Benjamin Franklin famously wrote that there are two certainties in this life: death and taxes, and while society has changed drastically since its writing in 1789, his words will always ring true. But what if you could discover a way to actually cheat death? Would you cave in to the temptation to live an immortal life? David J. Castello’s The Diary of an Immortal (1945-1959) offers a unique twist on this often dreamed upon idea and the spiraling troubles that come from cheating death itself.
there are two certainties in this life: death and taxes
For Steven Ronson, the book’s protagonist, death is no stranger. Working as a World War II U.S. Army medic in the heat of battle, Ronson has to care for his fellow soldiers’ last minutes on this earth. So when he stumbles upon a formula during the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp that was promised to give Hitler the gift of immortality, he is faced with a decision — erase its existence or make sure his never does.
With a supply of formula good for fifty years of life, Ronson seizes the opportunity to recapture the youth stolen from him by the war. The formula of life will either make him the luckiest man alive or the loneliest, but one thing is certain as he returns home from the war: the life he once lived is best left behind.
the life he once lived is best left behind
Ronson leaves with nothing but a few prized possessions to set up a new life in New York City and focuses on his childhood dream of becoming a famous jazz saxophonist. His new lease on life comes with some surprising side effects of supernatural powers and a musical gift that sets him out on an unexpected journey to put him face to face with the origins of the gift, or curse, of everlasting life.
This adventure of a lifetime pushes his own physical and mental abilities as he discovers the nightmarish sequence of events that provide reason not only to Hitler’s rise of power, but the intentions behind the existence of the formula he stumbled upon.
Diary of an Immortal is David J. Castello’s debut novel, and is one he wants readers to believe is not just a piece of fiction. After developing a fascination with the idea of immortality, religion and Hitler’s catastrophic rise to power in Germany, his research led to his own belief that the tale depicted in this book might be based on reality.
mystifying set of events that seem neither real nor science fiction
There are many parts of this book that Castello gets right with a mystifying set of events that seem neither real nor science fiction. The storylines developed through The Diary of an Immortal could easily fill three books as they have enough weight to carry their own, and the fact that they all live within the same set of pages is something I would consider to be one of the book’s major weaknesses.
Several storylines are built up with conflicts that never fully resolve as they becoming abandoned for new story arcs that draw little reference back to what the reader has invested their time into earlier. In some cases I found myself flipping back pages to see if perhaps I missed a page or two, as significant events would be dropped with nothing more than the start of a new paragraph.
conflicts that never fully resolve
While this shortcoming may be a sign of Castello’s novice experience as an author, it is not to say that all is lost. Each of the major story arcs are very compelling tales that would’ve been much more suited within a trilogy that could’ve allowed for deeper development while also giving Castello the chance to better make a case for his claim that his own research leads him to believe the book’s wilder stories have evidence of reality.
Usually the choice over a printed copy or digital ebook is one purely of personal preference, but with The Diary of an Immortal, there is little case to be made for the hardcopy. The printed edition is made with a thick and glossy paper stock that, in my opinion, cheapens the feel of the book, and it is paper best suited for books featuring photos and not text. It may seem like a small gripe, but it felt unnatural for a book of this nature. Also, at $2.99 versus the printed copy’s $17.99 price tag, it is hard to pass up the bargain, and the unresolved storylines become a little easier to forgive.
If you want to challenge your thinking or imagination over cheating death and a piece of world history we believe to know so much about, The Diary of an Immortal will do just that.