Key West, 2016. Sea levels are rising, coral reefs are dying. In short, everything is going to hell. It’s here that two young filmmakers find something to believe in: an old sailor who calls himself Daniel Defoe and claims to be five hundred sixty years old.
In fact, old Dan is in the prime of his life. It’s an incredible, perhaps eternal American life, which Mr. Eternity imagines over a millennium: a parade of conquistadors and plantation owners, lusty mermaids and dissatisfied princesses, picking up in the sixteenth century in the Viceroyalty of New Granada and continuing into the twenty-sixth, where, in the future Democratic Federation of Mississippi States, Dan serves as an advisor to the King of St. Louis. Some things remain constant throughout the centuries, and being on the edge of ruin may be one. In 1560, the Spaniards have destroyed the Aztec and Inca civilizations. In 2500, we’ve destroyed our own: the cities of the Atlantic coast are underwater, the union has fallen apart, and cars, plastics, and air conditioning are relegated to history. But there are other constants too: love, ingenuity, humor, and old Dan himself, always adapting and inspiring others with dreams of a better life.
Disclaimers: We received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher (Bloomsbury) There may be some things you consider to be spoilers ahead. You have been warned.
Why we chose it: Immortality is something that intrigues us and this book seemed like it would provide us with an original take on it.
Review: We finished Mr. Eternity the other night and we can easily say we have absolutely no idea what happened. We’re confused and happy to be so because Mr. Eternity is one of those books that leaves you not just with new characters and worlds implanted in your brain, but with questions about almost everything.
This book is philosophical, it questions serious topics facing us such as global warming and equality, but because of the different time periods available to us in the novel it manages to question the cycle of humanity. It’s longevity and it’s repetition. It questions whether modern civilizations ever actually learn anything from those before. The ancient civilizations.
It’s extremely important to note that we aren’t usually a fan of books that tackle broad concepts in such an expansive way. Especially not if such concepts are shown to us through five separate lives with the titular character being woven throughout.
Let’s start in the middle, in the time period we ourselves inhabit. 2016. There is a guy or rather there are two guys. Aspiring film-makers, college drop outs, whatever label you want to call them. They’re human beings intrigued with a guy who claims to be immortal. Over five hundred years old. An old mariner who has a ship. A ship that no longer sails on sea. Both these guys are cynical and disbelieving. In an age of technology and recordings to believe the tales of a man who can confuse fiction and fact is difficult. Azar, one of these film-makers we speak of wants to be less cynical and we think that’s one of the most interesting things about the 2016 chapters. Even though the seas are rising and there is the threat of global warming constantly lurking sometimes to escape reality one must simply inhabit or believe in the reality of another.
In 1560 there is a girl of contradictions, that’s how we viewed her. A Pirahoa girl who speaks Spanish and spins as many tales and Daniel de Fo. She speaks of a place called El Dorado. A place where many strange and wonderful things that can even grow back feet come from, but these things don’t exist in Spanish. She both hates and loves this place. This girl is called Maria or that is what she’s called in Spanish. She is a very clever girl and from her we see Mr. Eternity as a man who is seen to commit heresy. In the 1560 chapters we learn of religion and an era of Conquistadors. It’s fascinating and kind of terrible because to speak against God or to even have people believe you speak against God is a dangerous thing in such a time.
The 1560 chapters and the 2016 chapters hold much in common. With the masses utterly disbelieving in things they can’t understand or see while at the same time being able to believe in things we also can’t see or understand we learn quite quickly that human nature an belief is odd and individual.
1750 is a time of slavery and much chaos for some. There are crimes that are legal depending on skin colour and class and there is John Green a son of a slave and said slave’s master. 1750 and John Green tells a story of love a freedom – both things possessed by few. Throughout the world’s history there are times when people must fight for the freedom a great deal of us in 2016 are born with. In 1750 John Green meets a man named Dr. Dan. Dr. Dan has experienced slavery and freedom and love and loss. It’s something that’s very hard to discuss and analyse.
We suppose the best way to discuss what’s given to us in the 1750 chapters is to compare to what we read in the 2500 chapters.
Over seven hundred years later and there is a world that at first glance is completely different to what has been before, but when a closer look is taken we noticed that in fact not very much is different from any of the other time periods in this book. Yes, there is a King in St. Louis and the seas have risen to heights never reached before, but there is still such a massive difference between the classes. Slaves are once again something common and women are still seen as something lesser. Political pawns for King’s and business. We get told all this through Jasmine St. Roulette. The daughter of the King.
What was most interesting about her chapters aside from her personality was how Daniel Defoe could link civilizations existing more than seven hundred years apart. We clearly saw how humanity repeats itself so easily. Despite the fact that the surroundings change.
There is another time of 2200 where Old Dan and Jam travel down a rapidly changed world, but we saw how humans often wish for something they once took for granted. The 2200 chapters were our least favourite and we don’t really have much else to say about them.
What we do have to say though is how there was always an extremely distinctive voice for the character who featured in each time period. The voices that were so distinctive that we could easily know who was talking and from where they were talking from. The formation of sentences and the tense, it was all very cleverly used so the book would not suffer the problem many books that are told from multiple perspectives do.
To conclude, Mr. Eternity is a vast novel that is so full of information and story it can sometimes be overpowering. It is, however definitely worth the read despite the occasional confusion.
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