura and Tracy Hickman. They do a good job of making each character sound distinct and individual and you wouldn’t guess that there were only two people playing all of them. Some minor sound effects like background noises and an echo help to keep the story from being a flat experience.
“I’ll do everything I can to serve God’s people” – Michael Barris
The above quote does a lot to sum up the thematic feel of the story, even if taken out of context. Overall it kind of reminds me of something you might see on either the Lifetime or TBN channels where there is a definite moral to the story about how people are struggling with their suffering and the time they have left. The story portrays a lot of “this is how we are forced to deal with things” along with a feeling of “we should do the right thing in God’s eyes”. All that said I thought the content to be descriptive enough to give the listener a sense of the environment without being too immersed in every detail and does a good job in describing the overall sense of mental state of the characters using descriptions of both the environment and through portrayal of the individual characters.
Although the overall feel of the characters is bit lack-luster like they are a lazy country guy in aspect and they seem like a caricature if what someone would be like with what they say or do the portrayal does give a sense of who they are and what their personality is like. Motivations are only hinted at and are revealed a little at a time as the story moves along. The author seems to have done a good job at having distinct personalities for all the characters, even minor ones.
Overall I liked the production and thought the premise behind the story was interesting. I did struggle to keep listening for awhile but the story picks up a bit on the back end so there is that. I would recommend listening to it if you like Lifetime/TBN movies or shows, or after school specials, or you just like other work the author has done (as was my case). If you’re looking for a decent science fiction story, my suggestion is to pass on this one.

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