4 out of 4 stars
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The quest for immortality is a tale as old has time. Luckily, David Castello has put a new spin on this classic idea in The Diary of an Immortal (1945-1959). The novel is set during the time of Nazi rule, when inhumane experimentation of prisoners occurred all too often. Steven, a war medic for the United States Army, stumbles across immortality pills during the overthrow of the Dachau prison camp. The little pills take Steven on a wild ride from the jazz scene in New York City to the Buddhist monasteries of China and the mountains of Tibet. The Diary of an Immortal is an extravagant work of fantasy set against very real, historic events. Castello weaves a tale of love, magic, evil, and the perils of everlasting life in his debut novel.
The story is full of complex, likable characters. Steven, the narrator of the novel, struggles with life after serving his country in World War II. After seeing the most horrible of human acts, Steven only wishes to prolong his life in order to gain back the years of happiness and joy stolen by the war. On the contrary, Buddhist immortals teach that extending one’s life is actually a form of punishment. Throughout the novel, Steven internally struggles to understand the meaning of immortality and questions if everlasting life is actually a good thing. This ongoing battle results in Steven being a strong, well developed and empathetic character.
The most fascinating aspect of the novel is that the author delves into the dichotomy between the Buddhist and American cultures. In the Buddhist religion, the act of killing another being is not allowed. However, Chang Sou, an immortal Buddhist and the story’s antagonist, wants to use his powers to wreak havoc on the inhabitants of Earth. Chow Li, a rival immortal, cannot kill Chang Sou himself because of his Buddhist principals and thus relies on Steven to rid the world of the evil Chang Sou. These differing cultural stances make the reader question character motives as well as the premise of immortality.
Although I greatly enjoyed the author’s play on good versus evil, at times it felt a little over done and predictable. Similarly, there were certain religious elements thrown into the narrative, namely that Jesus Christ may not be from this planet, that did not seem relevant and that some readers may have trouble accepting.
The Diary of an Immortal (1945-1959) is an inventive fantasy story that is not only well written, but truly engrossing as well. The author superbly creates a fantastical story based on exciting historical events and also introduces interesting characters all while engaging the reader with thought provoking material. Though I had some minor criticisms of this book, I rate it 4 out of 4 stars and recommend it to fans of alternative history books as well as fans of the fantasy genre.
The Diary Of An Immortal (1945-1959)
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