While reading this worldbuilding stackexchange question, I was reminded of a story I read "ages ago", dealing with immortals who were prone to a particularly nasty form of cancer. Unfortunately, I can't remember the title or author...

  • Media: Book. Probably a novel; possibly a short novel. I don't think it was a short story.
  • Original year of publication: Unknown. I read it back in the late '80s or early '90s ('88-'94, probably)... but given the collection I borrowed it from, the book could have dated back to the '20s. (My memories feel it was probably from the '50s-'80s, given the "feel" of the setting.)
  • Major themes: Immortals. Some sort of power struggle/murder mystery - but far more action oriented than mystery oriented. I seem to recall immortals just didn't die "the first time"... but if they took enough damage, their body's cells would "regenerate" too fast (a form of cancer).
  • Plot: Not a whole heck of a lot remembered. I seem to recall the main protagonist got married to another immortal's sister (who might have been Native American?) after an INCREDIBLY short courtship (measured in minutes). There might have been something about an immortal called the Rajah; there might have been something about an immortal nicknamed a lion?
  • Setting: Earth, "modern day" (at the time of publication). Society seemed like ours, so I'm pretty sure immortals weren't common knowledge.
  • Language: I read it in English.
  • Cover: No memories at all.
  • Target Audience: It was either "young adult" or geared for "adults" (not truly mature themes, just not written for kids). I read it about the time I was devouring Farmer and Niven (though I know it was not Niven and am pretty sure it wasn't Farmer).

If my memories of where I found it are correct (highly suspect), it's location on the shelves would put the author's last name somewhere in the D-M range... maybe. I would't swear to it.

There might have been a volcano mentioned somewhere... maybe. I'm even less sure about that. Could have been backstory on an immortal.

I started by looking through the wikipedia article on Immortality in Fiction, but nothing seemed to match. I also checked several of the story ID questions here, but the ones I looked at didn't seem familiar. It's definitely not Anderson's The Boat of a Million Years (awesome as that is).

  • This may have a low probability of being what you are looking for ... just want to make sure it is ruled out. James Gunn"The Immortals", google.com/search?q=immortals+james+gunn Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 21:40
  • @EnigmaMaitreya I don't believe that's the story: I don't remember anything about "... society is all too eager to root them out and (literally) bleed them dry" (from a review I just read). I definitely don't remember it being pessimistic in tone.
    – Ghotir
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 21:45
  • @FuzzyBoots, never knew of that book. I Like Poul Anderson and am going to check it out. So thanks. Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 22:15

1 Answer 1


This is almost certainly Alfred Bester's The Computer Connection (aka Extro) which has many points of similarity with your list: group of immortals, Native American bride, power struggle, etc). Flipping through the book, I found the cancer reference too, although it's some kind of awful leprosy/cancer combination called Lepcer. It can strike the immortals if they get wounded too badly.

Here's the fast marriage quote:

I looked at the Chief, completely bewildered.

"You've just married my sister," he said casually.

I went into shock.

The lion thing is one of the immortals who got Lepcer.

After a moment I saw that the lion was standing on its hind legs. After another I saw it was a man wearing a lion mask. And then I realized it wasn't a mask. It was a deformed face.

"Oh God! The big L!"

  • 1
    I'm sure you're right. It was serialized in Analog in 74/75. The immortals are either discovered or made by almost dying a prolonged death. And the discovery/creation process usually just ends in, you know, death. Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 23:19

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