The Boat of a Million Years

By Poul Anderson

Rating: 4 stars

In this novel, Poul Anderson tells an audacious story, spanning at least two thousand years, and forward into an unknown future. Across history, a tiny number of people are born immortal, with wounds healing quickly and never ageing beyond a vigorous early adulthood. Most of this book follows a number of these people as they flit from identity to identity, staying out of the way of history. Eventually, they are uncovered, and the Human race develops immortality for all. In the new utopia that follows, the original Survivors become more and more out of place, and they eventually take to space; even without faster than light travel, their immortal bodies mean that the time between stars is not a problem.

I really enjoyed the scale of this story, with its sweep of history and how the immortals stayed out of its way. Apart from a few encounters, the eight Survivors that eventually take to space together don’t really find each other until the twentieth century, when the globe is shrunk by technology.

Perhaps we don’t necessarily get a deep insight into the mind of these immortals, the eldest of whom was born in Tyre, about three thousand years before the twentieth century. They remain ciphers and archetypes, but that didn’t reduce my enjoyment of the story, but then, these sorts of epic stories – almost myths – often appeal to me, and being the fan of old golden age SF that I am, lack of characterisation doesn’t bother me that much.

Definitely worth reading for the scope of its history, and the vision of its future.

Book details

ISBN: 9780747406099
Publisher: ORBIT (an imprint of LITTLE, BROWN UK PAPERBACKS)
Year of publication: 1989

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