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The Last Mortal Man    by Syne Mitchell order for
Last Mortal Man
by Syne Mitchell
Order:  USA  Can
Roc, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Belle Dessler

The advent of technology can change the course of mankind's evolution. None more so than nano-biology. It quickly becomes pervasive on planet Earth. It has the ability to convert humans into nano-technology driven beings, free from aging, disease and even death. These fully converted immortal creatures - the Deathless - are humanity's elite. But human beings don't have to be fully converted to be touched by nano-technology. It's part of the modifications people make to look better, be stronger, grow wings, breathe underwater. Nothing's off-limits when it comes to this new process. It's in every tree, every flower, every blade of grass, with the exception of a few very small areas preserved by a tiny minority of people whose religious beliefs make them reject it totally.

As the book begins, we meet Alexa Du Bois, a young woman with terminal cancer. She's on a quest to kill powerful Lucious Sterling, the father of nano-technology, blaming him for not sharing with the world what could save her. She doesn't realize that turning people into the Deathless costs millions of dollars, and she certainly doesn't know that many of the attempts fail - just like her own attempt to end Lucious' life. Her assassination attempt puts into motion events that will lead Alexa on a wild ride through centuries at Lucious' side, as his best indentured servant and most prized possession, and as his bodyguard.

The plot moves quickly, spanning decades, then centuries as the world becomes more and more dependent on nano-technology. When Jack Sterling, Lucius' grandson, is diagnosed with a deadly allergy to the very nano-technology that made his family's fortune, the pace of the novel increases to breathtaking speeds, especially once a virus created to destroy nano-biology on contact threatens to kill the majority of Earth's population. Jack may be the only one who can stand up to the deadliest weapon the world has ever seen.

The Last Mortal Man is the first in the Deathless series - and what a joy it is to know that more will follow! Mitchell deftly explores power, justice, loyalty, religious beliefs (God versus science) and mankind's constant search for immortality. Well-developed characters lead the reader through a futuristic world that mirrors our own in many ways. The nano-technology is well explained, but the scientific descriptions never degenerate into impossible-to-understand jargon or overshadow the storytelling. Brisk action sequences add excitement, while the intense emotional bonds between characters add depth, to an already captivating novel. Realistic and believable, The Last Mortal Man is a treat for science fiction fans.

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