This post is a call for readers to submit their favorite immortality themed science fiction NOT included on my list below (and even examples they did not care for so I can make this a more substantial resource). I’ll make a page with all the information I receive for easy consultation soon (INDEX of similar pages/articles).
A while back I started gathering a list of titles — via SF Encyclopedia, other online resources, and my own shelves — on immortality themed SF. I have always been intrigued by the social space (one plagued by violence and despair or buoyed by the hope of a better future) that the possibility of immortality might generate.
I would argue that the single best example of social effects that the possibility of immortality might create is Clifford D. Simak’s Why Call Them Back From Heaven? (1967). In similar fashion, James Gunn’s The Immortals (1962) takes place in a world where immortals do exist, they skirt at the edge of the narrative, but are hunted by mortals for their “sacred” blood. The possibilities (good and bad) if they are caught are endless. Other SF works try to evoke the repetitive nature of existence of the immortal. I generally dislike novels on this aspect of the theme — for example Raymond Z. Gallun’s The Eden Cycle (1974) is often just as tiring as the “ennui of the immortal” he is trying to evoke.
I’ve organized them by publication date (if they are extensive sequences of novels/short stories I’ve listed as a group) and linked the ones I’ve reviewed.
Laurence Manning, The Man Who Awoke (collection 1975, published 1933)
David H. Keller, “Life Everlasting” (1934), (unread)
Aldous Huxley, After Many a Summer Dies the Swan (1939), (unread)
A. E. van Vogt, The Weapon Makers (1943), (unread)
John R. Pierce, “Invariant” (1944), (unread)
Damon Knight, “World Without Children” (1951), (unread)
Wilson Tucker, The Time Masters (1953), (unread)
J. T. McIntosh, “Life For Ever” (1954), (unread)
James Blish, “At Death’s End” (1954), (unread)
Jack Vance, To Life Forever (1956), (unread)
Arthur C. Clarke, The City and the Stars (1956), 4/5 (Good)
Damon Knight, “The Dying Man” (1957), (unread)
Robert A. Heinlein, Methuselah’s Children (1958), 3.25/5 (Average)
Frederik Pohl, Drunkard’s Walk (1960), (unread)
John Wyndham, The Trouble with Lichen (1960), (unread)
James Gunn, The Immortals (1962), 4.25/5 (Good)
Clifford D. Simak, Way Station (1963), 4/5 (Good)
Roger Zelazny, This Immortal (1965), 5/5 (Masterpiece)
Eando Binder, Anton York, Immortal (collection 1965), (unread)
Jack Vance, “The Secret” (1966), (unread)
Frank Herbert, The Eyes of Heisenberg (1966), 4/5 (Good)
Clifford D. Simak, Why Call Them Back From Heaven? (1967), 4.75/5 (Very Good)
Roger Zelazny, Lord of Light (1967), 4.75/5 (Very Good)
Brian W. Aldiss, “The Worm That Flies” (1968), (unread)
Norman Spinrad, Bug Jack Barron (1969), (unread)
David Levy, The Gods of Foxcroft (1970), (unread)
Bob Shaw, One Million Tomorrows (variant title: 1 Million Tomorrows) (1971), 3/5 (Average)
Anders Bodelsen, Freezing Down (1971), (unread)
Robert Silverberg, The Book of Skulls (1972), (unread)
Michael Moorcock, Dancers at the End of Time sequence (1972)-1976), (unread)
Thomas N. Scortia, “The Weariest River” (1973), 3/5 (Average)
Harlan Ellison, “Kiss of Fire” (1973), 4.25/5 (Good)
Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough for Love (1973), 3/5 (Average)
Robert Silverberg, Born with the Dead (1974), (unread)
Raymund Z. Gallun, The Eden Cycle (1974), 4/5 (Good)
P. J. Lauger, “Child of All Ages” (1975), (unread)
Marta Randall, Islands (1976), (unread)
Alan Harrington, Paradise 1 (1977), (unread)
Jack Chalker, Saga of the Well of Souls and The Watcher of the Well Sequences (1977-2000), (unread)
Spider Robinson, Mindkiller sequence (1979-1997), (unread)
J. T. McIntosh, A Planet Called Utopia (1979), (unread)
Bruce McAllister, “Their Immortal Hearts” (1980), (unread)
Octavia Butler, Wild Seed (1980), (unread)
Clifford D. Simak, “The Grotto of the Dancing Deer” (1980), (unread)
Frank Herbert, The God Emperor of Dune (1981), (unread)
Kate Wilhelm, Welcome, Chaos (1983), (unread)
Richard Cowper, “The Tithonian Factor” (1980), (unread)
Mack Reynolds and Dean Ing, Eternity (1984), (unread)
Robert Silverberg, Sailing to Byzantium (1985), (unread)
Brian M. Stableford and David Langford, The Third Millenium (1985), (unread)
Robert A. Heinlein, To Sail Beyond the Sunset (1987), (unread)
Brian N. Stableford, Empire of Fear (1988), (unread)
Poul Anderson, Boat of a Million Years (1989), (unread)
Frederik Pohl, Outnumbering the Dead (1990), (unread)
Greg Egan, “Learning to Be Me” (1990), (unread)
Frederik Pohl, The World at the End of Time (1990), (unread)
Orson Scott Card, The Worthing Saga (various publication dates 1979-1990), (unread)
Greg Egan, Permutation City (1994), (unread)
Brian N. Stableford, “Mortimer Gray’s “History of Death” (1995), (unread)
Andreas Eschbach, The Carpet Makers (1995), (unread)
Robert Silverberg, “Death Do Us Part” (1996), (unread)
Kage Baker, Company Sequence (1997-2009), (unread)
James L. Halperin, The First Immortal (1998), (unread)
Brian Stableford, Inherit the Earth (1998), (unread)
Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter, The Light of Other Days (2000), (unread)
Alastair Reynolds, Chasm City (2001), (unread)
John C. Wright, The Golden Age (2002), (unread)
Richard Morgan, Altered Carbon (2002), (unread)
Neal Asher, The Skinner (2002), (unread)
John C. Wright, The Phoenix Exultant (2003), (unread)
Walter Jon Williams, “The Green Leopard Plague” (2003), (unread)
John C. Wright, The Golden Transcendence (2003), (unread)
Cory Doctorow, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (2003), (unread)
Charles Stross, Accelerando (2005), (unread)
Robert J. Sawyer, Mindscan (2005), (unread)
Charles Stross, Glasshouse (2006), (unread)
Charles Stross, Saturn’s Children (2008), (unread)
Alastair Reynolds, House of Suns (2008), (unread)
Drew Magar, The Post Mortal (2011), (unread)
Charles Stross and Cory Doctorow, The Rapture of the Nerds (2012), (unread)
22 thoughts on “Updates (New Resource): List of Immortality Themed SF (a call to contribute!)”
My favorite short story by Gene Wolfe, “The Doctor of Death Island” (1978) is about immortality (among other things.) And it is a real “hard” SF story, about the effect of new technologies on society, as well as a human drama.
I ordered that collection at the beginning of November and it has yet to arrive… The first time I have ever had to ask for a refund through abebooks. Alas. I wanted to finally read some Wolfe.
Thanks! I’ll definitely add it to my more finished version.
That’s too bad about your copy of The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories; I’m looking forward to hearing what you have to say about Wolfe. It is normal to hear people praise Wolfe to the skies, but there are dissenters, and a lot of people have gripes about particular stories and about particular elements of Wolfe’s work.
I’ve been reading a lot of Wolfe lately (and re-reading – he’s one of those authors that you have to read a second time, often to catch multiple layers of meaning, or to catch what’s going on.) I’d recommend his collection “The Best of Gene Wolfe” to begin.
Happy Thanksgiving, Joachim!
Dave over at Worlds Without End supplied these:
Vitals, Greg Bear
The Computer Connection, Alfred Bester
The Forever Machine, Frank Riley and Mark Clifton
The Big Time, Fritz Leiber
Infinity Beach, Jack McDevitt
Starplex, Robert J. Sawyer
Holy Fire, Bruce Sterling
Brute Orbits, George Zebrowski
My Soul to Keep, Tananarive Due
To Live Again, Robert Silverberg
The World of Null-A, A. E. Van Vogt
Bitter Angels, Sarah Zettel
The Year of Our War, Steph Swainston
Marrow, Robert Reed
The Hollow Lands, Michael Moorcock
The End Of All Songs, Michael Moorcock
The Quantum Thief, Hannu Rajaniemi
The Queendom of Sol series, Wil McCarthy
I’ve read a bunch (The Forever Machine, The Big Time, To Live Again, The World of Null-A) but forgot about them….
I think those Moorcocks are part of the Dancers at the End of Time series.
I also forgot Robert Sheckley’s Immortality, Inc (1958)!
James Gunn also wrote “The Immortal” (singular), which is a novelization of the 1970s TV series that was based on his earlier novel, “The Immortals.” Don’t know if that counts…
Given the current wave of science fiction (or wave receding into the ocean, depending on opinion) is being dubbed the Accelerated Age/Singularity Age, I’m surprised there are not more recent titles on the list, post-humanism most often translating to immortality. Ian McDonald’s existential Necroville, which openly states nanotech = immortality, springs immediately to mind. Any of Iain Banks’ Culture novels likewise incorporate the concept to varying degrees. But sticking with the preferred era of your site, your list is very comprehensive. I thought of a few titles, checked, and they were all there. Thus, there seems only to be a shortage amongst contemporary titles, but I’m guessing there is not enough space (or desire) to include all of those titles…
A lack of recent titles on this list…. Definitely, I resorted to my personal knowledge and I generally do not read newer titles. But feel free to add anymore if you come up with them! ‘Tis the point of a list in which I wanted people with more knowledge in different areas to contribute to.
I didn’t catch this one.Anyway,my choices are three by Bob Silverberg,the creepy but eloquent “The Book of Skulls”,”Born With the Dead”,”Sailing to Byzantium”,and Michael’s Moorcock’s “The Dancers at the End of Time”.
Noticeable that there were none listed by Philip K.Dick,whose perplexing stuff commonly dealt with theological themes,and therefore touch on immortality,although of a spiritual nature.”The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch” definitely does,even though it’s about so much more.
I’ve been looking at his themes on the subject on Wikipedia,and was reminded of two of his short stories,”Beyond Lies the Wub”,his first ever published piece,and “Not By It’s Cover”,that both deal with the theme through spiritual transcendence.There’s another one from the 1950s,which I think is better than both of them,”Upon the Dull earth”,that deals with the pitfalls of attempting resurrection.
He returned to the resurrection theme in the 1960s with the novel,”Counter-Clock World”,but this time through strange but apparently natural processes,without human interference.However,the outcome is cyclical,without the apparent benefit of immortality.
I wasn’t suppose to put any on your list….sorry.Discount them then.Can’t think of any others.
You’re welcome to add titles! And yes, hadn’t thought much about PKD. I’ve gathered quite a few others but haven’t edited it yet.
But yes, works like Ubik probably could be added.
Buying Time aka The Long Habit of Living, Joe Haldeman, 1989.
Yes “Ubik” definitely can.It deals with the theme by trying to distinguish the difficult crosscurrents of what is life and death,with the substance Ubik,a condensed form of God,as the only answer.
I highly recommend that you read Andreas Eschbach’s “The Carpet Makers”, listed on this page. It is very disturbing and haunting, and the ideas and images in it will not leave you in a hurry.
I suggest that you not Google for reviews on this, because one or two of them may disclose the crux of the story, the whole purpose behind the situation the novel describes.
Thanks for the comment. As for spoilers, I am more interested in knowing the book will appeal to me rather than any particular plot points — hence why I compulsively read reviews.
Are you talking about The Carpetmaker’s Son (1985) or The Carpet Makers (1995)? I am far more interested in the first one due to the date range (within what I cover on my site and my personal SF interests).
Also, as I am unsure if you’re new to my site or not, I recommend investigating the type of SF I enjoy:
Review index: https://sciencefictionruminations.com/science-fiction-book-reviews-by-author/sci-fi-book-review-index-by-rating/
Article on why I read what I read: https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2018/06/15/fragment-s-why-i-read-and-review-50s-70s-science-fiction/
Thanks again for stopping by!
It flagged your comment so I thought you might be new!
As I mentioned, I’m not terribly interested in novels being spoiled. I am far more interested in the themes and delivery which will ultimate decide whether I enjoy a novel or not — I’m not a plot-driven reader and am approaching the novels from the 50s-mid-80s from a more academic perspective (although my reviews might not come off as such — deliberately). I’m not terribly interested in knowing a twist or an important crux of the plot. It’s just how I read! 🙂
That said, I am most interested in the short story due to the date it was published that also appeared in translation.
I’ll investigate the short story and novel!
Also, far more on this theme are listed here: https://sciencefictionruminations.com/sci-fi-article-index/sci-fi-novelsshort-stories-about-immortality/