Share This Review
Conyers has a unique concept book that “samples” various authors, according to his introductory remarks, but amazingly produced an end product that is completely cohesive and compelling. The stories are told in first person, so it literally feels like being privy to someone else’s thoughts. At times it was like only hearing one side of a phone conversation; at others you catch a glimpse of the character’s deepest secrets.
The main characters include a Faustian Mephistopheles, nicknamed Memphis for short, who lives up to his literary name. He is an ever present meddler in the affairs of all, an almost all-powerful figure, but because of the free will of man, only able to interfere in their lives, but not guarantee any outcome.
The story covers a huge span of time, from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, to the present day, to the future, with a cast of characters that repeat in each iteration. The characters are reincarnated and inexplicably drawn to each other, but only Cassius is able to recall his past lives.
The star-crossed lovers of this tale are Cassius, a mathematician and Henri, an artist, both of whom are ultimately seeking meaning in life. They are drawn to each other, again and again, with Cassius doomed to remember the past and Henri, unknowingly hurting Cassius over and over. Memphis wants to keep Henri and Cassius apart because he says “There is nothing so …hateful…than to encounter another’s happiness, particularly when it is a happiness that you yourself cannot partake in.” He also fears Cassius more than any other, “Cassius I’m not so sure of: people might really take heed of his history lessons because he, at least, can show them it’s in their interests to change”.
Cassius, meanwhile, has been busy working on what he calls his Final Theory. He believes that there is a physical world and a non-physical world of mathematics, each describing the other, a physical body matches up to an algorithm in what he calls the “mindscape”. He is searching for the mathematical truth that underlies both realms, the foundation on which reality is built. In the end Cassius discovers the answer he had been searching for, but it was definitely not what he had expected.
There are so many references to other authors and nods to characters or concepts from their writing. I can clearly see the commonality with Flatland by William Abbot, but there is also Shakespeare (Cassius and Calpurnia), Jonathan Swift (Gulliver’s Travels), William Blake (“Pity would be no more; if we did not make somebody poor”) and many others. But instead of feeling like the author “stole” from the others, you get the sense that this is the story that should have been told; that they authors themselves were just provided with bits and pieces of a puzzle that Conyers has painstakingly pieced together.
In the dimension ostensibly described in Gulliver’s Travels, there is a profound passage of social commentary that is biting and a bit disheartening due to its underlying truth. How we view reality and what reality actually entails is a major theme of the book (with a passing reference to the Matrix no less). The end of the book expertly loops back to the beginning and was so surprising that I feel the need to go back and read the beginning chapter again.
This book deserves 4 out of 4 stars. It is a sweeping, epic tale of true love, redemption, reality and free will and it literally blew me away.
Buy "Forever Human" on Amazon
Buy "Forever Human" on Barnes and Noble