Fury by Henry Kuttner
Henry Kuttner’s Fury is one of those golden age SF books full of egomaniacal supermen and the form-fitting ballgown-wearing bombshells who love them. It’s overwrought and dopey, but also wonderful and deliriously entertaining.
Here’s your sentence of world building:
“The Earth is long dead, blasted apart, and the human survivors who settled on Venus live in huge citadels beneath the Venusian seas in an atrophying, class-ridden society ruled by the Immortals – genetic mutations who live a thousand years or more.”
Sam Reed’s an immortal too but he’s raised as a short-termer because his father’s insane and disowned him. So Sam lives on the wrong side of the tracks and gets involved with various criminals such as the Slider and the Sheffield Gang. Oh yeah, everyone has names like they might have worked at a 1950s Madison Avenue ad agencies, despite it being the 27th century. Sam finds himself at odds with the immortal Harker family (which he’s a member of but doesn’t know it) and the stage gets set for a confrontation. There’s a lot of yelling at each other over skype televisor and weird drugs get tossed around. Sam winds up losing the first round and put on ice for forty years. When he wakes up he’s pissed, but also surprised to realize he’s an immortal too.
A new battle of wits ensues played out with propaganda and the manipulation of the mentally unstable. Sorry, cuz. Sam swindles his way to temporary victory, and soon he’s backing terrorism and manipulating the masses with fear and false promises in order to achieve his ends. But all of it’s too much and the remaining immortals hatch a plan to breed an infiltrator assassin to take Sam down in a couple of decades. There’s more yelling. Sam gets needle-pistoled by his secretary and right when it looks bad, Mr. Ages shows up and says, “Well Sam, you’re a great Machiavellian dictator and humanity needs people like you from time to time to keep itself from stagnation. But you’re too unstable and prone to violence. So, I’m just going to keep you on ice until the species needs you again.” THE END.
Then there’s the epilogue where Sam wakes up again, and the book stops right there mid-sentence.
It’s a dizzy ride, full of fun stuff that you could probably make a great RPG setting out of: a hostile environment full of monsters, strange drugs and devices, mercenaries and criminals, bomb-shelter Keeps, immortals, and ruined settlements. It’s a quick read, by turns jaw-droppingly good and jaw-droppingly dopey like a soap opera. You can probably find it (either as Fury or by its alternate title Destination: Infinity!) for a buck or two in a cardboard box at your local nerd-emporium.
It’d certainly be better-spent money than the admission price to any half-dozen recent sci-fi movies.