Cover image for The fountains of youth
The fountains of youth
Stableford, Brian M.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Tor, 2000.
Physical Description:
352 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
"A Tom Doherty Associates book."
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This is a science fiction novel of enormous scope and ambition, filled with wonders that expands Brian Stableford's on-going future history series. Hundreds of years in the future, further ahead than the settings of Inherit the Earth and Architects of Emortality, Mortimer Gray is born into a world where he can potentially live forever.

But after a traumatic natural disaster that kills millions, Gray devotes the next five hundred years of his life to the study of death and its effects on human civilization, viewed from a post-death perspective. Through it all we see the broad, large-scale accumulation of change and the growth of humanity on Earth and out to the stars as Gray experiences his boundless lifetime.

Author Notes

Author Brian M. Stableford was born in Shipley, Yorkshire, U. K. on July 25, 1948. He received an undergraduate degree in biology from the University of York in 1969 and a Ph.D. in sociology in 1979. Before becoming a full-time writer in 1988, he taught sociology at the University of Reading. He has published over 100 books, including science fiction and fantasy works, non-fiction, translations, and learned articles. He has written under the pseudonym of Brian Craig as well as under Brian Stableford and Brian M. Stableford. He has received numerous awards for both fiction and non-fiction including the British Science Fiction Award (1995), the Distinguished Scholarship Award of the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts (1987), the J. Lloyd Eaton Award (1987), the Science Fiction Research Association's (SFRA) Pioneer Award (1996), and the SFRA's Pilgrim Award (1999).

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Stableford leaves behind the detective stories of his earlier future histories, such as Inherit the Earth (1998), to expound at length on the questions posed by immortality. The result is a much slower paced book that will still please fans of broadly imagined, speculative civilizations. Mortimer Gray is a first-generation "emortal" who doesn't need to rely on periodic rejuvenations, with their attendant risk of brain damage, but is genuinely free of the fear of eventual death. Having the bad luck to be at the epicenter of a global disaster that kills 10 percent of Earth's population, he becomes obsessed with the history of death. Stableford combines Gray's musings on religion and cultural evolution with his wry observations of his own immortal culture. As humans come to grips with actually having all the time in the world, they explore radical ways to occupy it: architects of ice and nanotechnology build reflective palaces that play with the mind; pain cultists experiment with bizarre ways to nearly die; and humanity moves from Earth to Saturn's moons and beyond. --Roberta Johnson

Publisher's Weekly Review

Credibly written but lacking in emotional range, this third installment in Stableford's Living in the Future series imagines a time when most humans--nearly immortal--aren't much preoccupied with the subject of death. Born more than five centuries ago, in 2520, Mortimer Gray is an emortal, a sturdy genetic composite who was raised in the Himalayas by the standard group of eight adults. These days, unlike most of his contemporaries, Gray--who long ago discovered his potential mortality when he barely survived a massive underwater volcanic eruption--is obsessed with death, and in fact has undertaken a massive study of how human's ideas about it have affected history. Well before completing the work, several centuries and nine volumes later, he became both famous as a popular scholar and notorious as an influence on the Thanaticists, militant believers in keeping death a part of the human condition to the point of organizing ritual suicides and creating "recreational diseases." (Meanwhile, Gray's world has remained in flux--experiments are turning humans into cyborgs or genetically altered beings with four hands; interstellar probes have encountered intelligent aliens.) Gray is in some ways a fine narrator, able to reflect on the events circling around him with a historian's critical eye--but because he's rather detached, it's hard to get involved in his story. Moreover, Stableford has written much of this book as if he was composing a literary essay (complete with excessive foreshadowing)--which makes reading it a bit of a chore. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

When Mortimer Gray, one of the first "emortals"--humans transformed into a state of near immortality--narrowly escapes a planetary disaster that kills millions of people, he decides to undertake a massive study of the history of death--a process that carries him through 500 years of his own life. This latest novel by the author of Inherit the Earth is less a plot-driven story than a grand meditation on the state of human mortality. Thoughtful without being grim, this leisurely tale of one man's lifelong quest belongs in most sf collections. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



ONE I was born in 2520, an unexceptional child of the twenty-sixth century. Like my contemporaries, I was the beneficiary of a version of the Zaman transformation, which differs hardly at all from the one most commonly used today. By comparison with the children of previous centuries, however--excepting a minority of those born in the latter decades of the twenty-fifth century--I and all my kind were new. We were the first true emortals, immune to all disease and further aging. This does not mean, of course, that I shall never die. There are a thousand ways in which the life of an emortal might be ended by accident or misadventure. In any case, future generations may well regard it as a major discourtesy for any earthbound person to postpone voluntary extinction too long--and those who choose not to remain earthbound multiply the risk of eventual death by accident or misadventure at least a hundredfold. Given that all my readers are in exactly the same condition as myself, it may seem unnecessary even to record these facts and rather ridiculous to make so much of commonplace circumstance. If I am exceptional in any way at all, however--and why, otherwise, should I take the trouble actually to write my autobiography?--then I am exceptional because I have tried as hard as I can during these last five hundred years to make my fellow human beings conscious of the privileges and responsibilities of the emortal condition. My own transformation was carried out at Naburn Hatchery in the county of York in the Defederated States of Europe, but as soon as I was decanted my foster parents removed me to a remote valley in the Nepalese Himalayas, where they planned to raise me to early adulthood. In those days, every team of mortal co-parents had to formulate its own theory as to the best way to bring up an authentically emortal child. Such decisions seemed uniquely problematic, because my co-parents and others like them knew that their children would be the last to see their parents die and that theirs was the duty of supervising humankind's last great evolutionary leap. Previous generations of parents had, of course, had some cause to hope that they were mere mortals entrusted with the care of emortal children, but my foster parents had every reason to believe that I was a member of a different species: the one that would inherit Earth as their own species surrendered to extinction. Such longevity as my parents had was contrived by nanotechnological repair, requiring periodic "deep tissue rejuvenations" that were hazardous in themselves and left their recipients horribly vulnerable to the kind of mental erasure that had been known for six centuries as "the Miller Effect." None of my fosterers was a ZT, but they all understood well enough how different ZTs were from their own fate-betrayed kind. Although the first, still-imperfect, ZTs had been born seventy-five years earlier it was still rare in 2520 for any company of parents to include a ZT. People in their seventies were generally considered too young to be contemplating parenthood even though few beneficiaries of nanotech repair lived significantly longer than two hundred years. It was not until 2560, at the earliest, that ZT children were likely to have even a minority of ZT parents; even then it was considered a matter of course as well as courtesy that mortals--or "false emortals," as they were still commonly called-- were given priority when applications for parenthood were submitted to the Population Agency. They were the ones under pressure of time, the ones whose needs and desires were urgent. I take the trouble to recall all this not merely to stress that mine was the common lot of my unique generation but also to justify the seeming eccentricity of my foster parents' approach to child rearing. They took their chosen task so seriously that they could not simply accept commonplace assumptions about the best way to bring up a child; they felt that they had to approach every decision anew, to reexamine all assumptions and reevaluate all conclusions. There was a time when I thought my parents slightly mad, especially when I was still able to eavesdrop on their interminable arguments and recriminations, but I do not think it now, even though no modern new- born spends his childhood as I spent mine. My parents took me to the remotest part of Nepal as soon as I was born because they thought that it would be good for me. Papa Domenico thought that it would be good for me because it would prove to me that there was no place on Earth so bare of resources that its doors did not open directly into his beloved Universe Without Limits, while Mama Siorane thought that it would be good for me because it would put me much more closely in touch with "brute reality," but it does not matter which of these apparently contradictory theses was closer to the truth. Although I never became what Papa Domenico would have called a "dedicated virtualist"I have been an assiduous explorer of the Universe Without Limits, and I have certainly had my share of bruising contacts with brute reality, so I suppose they were both right in their different ways. This autobiography will have little or nothing to say about virtualist Utopianism and a great deal about realist Utopianism, but that does not mean that Mama Siorane was any more of a mother to me than Papa Domenico was a father. I had eight parents, and that--in association with the efficiency of VE education--is generally conceded to be perfectly sufficient to make every modern child the son or daughter of the entire human race. That is what I am, as are we all. That is why my personal history is, in a sense, the personal history of everyone who is potentially able to live in the future. Copyright © 2000by Brian Stableford Excerpted from The Fountains of Youth by Brian M. Stableford, Brian Stableford All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.