Portland, Oregon twenty years hence…
As the city continues its long slide into criminal anarchy, Lane Anslow works as a contract cop with no set wages, no benefits and no real future. His memories of better times have nearly evaporated in the face of endless violence and corruption.
Then Lane’s brother Johnny, a brilliant but bipolar scientist, comes to him with a startling revelation. He has made the ultimate biotech breakthrough and can wind back the clock of aging to restore one’s youth. Its value is beyond calculation, both economically and politically.
But soon afterwards Johnny goes missing, and Lane has to embark on an extraordinary and perilous journey to track him down. He’s joined by Rachel Heinz, a savvy political operative, who has second doubts about her boss, a manic populist. And behind it all lurks Thomas Zed, an aging oligarch who sees Johnny’s discovery as the ultimate path to redemption – no matter what the cost in lives or money.
In the end, all their conflicts and collisions will force Lane into making one of the most momentous decisions in the whole of human history.
Pierre Ouellette lives in the Portland, Oregon Metro Area and is the author of seven previously published novels that span a diversity of subjects and settings. He recently completed a crime trilogy set in California and published new editions of two science fiction titles. Previously, Pierre worked for two decades as the creative partner in an advertising and public relations agency focused on science and technology. Prior to that he was a professional guitarist and played in numerous pop bands and jazz ensembles, including Paul Revere and the Raiders, Jim Pepper and David Friesen.
Also by Pierre Ouellette
The Deus Machine
Writing as Pierre Davis
A Breed Apart
Looking back on The Forever Man
The origin of The Forever Man dates back to the early 2000s. After writing my first two novels, The Deus Machine and The Third Pandemic, I wrote a third book of “speculative fiction” entitled The Final Age around the turn of millennium. Unlike the other two, which had science at their core, The Final Age rested on political and economic upheaval.
At the time, a lot of evidence was accumulating about the growing disparity in income between the top 20% and the bottom 20% of the US population. I wondered how this trend might apply to life in Portland during the coming decades and produced a sprawling, complex story centered on an aging American oligarch who succeeds in creating technology to keep him forever young. All the while, society at large continues to crumble. When I submitted it for publication, New York publishers found it too far-fetched to be credible, and rejected it.
I walked away from the project, but returned to it about nine years ago when an editor at a Random House startup called Alibi Books wanted to do a slimmer version as an e-book. The title was changed to The Forever Man, and it gave me a chance to rethink Portland’s future in the coming years. In many ways, it seemed as through the metro area was resting on a very shaky economic and social base. First, the disparity here between the high-tech rich and low-tech poor was definitely creeping into the picture. My experience working with Mentor Graphics, a very successful tech firm that produced design software for chip production provided a case in point. The company employed about two thousand people with advanced engineering degrees who needed very little clerical support due to office automation. That left a couple of dozen contract workers with leaf blowers to maintain the parking lot. Clearly, this was not a model that would sustain a secure middle class.
Second, Portland’s position in the regional and global economies seemed very questionable. We had a national reputation for being stylish and hip (remember Sleater-Kinney and the Decemberists and Portlandia?) with no economic underpinning to back it up. To this day, Portland has no locally based enterprises of any scale to provide mass employment. Seattle has the likes of Microsoft and Amazon, the Bay Area has Apple and Google among many others, and we have nothing comparable. (I don’t count Nike for Portland because its manufacturing base is all offshore). The one exception is Intel, currently the state’s largest employer, but it’s headquartered outside the state. It employs about 22,000 locally with an annual payroll of about $2 billion. Unfortunately, it has stumbled in recent years, leaving us with a very cloudy economic future. Recently, we lost out to Ohio, where Intel will build a staggering $20 billion chip plant over the next three years. What happens when they move their remaining Hillsboro operations to Taiwan? You don’t want to know.
Third, I considered the dismal state of public education in Portland. For years, the state of Oregon has ranked in the bottom three in terms of school performance. Over time, the high school graduation rate in Portland Public schools has been less than 80% (74% in 1974 to 80% in 2021). Over time, this deficit has given us a large, disaffected population of semi-literate youth to whom crime and anarchy offer an exciting alternative to shit-level jobs.
I eventually concluded that the sum of these trends pointed toward a very rocky future just waiting for some trigger to put us over the edge. Then came the riots. What started as anti- racist quickly devolved into general anarchy and set off a crime wave that shows no sign of abating any time soon.
In The Forever Man, I take all foregoing to the next step. The bottom falls out of the economy and leaves the city with no tax base to support its operations. With crime already rampant on the east side, it has no means of restoring civil control, and the gangs claim jurisdiction over the various neighborhoods. As a stopgap measure, the city sends out “contract cops,” who have no health or retirement benefits, to conduct operations in gang- controlled territories. The protagonist of the story is one such cop.
On the west side, the educated elite have retreated into secured compounds, which become the target of a national socialist demagogue in the style of Trump, who berates them as decadent cowards. Keep in mind that this book was written several years before Trump rose to political prominence.
A short passage about this (fictional) cult figure: “… At first, the DC Beltway pundits wrote Harlan Green off as a joke, a populist caricature. The ‘Street Party’? I mean, come on. But the humor quickly turned to sobriety, which rapidly descended into paranoia. In the seats of power, they did what they could to squelch him. The Feed all but ignored him. The Meternet filtered him out. But in every major city, Green drew large, fulminating crowds, telling them what they already knew: Their houses were gone, their jobs evaporated, their safety net riddled with a million holes, and their streets verging on anarchy. He consolidated the collective rage and blew it back at them with amazing force. Such was his genius.”
Jim Redden, Portland Tribune June 20, 2022
Local author predicted grim Portland years ago
Ouellette outside Portland Justice Center, which has been barricaded for more than two years
PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — In 2014, local writer Pierre Ouellette released a near-future dystopian novel set in Portland that predicted the worst of the city today. It received good reviews, but then something went wrong and “The Forever Man” has not been available for years. In the novel, extreme income inequality has made the city unaffordable for all but the richest. The streets are lined with homeless people living in vehicles. City government has lost control of everything east of the Willamette River, which was ruled by violent gangs. Many Portland landmarks are prominently featured. Read story here