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Although I rate my chances of getting this answered low, I thought I'd ask here.

In 2005 +- 2 years, I stumbled across a novella (might have been 100 pages in length) that was available online for anyone to read in full.

Author: Not a professional sci-fi writer, possibly not even a published writer in any genre. In a bio note, he said he was recently retired, had traveled the world in a variety of jobs including government service, and was British (or maybe South African), in any case not American.

Style: Deceptively simple, possibly the un-flashiest SF writing I'd ever seen. At the same time, avoided all the pitfalls that novice authors fall into. Sentences flowed, story moved along smoothly. Little use of metaphor. Philosophical musings refreshingly absent. Author does not get in the way of story, at all.

Plot: Ah, here's where my memory sadly fails me. I'll try to piece together bits and pieces of the narrative.

Starts in a holiday resort in East Africa (Kenya? Somalia?) While the narrator is on the beach barbecuing, someone tries to kill him and barely misses. Retreats to levitating vacation home (anti-gravity apparently has been solved). Seeking answers for who wants him dead and why, travels to Jerusalem. Population now ten times of present, apparently under UN administration. Decides to sign up with military. Is shipped to Mars.

We learn that he is several hundred years old, and due for a total body replacement soon. Appears to be independently wealthy but not super rich. On Mars, gets into a tight spot and finds more questions than answers. Possibly a plot by a subversive faction to wrest power from the current one-world government. Moves on to outer solar system, to a moon of Jupiter (or Saturn?) where he is again nearly killed in the frozen wastes of the moon but escapes with his life. Enemies vanquished, he returns to Earth. Final scene is in a glitzy restaurant in a satellite orbiting Earth, where he and girlfriend (wife?) toast his success as stars twinkle through the glass roof and city lights blink from below.

Was never able to find that novella again. Possibly the author had put it online in hopes of attracting a publisher, then withdrawn it when no one expressed interest.

  • Was it a downloadable ebook, or web page? If an ebook, what sites might it have come from? – James Jenkins Jul 31 '13 at 23:19
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    @James This was some eight years ago so surely not an e-book. An ordinary web page, though I don't remember whether it was the author's own web domain or hosted on some service such as geocities. – Eugene Seidel Jul 31 '13 at 23:43
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    What sub-genre of SF to classify it in? Is it merchant/trader SF? Not really. A fairly ordinary plot about a protagonist who finds himself embroiled in intrigue on a trans-planetary scale and has to fight his way out of the mess relying on his wits, courage and sheer luck. Maybe stylistically it belongs there? Can't think of any other SF story or novel that comes closer to the type of conversation one might have around the bar in the old Raffles Hotel in Singapore, with a bunch of expat Brit, Aussie and South African businessmen shooting the breeze. – Eugene Seidel Jul 31 '13 at 23:55
  • Probably not helpful for your particular case, but parts of the plot reminded me of Asimov's Lucky Starr series... – C.B. Aug 17 '13 at 22:34
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This novella may actually be a short novel by Joe Haldeman, called Buying Time, also known as The Long Habit of Living in some countries, and published in 1989. Dallas Barr, the protagonist, is one of an elite group of people who are both rich and entrepreneurial enough to repeatedly purchase the Stileman Process, a full physical rejuvenation, whose effects last a decade. The price for this treatment is all the wealth that the purchaser possesses, at a minimum of one million dollars, so those who are capable of acquiring a fortune every ten years get to experience a form of semi-eternal youth.

Dallas' love interest, Maria Marconi, another long-lived member of this group, has opted not to purchase rejuvenation again and is due to die a natural death in a few years, but

later, she receives a variant of the Stileman treatment whose effects last a natural lifetime, not just ten years. The existence of this treatment is the source of the conflict between Barr and the shadowy Steering Committee, who want to keep the Stileman process, with its deliberate limitations, as the only one available.

Dallas and Maria flee off-planet during their work to keep ahead of their assassins, visiting several exotic locations on Earth and in the Solar System. I don't specifically recall if Mars is visited, though I believe so, but they definitely spend some time on an asteroid, which could be part of Jupiter's or Saturn's belt.

Joe Haldeman is a published American author, which doesn't square with your memory, but the plot similarities were such that it was worth noting. Since the book is out of print, it is perhaps vaguely possible that someone posted it online.

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