Perils of Immortality: Published February 24, 2020
Who wants to live forever? No doubt a few do, but the broadest question asked by ML Lloyd in his character-led science fiction tale PERILS OF IMMORTALITY is what might the world look like if we actually could.
Who wants to live forever? No doubt a few do, but the broadest question asked by ML Lloyd in his character-led science fiction tale, PERILS OF IMMORTALITY, is what might the world look like if we actually could. In Lloyd’s take, set far into the future in the west-American bio-province of Cascadia, humans–at least some of them–are entirely different as a concept. They can live forever, subject to certain changes that amount to a kind of complex system reboot every couple of centuries, but only–in a kind of hyper-capitalist twist–if they are rich enough to afford it. For the less well off, there might be a more limited life extension, or nothing at all.
For those who have crossed over, periods of time and levels of experience are now commonly measured in centuries, not in months or years. Humans, therefore, can’t really get much of a foothold. Plus–and this is made abundantly clear by the non-human characters–humans smell. Our narrator and lead character is Harry, and he introduces us gently to a world where a strange combination of humans and artificial intelligence mix only lightly, with the artificial intelligence side very much in the primacy. Harry himself is slowly exhausting, suffering from a mental deterioration and feverishness that accompanies the need to ‘reboot’.
Humans here are a kind of sub-breed here, looked down on by their AI relations, whose technology has adapted to a kind of living mechanics, a kind of humanoid AI revolt still led by the human spirit. At the heart of the tale is Kora, a mush of human charisma deposited inside a valuable ‘husk’, a complex case of confused identity that Harry is determined to get functioning properly. He’s doing so in part to win a bet around her ability to portray a high-class AI, a challenge that will be undertaken at the high-end ‘Festival Of Firsts’. Meanwhile, Harry is haunted by Big Blue, a patronizing and aggressive parrot-like creature and an effect, perhaps, of his lessening grip on reality.
What’s different in PERILS OF IMMORTALITY is the portrayal of the future through a localized, character-led format. We learn of the broader context of the books’ world through clever peripheral comments and through our sideways glances at the outside world, and it’s new normals, such as sending humans to the nearest beach so they can copulate, or digging a deep hideaway hidden under a house as a form of personal protection. The story unravels slowly, centered mainly on Kora, Harry, and that bet, and it’s very much that clever plunging into a new-normal that is the PERILS OF IMMORTALITY’S main asset. Readers may feel as if they’ve landed in a new world, but not like it has been primed carefully for their arrival, and that’s a smart, refined piece of artistry.
A playful, character led glance at a far-flung future that’s somehow both wondrous and a touch dystopian. THE PERILS OF IMMORTALITY is a colorful science fiction story that leans more micro than macro, and is better for it.
In a future when people live longer by inputting their minds into artificial bodies, an insider in the trade meets a magnificent girl who tries to convince him she is a real human, not a replica. Lloyd’s latest work of SF takes place in the same universe as his earlier novels, like A Place to Stay Forever (2019), but can be read as a stand-alone. The tale slyly relocates George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion to an SF setting. The year is 2792 in Cascadia, formerly Canada. Ever since the 21st century, technologies pioneered by legendary inventor/hero/godhead LaPorte have allowed elites to prolong their lives indefinitely via inserting their minds into cybernetic “husks” of varying sophistication. More than 700 years in his “LaPortan” exterior, narrator Harry Higgins, though not of the very first wave of would-be immortals, enjoys prestige as a top “carnationist,” creating custom husks of the utmost quality. But Higgins also suffers ennui in his advanced years, more so now since he is at a mental mortal limit (LaPortans could once recharge neurologically but lost the therapy in an ill-defined incident). He finds diversion in collecting techno-novelties. The latest: Kora, a beautiful girl sold to Higgins as a robot (illegally), installed in a deluxe husk. While Kora vainly tries to convince everyone that she’s completely human—though she has no memory—Higgins accepts a bet with his friend Melbray that he can pass her off as a masterpiece of carnation at a big LaPortan social event.
(By the way, Higgins has a niece named Eliza.) Other works that crossbreed classic material with fantastic fiction tend to either be silly mashups (Lynn Messina’s Little Vampire Women) or YA titles (Marissa Meyer’s Cinder). In this enjoyable story, Lloyd remains faithful to the voice and the sometimes insufferably smug brilliance of Shaw. This on occasion may make reading through Higgins’ thicket of storytelling an arduous expedition, as the material is (of course) verbose, obdurately intellectual, and often repetitious and hectoring. In addition, Higgins may well be an unreliable
narrator (he claims chronic victimization by “Big Blue,” a talking bird that may or may not exist), and key elements of the setting go undeveloped. The author may provide more embellishments in future volumes of the series.
Cyberpunk meets George Bernard Shaw in this engaging SF tale.
A Place to Stay Forever: Published April 20, 2019
Miranda Sage is aboard a spaceship called The Misfits, hurtling back to earth, only she doesn’t realize this because she is in a stasis state living out a very ordinary and pleasant life back on earth. The stasis system, known as SDS (Stasis Deep State system), has an interesting trait: as a result of the creators fearing insanity as a result of waking consciously within its construct, a measure has been imposed on SDS to prevent people from remembering who they are in this blissfully unaware artificial reality environment.
As the story commences, Miranda is living out the remnants of a life as a 105 year old man when she abruptly awakens from SDS to find her fellow crewmates startled by a space anomaly that poses a problem for the ship. The attention of the crew soon pivots to a potential discovery of a Hidden Realm, one that some have theorized about but never really believed in and one that sounds eerily similar to beliefs and skepticism about an afterlife. The interesting thing, however, is that this debate at this time in the future might be irrelevant. Death as a concept is now an anachronism, at least for Miranda and crew, since Miranda and her colleagues have lived several lives spanning thousands of years in SDS by body jumping through stasis husks that inhibit the death state.
Eventually, the crew awakens in the year 2005 in SDS and attends school as teenagers in an effort to explore a potential access point to the Hidden Realm within the analog town of Penticton. As part of this process, they decide to go against strict SDS regulation and awaken consciously within SDS to perform this task, risking their sanity as a result.
Mark Lloyd handles all this interesting and imaginatively fertile data with adept hands, and we sense that the author is at his best when he is eschewing ordinary life scenes and writing playful group conversations between Miranda and her colleagues about the subtle physics of SDS and the pseudo-reincarnation-like drama of life cycles that play out within it.
A PLACE TO STAY FOREVER is an imaginative and quirky story that simultaneously hearkens back to both Philip K Dick and Douglas Adams.
IR VERDICT: Best Science Fiction 2019
A PLACE TO STAY FOREVER is a fascinating dive into the state of humanity once it becomes technologically advanced via multi-binary code to a species where individuals can live forever. Particularly engaging: the concept of what infinite life means for love relationships which humans once used to attempt bonding in forever. As science fiction A PLACE TO STAY FOREVER by Mark L. Lloyd is equal parts captivating and sociologically creepy. With unexpected plot twists leaving the reader unsure of what exactly is real, this is a novel that’s hard to put down.
Kirkus Book Reviews:
In this sci-fi novel, several space travelers in deep sleep awaken inside avatars in a simulated world. Miranda Sage, along with others aboard the spaceship The Misfit, is in stasis, living a full life inside a simulation. When
something knocks the ship off course, a power surge wakes everyone from the Stasis Deep Sleep System. Back in the Real Realm, in 3272, crewmate Adayln realizes the surge also unlocked the reputedly unhackable system. Though the town of Penticton is the only accessible place in the SDS, Adayln finds existing code for other areas—files just as large as Penticton’s. She and Miranda concoct a plan: Adayln alters the code so, during the next simulation, their conscious minds will awaken inside avatars and the two can then explore. They set a 24-hour limit on the awakened consciousness, as continuing any longer, based on rumored incidents, may drive them mad. Unfortunately, things go wrong: They aren’t the only awakened people, and the time restriction inexplicably fails. Miranda and her cohorts need a way to end the simulation without harming their bodies in stasis. Answers may lie with a well-known author in the Real Realm who stayed
perfectly sane while supposedly enjoying awakened lives in the SDS. Lloyd (Journey to the West Valley Wall, 2018, etc.) packs this novel with intriguing ideas, including characters transferring from biological bodies to husks and an ongoing, centurieslong war that affects the SDS creator, LaPorte Industries. There’s plenty of engrossing material for additional
books: Miranda, for example, with combined time in the SDS and various husk bodies, has existed for 1,296 years.
Despite the dense sci-fi backdrop, the author maintains a simple plot that clearly and aptly details intricate concepts, like the dichotomy between Miranda’s life and that of her avatar, Josie. Narrative obstacles are likewise easy to follow: Mere romance may dampen Miranda’s desire to leave the SDS. While the story ends with an impressive shock, lingering
questions regarding the simulation as well as certain characters remain.
A straightforward, absorbing tale that unfolds inside a beefy futuristic setting.
Readers Favorite Reviews:
“I am not normally a fan of science fiction but I liked the synopsis and thought it would be an interesting read. I have to say I was not disappointed. From the onset, with a man nearing the end of his life, the story gripped me. The characters were all likeable with unique personality traits which were also relayed in their dialogue. The story line continually moved forward, with great obstacles for the main characters to overcome and clues to unravel. There were plot twists placed perfectly throughout, which kept me engaged and intrigued. The relationships between the characters were developed and strengthened gradually. I found myself willing Miranda and Emily to find the truth and succeed. The author’s brilliant imagination is matched only by his writing talent. There were so many characters and sub-plots, but the story line never became confusing. I loved the way all the loose ends were smoothly tied up by the end. This book will make you think about mortality and what lies in wait for humanity in the future. If you love a novel that takes you on a thought-provoking journey, then I would highly recommend you read this book.”
– Reviewed By Lesley Jones for Readers’ Favorite
“Philosophically speaking, the concept of mortality is, of course, a strong theme, and there are clear considerations which have gone into the setup of the tale to make readers really think about what life means, or at least the meanings that we attribute to life in our everyday moments. I really loved author Mark L Lloyd’s squeaky clean idea of LaPorte and the agents, and the experience that the Stasis Deep Sleep System represents in terms of man’s quest for immortality. In terms of character, it’s more of an Everyman tale in the style of Isaac Asimov, but with a much more humorous modern twist. Overall, A Place To Stay Forever is a recommended read for its sleek and provoking ideas.”
– Reviewed By K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite
Journey to the West Valley Wall: Published June, 2018
(Published June 1, 2018)
“If you enjoy adventure novels with a bit of the characters discovering new things about themselves and overcoming limitations then this is the book for you. We watch as a character we grow to love transcends himself and becomes something better. It is an enjoyable book to read and book lovers of all genres would enjoy reading this book. This is a phenomenal book”
– Pacific Book Review
“This is an intuitively written book that should beguile most readers, particularly those who have had similar mental health experiences. A quirky and perceptive psychological tale”
– Kirkus Book Review
“I thought the premise of two stories in one in Journey to the WestValley Wall was a clever technique employed by author Mark L Lloyd and he made it work extremely well. The character of Jack Van Horne was eerily identifiable by fellow authors who have all gone through those mental demons, although not as badly as Jack, usually. He was a character that evoked extreme emotion in the reader, ranging from deep sympathy and sorrow, right through to intense anger at the man’s stupidity and inability to cope at times, and yet always tempered by a feeling of sadness that – despite his clear brilliance – he must suffer so much. I particularly enjoyed the interactions between Jack and his niece. The parallel story of Sage Sauer was equally compelling, especially for science fiction fans. The journal of his adventures left the reader wanting to know more about the character and the processes by which humans had survived or modified in the world of Sauer. It left questions in readers’ minds and that’s a great thing to achieve. This is an excellent story and one I can highly recommend.”
– Reviewed By Grant Leishman for Readers’ Favorite
Journey to the West Valley Wall by Mark L Lloyd is a science fiction story with strong psychological and spiritual underpinnings. Jack Van Horne writes science fiction, but he has a condition that has been having a devastating effect on him. It is called agoraphobia and it reinforces his depression. While Eddy, his editor, thinks that his mental illness is just a form of mental block, Jack knows he can’t dismiss it. The illness has affected the progress of his current writing very negatively. Now, charged with watching his niece for two days, Jack ventures beyond his familiar landscape on a journey to the West Valley Wall. He believes his cure or ultimate curse may lie in this journey, and what if all this isn’t real? The outcome is surprising.
The writing is gorgeous and the reader immediately feels a connection with the protagonist, thanks to the strong and expert use of the first person narrative, a voice that irresistibly draws readers into the worldview of the protagonist. The conflict is mostly internal, and it is introduced in the opening pages: “My editor and good friend Eddy thinks I’m suffering writer’s block as well, but it’s more than just that. My agoraphobia and depression have been getting worse and worse since book one.” It is interesting to navigate the mindscapes of the protagonist, to feel his mental tension, and watch him struggle in his dilemma, torn between what others think and what he firmly believes. Journey to the West Valley Wall is a powerful narrative with deep undercurrents when it comes to meaning and symbolism. While Mark L Lloyd tells the story of an author suffering from a rare mental illness, he invites readers to navigate the gray zone between reality and illusion. The characters are believable and elaborately developed and the conflict so strong that it moves the plot forward. A delightful read, indeed.
– Reviewed by Christian Sia for Readers’ Favorite
Burning the Last Bridge: Published Oct 2, 2017
“Mark L. Lloyd’s Burning the Last Bridge, presents a riveting and illuminating, psychefocused narrative, which fascinates with its intelligent portrayal of one man’s struggles to survive the devitalizing affects of his fracturing mind. Initially, as the story unfolds, readers are quickly drawn into Liam’s internally verbose world where his perspective garnishes readers with deep insight into the mind of a person suffering through mental disorder, with his mind trying to save itself.”
– Pacific Book Review