Looking for the name of an old book I read many years ago back in the early 90's. The book was a slim(ish) novel as I recall, maybe 200 pages?

The book was in English and was probably written in the 1960's, maybe the 1950's.

The concept was about trying to become immortal, and the impact that this desire placed on the fictional society. Immortality was via the use of clones that were given the memories of the original each time they died, rather than perpetual extension of a single life.

The amount of life one had been allotted was recorded by a (mechanical?) computer, and the idea was to extend it by becoming more renowned (there could of been multiple levels of life expectancy).

I remember that the main protagonist (male) was in a fairground with a lady, and they entered an amusement(?) but later she dies while they are sitting in a café.

The protagonist was trying to get into the ranks of the Immortals (as he had been one previously?), he tries some different jobs (hospital porter, assistant to a politician, maybe others) but eventually leaves for space.

The setting was not very defined but was set in a land/city set some time in the future of earth, after some global catastrophe.

Does anyone remember this story? It has a kind of romantic feel to it in my memory


1 Answer 1


The novel you are looking for is probably To Live Forever by Jack Vance, first published in 1956. It has the alternative title Clarges. I have only just started reading this book, one of of the few by Jack Vance I haven't yet read, so I cannot say whether the scene in the fairground or the ending are as you describe. But a great deal of what you remember seems consistent with this book.

This Goodreads review by Kat Hooper mentions some of the things you remember such as the competition in renown for which the prize is more life, the ascending levels, and the use of clones.

In Clarges, a city in the far future, humans have conquered death. Unfortunately, there's just not enough room for billions of immortal people to live forever, so they've passed the fair-play act which divides society into 5 phyle which must be maintained at certain population ratios. Those who choose to participate in fair-play must register in Brood, the lowest phyle, and receive 82 years of life, after which an "assassin" visits and takes them away in a black hearse. By significantly contributing to society, citizens may move up through the phyle, adding several years of life with each step. A very select few will reach Amaranth and may have their bodies genetically modified (with 5 copies made, in case of accidents), making them youthful forever.

The Wikipedia link for To Live Forever describes how the protagonist had previously been an immortal and was trying to become one again:

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.

  • thanks I'll have a better check later and let you know but that does seem to be a very close match. Thanks so much :)
    – Alith
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 9:58
  • 1
    This is it!! - now to find a copy and read it again
    – Alith
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 10:34

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