Toward Eternity by Anton Hur

In a near-future world, a new technological therapy is quickly eradicating cancer. The body's cells are entirely replaced with nanites—robot or android cells which not only cure those afflicted but leaves them virtually immortal.

Literary researcher Yonghun teaches an AI how to understand poetry and creates a living, thinking machine he names Panit, meaning Beloved, in honor of his husband. When Yonghun—himself a recipient of nanotherapy—mysteriously vanishes into thin air and then just as suddenly reappears, the event raises disturbing questions. What happened to Yonghun, and though he's returned, is he really himself anymore?

When Dr. Beeko, the scientist who holds the patent to the nanotherapy technology, learns of Panit, he transfers its consciousness from the machine into an android body, giving it freedom and life. As Yonghun, Panit, and other nano humans thrive—and begin to replicate—their development will lead them to a crossroads and a choice with existential consequences.

YEAR: 2024
LENGTH: 256 pages
AGE: Adult
GENRE: Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction

Queer Rep Summary: Gay/Achillean Main Character(s).

*I received a free review copy in exchange for an honest review of this book. 

TOWARD ETERNITY is a contemplative story told as a series of writings by various entities affected by the development of nanites to form bodies. What starts out as a way to try and extend the lives of people with terminal illnesses (cancer, specifically) turns into the catalyst for a war that alters what living looks like for everyone. The style is very introspective, with each new narrator telling their own very personal ideas about their lives and what’s happening. The story is created communally, as a legacy through time, something more than a journal and something called barely less than a relic. Holy in its importance, a living document which traces people and events through time.

It chooses the more personal and calmer portions of what ultimately encompasses hundreds of years of upheaval and violence, as the nanites do not stay confined to just one or two altered persons under tight observation.

This is strange for me to read because, in many ways, it highlights an assumption of interiority (that I don’t experience) as something which is necessary for consciousness. There's also, in some sections and in the treatment of the journal as a whole, an implication that legacy and progeny (literal or metaphorical) are not just important to these particular characters, but generally. This meant that the more I read, the more it was clear to me that it's a well-crafted story about something I don't relate to at all. This dissonance was especially distracting near the midpoint, but I liked the end of the book as things made more sense to me again. 

Ultimately, this was fine, though not to my taste. I don't recommend it, not because of any specific flaw, but because while I specifically enjoy stories which engage with the nature of personhood, identity, and the questions which arise from understanding consciousness as separate from embodiment, TOWARD ETERNITY seems to gesture at the idea that there could be questions and then assert that love and poetry will hold things together. It's frustrating because while it engages with ideas I care about, it does it in a manner which was ultimately alienating to me. It briefly toys with the question of whether a copy of a person in a new iteration will be a different person from the original, before asserting that the answer is "no" with little ceremony and minimal deliberation. While I do agree, it seems to miss the opportunities to explore this which I would be interested in, while doggedly pursuing an idea of legacy which is disparate and abstracted.

I don't know to whom I might recommend it, is the thing. It seemed like it would be up my alley and then I struggled to finish it at all.

Moderate CW for grief, pregnancy, miscarriage, injury detail, violence, genocide, war, death.

Minor CW for kidnapping, gun violence, cancer, terminal illness, colonization.

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