The story is written in first person by Steven Ronson, who begins his tale of being a U.S. Army medic during World War II and experiencing the horrors of Nazi Germany, including the freeing of the Dachau concentration camp. The first chapter sets the stage for a fascinating journey for Steven—from the hell of the war to the beginning of his life as an immortal human being. For when he was in Germany, the troop discovered a treasure trove of Nazi goods in a hideout. While others looted for souvenirs and money, he read about the providence of a box of pills, pills which were meant for Hitler in order to dominate the world with immortal, super Aryan beings.
Suffering from the trauma of the war and having to leave his new-found love, Steven struggles to find meaning in life, as he is continually being brought back in time to the tragedies of the war, Dachau, and the death of his peers, including his best friend. He finds when he returns home, that the adage, you can't go home again, is true for him as he is a very different man than prior to his military experience. He decides to go to New York City, hoping to play gigs with bands via his saxophone playing.
The book continues to examine his life, loves, friends, and ability to play beautiful, eerie music on his sax—music that transcends human capabilities. These capabilities he's discovered with the immorality pills include trance states, illusions, prophetic visions, seeing the Akashic Records, the ability to physically heal himself immediately from all trauma, even gunshot wounds, and having the ability to transcend the level of human consciousness. For Steven learns about the immortality of a sect of Buddhists who have guarded these laws of immortality for centuries. He connects with a former missionary and the missionary's adopted niece to work to alleviate all evil connected to the pills. With these two people and others who realize that a fanatical sect of monks is planning to do great harm with the formula, Steven goes with them to China and Tibet in order to fight the battle between good and evil.
In graphic detail, the author is able to place the reader into the settings of WWII and its ending, with history lessons of the time period. Likewise, the book interlaces spiritual and religious beliefs including the beauty of such beliefs and the sins of the world through evil practices. These practices intersect with the delight as well as the traumas that coincide with Steven's decision to become an immortal.
With its fascinating and unusual story line, this work starts off with a bang, but at times, gets overwrought in the presentation and the minutiae, which sometimes bogs down the flow of the various story lines. Yet the combination of history, fact, fiction, and lore surrounding WWII, the Chinese and U.S. relations with them, the story of ancient, immortal Buddhist monks, Christ, the Dali Lama, the exile from Tibet, and the desires of immortality make for a well-rounded reading and somewhat reminiscent of the works by Dan Brown. For what does this search mean on a human level? And what does it mean on a spiritual level? These answers become clearer as the story evolves; for the ending of this tale is both unexpected and expected—just like the journey began.
RECOMMENDED by the US Review