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Lost Voices 1: A Fond Farewell to Dying by Syd Logsdon

A Fond Farewell to Dying

By Syd Logsdon 

18 Apr, 2000

Lost Voices


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A Fond Farewell to Dying

Syd Logsdon

Timescape Pocket Science Fiction [1981]

206 pages

Synopsis: Two centuries after a massive nuclear war which destroyed the Western Powers, the Soviet Union and China, changed the climate so that the icecaps melted and stunted the birthrates of the world due to radiation- induced sterility, India and itslarge Moslem neighbor Medina have become the new superpowers.

Never friendly, the two have come into conflict over land reclaimed from the ocean due to an Indian civil engineering project. Nirghaz Husain, the grandson of the Indian PM, is crippled by accident when he is caught in Medina during an Indian airstrike [intended to deter the Medinans through a show of force], an airstrike which was ordered by his grandfather. Husain was in Medina trying to avert open conflict [It is entirely possible that Husain’s Indian mother’s marriage to a man of Medina was encouraged by his grandfather just so that a go-between would be born].

Ram David Singh, originally David Singer and originally from a fundamentalist community in North America, has immigrated to India to pursue a career in advanced biological research, something which would have been impossible at home. His long-term goal is to find a method to avoid dying. Although he was raised in a strictly religious community, he now believes that religious conceptions of a soul which survives death are false, invented by people to comfort them, and that if he is to avoid dying as his father did, he will have to invent some technological methods of circumventing death.

Husain is interested in David’s research, as he has been led to believe that it might have applications which will cure Husain’s shattered body. David explains that none of the techniques available to the institute are applicable to Husain’s injuries. He is lying, as it turns out: there is a highly experimental fast-growth cloning technique now in the testing stages. As well, although this is not the solution Husain has in mind, David has developed a method of transferring memories from one body to another.

Shashi Mathur, a fellow researcher, is David lover. Firmly religious, she thinks that while the memories of the experimental animals are verifiably being transferred, their atmans, their souls’, are not.

David is summoned by Husain’s grandfather Kantikar, the Prime Minister of India. Kantikar is well informed about all of David’s research and his motives. Political pressure is put on David to find a way to fix Husain’s extensive injuries. Simple replacement with cloned organs will no do since Husain’s injuries were extensive and the medical procedures which saved his life have sealed off that avenue of treatment. A clone-body will have to be grown and Husain’s memories transferred. David also wants a clone grown of him and Shashi, who like most women is sterile, asks to host the fetus. Later, she and David break up, although she keeps the baby.

Various factions want Kantikar dead or out of power. The base which David is moved to is run by a member of one faction, who is rather curious about the sealed research center he, the base commander, may not enter. Nirghaz visits another top-secret base, where the Nehru, a fusion powered space fort, able to reach orbit under its own power and armed with various weapons from aerospace fighters to nuclear missiles, has been built. Kantikar is hesitant to use the Nehru, thinking that the short-term advantages it will give over Medina will disappear within perhaps twenty years. The opposition, under Bhargava, would certainly use the Nehru if they knew it was built and the Medinans suspect that something like it is in the works.

David takes the precaution of sending copies of all his research and his brain tapes to a friend back in Appalachia. This proves to be highly prudent as eventually Kantikar is killed, the Nehru is launched into orbit [where it uses nuclear weapons for the first time in 200 hundred years to destroy a Medinan orbital facility] and David is told his project is cancelled. Husain kills himself. David activates Husain’s clone body with the memories of Husain. David himself is murdered by the base commander’s troops and Shashi believes that she has felt the atman of Ram David Singh enter the baby in her.

Twenty-one years pass. David wakes to find himself in a new body, thanks to the friends in North America who kept his records. Much has changed: all of his old friends and acquaintances are much older, India has instituted a program of cloning various perfect’ genotypes [A program which has abused exactly as one would expect] and the Nehru has been blown from the skies by a Medinan weapon. David’s research has been published as Inquiry into Artificially Induced Immortality . Various governments ban the book but it achieves a certain fame and notoriety. David is in a clone body of his clone-son by Shashi.

Husain and Shashi have been living together under false names since David’s death. Shashi does not think David ‑is- David. She believes since the atman of Ram David Singh is in her son, Chandra, the clone who thinks he is Ram David Singh is deluded. She has no desire to see her son repeat the mistakes of what she thinks of as his previous life and therefore wants no contact between David and her or David and her son. David is unable to argue her out of this position.

Over the objections of his mother, Chandra does meet David. Chandra is very surprised to find that his father is Nirghaz Husain and more surprised that the methods referred to in Inquiry have actually been put to use. All his life, Chandra has had dreams of events from David’s life. The atman is not supposed to transfer memory with it but still Chandra is troubled. The meeting does not go entirely well. Chandra continues to dream of events from David’s previous life. Chandra dreams of David’s death, which sends him catatonic and stops his heart. His heart is restarted but he remains unconscious. The same technology which allows the transfer of memory allows David to reach Chandra’s mind to see what has driven him into catatonia. He relives his life through Chandra’s memories until his death, after which both he and Chandra recover consciousness. David concludes that his rejection of the soul or the atman was premature, although he also thinks those models of what happens after death are also flawed and vows to research further. He and Shashi are apparently reconciled at the end of the book.

I’ve read AFFtD many times and rather enjoy it. There are one or two minor questions I have, like why the list of post-WWIII nations and continents fails to mention Australia at all. It is a very quick read but I think it rewards rereading and although I would be quite surprised if in real life David’s view regarding souls turned out to be flawed in the way they did, I liked the book Logsdon wrote presenting the arguments on both sides far more than I would have one where the religious folks were entirely and obviously misguided or one where the technological approach ended in monsters roaming the countryside and peasants storming the castle. His India is not our India, although it is clearly related to it. His Medina appears not to be our Middle East and points east, although I will admit that nation barely appears on stage in AFFtD. If you can find a copy, I strongly recommend it.

The issue of whether or not a clone with the memories of another person is not really resolved, which is not surprising since that issue is probably not one which can be resolved through discussion. I don’t recall anyone supporting strongly that imprinting a clone with prepackaged memories might constitute abuse of the clone, which in retrospect surprises me. 

Syd Logsdon had a very brief career: this novel and another novel titled Jandrax . Part of A Fond Farewell to Dying appeared in Galaxy Magazine during, ims, its post Jim Baen Clearly-Doomed- Magazine phase in the late 1970s but aside from that I have never seen anything else by him. Clute only lists the two novels and the magazine excerpt. Amazon only lists Jandrax . The Locus list of authors does not appear to list him at all. I have no idea why he stopped writing.

Be warned that Jandrax was not nearly as good a book as this one. I have long since lost my copy, but I remember it as pretty awful, although given that the scene in which the starship goes astray was memorable enough that it stayed with me perhaps it had virtues I have forgotten.