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To Live Forever

Author: Jack Vance
Year published: 1956
Author’s age at the time: 40
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Author’s title: Clarges
Dutch title: Het Eeuwige Leven
French title: La vie éternelle
Genre: novel, SF

Introduction to the novel from Wikipedia:

The city of Clarges in the future is a near-utopia, surrounded by barbarism throughout the rest of the world. Abundant resources and the absence of political conflict lead to a pleasant life that should be stress-free. However, nearly everyone is obsessed with a perpetual scramble for longer life, as measured by slope.

Medical technology has led to a great lengthening of the human lifespan, but, in order to prevent the Malthusian horrors of over-population, it is awarded only to those citizens who have made notable contributions. Five categories have been created for those playing the life-extension game, the first four each offering an additional twenty years of life. One’s progress can be shown as a graph, whose upward direction indicates a greater likelihood of achieving the next level. Therefore, the slope of one’s “lifeline” is a measure of success. A person whose lifeline reaches the vertical terminator is not merely deprived of life-lengthening treatment, they are deliberately eliminated by government operatives, known as “Assassins”.

The ultimate prize is the top category, called Amaranth, which offers true immortality to the fortunate few. People who achieve this distinction are accorded the honorific “The” in front of their name.

The Grayven Warlock was one of those few, but he has become a fugitive after a feud with another Amaranth resulted in the latter’s death. Masquerading as his own “relict” (clone) using the name Gavin Waylock, he lives in obscurity, looking for the accomplishment that will reinstate him among the immortals. However, Waylock’s dramatic stratagems result in changes to society far beyond anything he had intended.

(Article accessed 4 March 2019)

Republished as Clarges, Spatterlight, 2012