This book is Taran Hunt‘s debut novel and I was enchanted by it! If you look for a fast-paced, epic sci-fi, involving sword fights in outer space, as well as fascinating discussions around alien cultures, traditions and language, this is the book for you!
And…don’t worry! Though it’s the first part of a series, I appreciate how all major loose ends are neatly tied by the time you finish. That is lucky for me because I am successfully able to sleep at night and wait patiently for her second book. It is also even luckier for Taran Hunt because I will not constantly harass her with questions about the second part.
The Immortality Thief Blurb
We are in a somewhat distant future, with a crew on an important mission. The crew members are on this mission “voluntarily” to gain a full pardon, their alternatives being life in prison or active service.
Their mission is to retrieve data from an abandoned ship, orbiting a star near the end of its lifespan – a piece of cake, right?
Well…of course not.. this is the beginning of the book and of these people’s troubles!
Obviously, they accept the deal – they have to. When they first refuse (it did sound too good to be true), they find themselves implanted with a deadly bomb, set to explode unless they go retrieve the data from the abandoned ship. Along with them, on the mission, goes Quint – their “employer”‘s representative and Leah, a prisoner, like them, whom they didn’t know before the mission.
Before we dive into their journey, let’s discuss a bit of this world’s context:
Politics, Context and Culture of The Immortality Thief
- There are two political systems in active conflict – the Terra Nova (now called the Republic) and Maria Nova.
- The two systems compete on technology as well.
- FTL (Faster than light travel) seems available for both of them.
- The Republic is populated by descendents of humans.
- The Ministers are a deadly alien race, that appeared out of nowhere, subjugated humanity for hundreds of years, and still ruled humanity in the Maria Nova system.
- Several independent planets, like Kystrom, were caught in the war and ended up belonging to the Ministers after short, deadly attacks.
- A thousand years ago, after the First Ministerial War, when the Ministers had taken control of the Sister Systems, they’d purged the old languages in favor of a standardized single language that both Sister Systems still spoke today as a lingua franca.
- In a series of experiments, called the Philosophers’Stone experiments, also a thousand years ago, humanity is said to have discovered the secret to eternal life. The war with the Ministers began soon after that. These discoveries were lost, said to have been destroyed by the Ministers to ensure humanity remained under their control.
- The Chosen are religious people who believe the immortal Ministers were sent by God to punish humanity for that.
The Immortality Thief Plot
Sean Wren was a Kystrene linguist who watched all his family die. His birth city, Itaka, burned in the war. His homeworld was abandoned by the Republic and subjugated by the Ministers. He is part of the crew on a mission to retrieve important data because of his unique linguistic abilities. He is the only one to speak Ameng, a language that had been dead for a thousand years. Coincidently or not, that is right around the time the Ministers came about. Benny is his Kystrene best friend, inseparable since they left their home planet together.
The important data they are about to retrieve is about the Philosopher’s Stone experiments. The data can influence the fate of the war and give the Republic the advantage they need over the Ministers.
Along with Quint and Leah, Sean and Benny reach the Nameless spaceship. They expect it to be completely empty, abandoned for 1000 years. Obviously – it will not be so. Again, it’s just the beginning of the book! Of course, it’s teeming with the weirdest creatures!
It turns out our crew is first met with a strange woman, who apparently had been there for a long time. Then, a ship full of Ministers arrives as well… Not such a secret ship after all, right?
With all these people, the only one who can speak Ameng, the language the ship’s systems use, is still just Sean Wren. The Ministers keep alive his little crew just so that he can help out. They all set out to the ship captain’s office, where apparently the data can be found. Their journey is full of dangers, as the ship is filled with wild, hungry creatures, the remaining of some weird, awful experiments.
This is a fast-paced journey. Discovering more and more details of past failed experiments, and more and more details of the data held by the Philosopher’s stone was exhilarating. The book is large and I still read it in a few days!
I loved the way the author views languages, I love the way she showed the way of respectfully approaching a different culture. It reminded me a lot of Andy Weir‘s “Project Hail Mary” with that part and it was just so, so perfect!
I would have loved it even more if humanity’s descendants had been a little more different as well. It seems weird to me that at least 1000 years from now people born on a different planet would worship practically the same God. I understand the logic, some traditions are simply meant to transform slightly, never completely, and religion is one of those things. However, I am always curious about how authors choose to see humanity’s future and, I think, the more different it is, the more interesting it is.
We get to see Sean Wren gradually understand history better and gradually come to terms with what happened on his home planet, with his town’s burning by the Ministers. The action on the ship is sprinkled with Sean’s memories of Kystrom. This creates a full picture of his background, development, and feelings, without seeming boring and managing to keep up the suspense in between.
We see Sean observing and trying to understand Ministers even from the beginning. I loved that about him as a character, even though it might have been more interesting if he’d had an evolution to get to this stage. Sean is naturally open-minded about a different culture and doesn’t generalise. He can dissociate the person standing in front of him from the race that did awful things to his hometown. That is a great thing and few, if any, real people are realistically capable of it.
This openness, as well as his unique capability of language understanding, makes him able to gather around him a diverse cast, who trust and protect him. The story’s plot twists are just wonderful and completely in line with his strength of character, making him an all-too-perfect hero. This is not as satisfying as it would seem. I loved Sean. I rooted for him. He is, though, just a bit too perfect to seem real. Perhaps the second book will surprise us a little on that front.
Quotes for a little feel of the book:
The nothing-place between leaving and arriving during faster-than-light travel isn’t really Hell. Hell is the absence of God, or the absence of other people, or something like that. FTL engines just… I don’t know, grabbed space and yanked it forward, rippling like a bedsheet tugged out of place, and our ship caught up in the folds. But it sure as Hell felt like Hell.The Immortality Thief, Taran Hunt
[…] flying a ship was like speaking a foreign language. There were all these strict rules to follow to get the grammar right, but so long as you had the gist of it intact, you could make it up on the fly and be pretty well understood.The Immortality Thief, Taran Hunt
I am seven hundred years old, Mr. Wren. I have seen terrors you cannot imagine and I have kept them from humanity like a shield in the dark. And what do humans do? Rebel, and resist, and murder. It is a bitter thing when the people you are trying to protect are ungrateful. I want you to stop trying to escape me.The Immortality Thief, Taran Hunt
A little fun fact:
Sean Wren speaks Kystrene, Illenich, Patrene, sign language, Wentrese, Tamarian, Ameng, Sister Standard. WOW, right?
This book was a perfect weekend read! If you like sci-fi and exploring new cultures, this is an awesome read!
P.S. I received a copy of this book free from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.
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If you pick “The Immortality Thief” for your next book club, maybe these questions will help you. I would also love to discuss them in the comments section, after you read the book!
- What did you think of Leah? Wasn’t it too obvious that her purpose was to show us the Ministers’ cruelty?
- What do you think “Ministers hoarding knowledge” stands for as a metaphor?
- What did you think of the speed with witch Sean Wren picks up languages?
- Did you think Sean Wren was too perfect?
- What did you think of the ending?
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