A Plague of Immortality

A review of Matt Moore’s “Innocence Prolonged, and Overcome” in Lazarus Risen (Bundoran, 2016)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Contagion narratives have been increasingly popular in our fiction, exploring the human fear of the microorganism, a tiny predator that can consume us without being seen. However, what happens when a virus gives us what we think we want? We are also a society who fears ageing, so what if a virus can end ageing? 

In Matt Moore’s “Innocence Prolonged, and Overcome”, a contagion named the Grail Virus has spread,, killing the vast majority of people that come into contact with it, but granting immortality to a select few people. Because the virus is deadly to most people, this select group of immortals, frozen at the age of infection, have been cut off from the rest of society, quarantined in a small town. 

Moore explores the image that is often projected onto small towns – a timeless space where nothing changes – by introducing a town that is literally frozen in time, unageing… and yet this town is not one that is quant or traditional – this is a town that has systemic violence and a space where people fight against the isolation and agelessness that is often viewed by urban people as the idealized space of the small town. 

Moore’s tale examines the discomfort that comes with agelessness, and the reminder that small towns are places of memory where people can carry on feuds for generations… and in this town, where no one ages, no one needs to rely on stories about slights of family members – these townsfolk remember every slight that has happened to them because they have lived through it all. 

Moore uses the subject of immortality to explore ideas of change and to examine whether people are actually capable of change, interrogating that idea that an “old dog can’t learn new tricks” by giving them an eternity to try to learn new tricks. Moore invites the question of whether people are stuck unchanging because society casts them in that role, always assuming that they are the same person who everyone remembers them being. He asks whether it is possible for people to change if no one will let them and everyone refuses to remember them any other way.

To discover more about Matt Moore’s work, visit https://mattmoorewrites.com/

To find out more about Lazarus Risen, visit Bundoran Press at http://www.bundoranpress.com/product/1/Lazarus-Risen 

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Learning How Not To Be A Hero

Learning How Not to Be A HeroA review of Edward Willett’s “Falcon’s Egg” (Bundoran Press, 2015)

By Derek Newman-Stille

Lorn had always wanted to be a hero, always looked up to those revolutionary leaders he saw pushing boundaries and changing society, but when Lorn sees his “changed” government behaving in the same way as the previous regime, he is forced to question the ideals of change. Lorn tries to uncover secrets that the government is keeping from the populace and he has to take leave from his job in government policing in order to figure out what the government has become and what they are now capable of. 

As Lorn has aged, his heroes have become more humanized and he begins to see the weaknesses in the social construction of heroism. He is forced to face the reality that the idealisms of youth have become the cynicisms of age. 

In “Falcon’s Egg” Edward Willett takes on the notion of heroism itself, exploring the casualties of war and the results of battle on the psychology of the protagonist who has endured the traumas of war. “Falcon’s Egg” is a text of revolution, a war narrative with a bit of frontier ideologies since it is set on an alien world that is in conflict with the more technologically developed centrist planets. However, unlike most exploration, war, revolution, and adventure narratives who uncritically cast the hero as a figure who is above trauma, Willett’s narrative explores the toll that heroism takes on the mind of the hero as well as the toll that it takes on human lives and society. Lorn, through his trauma, is forced to re-assess what it means to be a hero and acknowledge the harm that he and others who saw themselves as heroes have done in enforcing their ideals. At the beginning of “Falcon’s Egg”, Lorn, like many soldiers, begins his story trying to convince himself that he had to do every horrible thing he had done to make the world a better place, and, when told by a psychiatrist that he had PTSD, ignored what he was told and saw PTSD as a “disease of lesser people”. But, when he experiences increasing flashbacks and scenes of horror, he realizes that he needs to shift his perception of himself and his role in society. The toll of human lives becomes too much for him and his own horror at how casually he can now commit murder opens a doorway to a room full of unanswered and unsettling questions for him. Lorn realizes that his dream of running away to space, away from home and his family has always, fundamentally, been a desire to run away from himself.

Willett creates a coming of age narrative that is not limited to a youth. He portrays Lorn as a man, like most others, who is perpetually going through coming of ages, understanding himself in new ways as his viewpoints change with experience. Lorn experiences an awakening to his own ignorance and self denial that lets him finally come to find himself and find meaning in his life beyond the fairy tale narratives of the hero that are portrayed by his society. Willett creates a character who is learning how not to be a hero, but, rather, learning to be a human being. 

You can find out more about Edward Willett’s work at http://www.edwardwillett.com 

You can discover more about Falcoln’s Egg and other Bundoran Press books at bundoranpress.com