Robert Silverberg’s novel “Shadrach in the Furnace” was published for the first time in 1976.
This novel is set in 2012 in a world united under a dictatorship led by Genghis II Mao IV Khan, who established his capital city in Ulan Bator. The bacteriological wars fought in the ’90s left heavy consequences in people’s physiology. The ruling class that serves the dictator can have a vaccin that blocks the decaying effects but common people are at risk of dying in any moment from terrible internal hemorragies.
The protagonist Shadrach Mordecai is the dictator’s personal physician and his task is to constantly monitor his health through a series of sensors implanted in his body and obviosly to cure him for any health issue, also considering that the dictator is more than ninety years old.
The dictator wants to reach immortality but organ transplants are only a temporary solution so more radical projects are developed: Phoenix, to reach a cellular regeneration, Talos, to build a robot where the dictator’s mind can be transferred, Avatar, to transplant the dictator’s brain into another human body.
Mangu is the young dictator’s designated successor but actually it’s his body Genghis II Mao IV Khan is interested in as a new host for his brain because the Avatar project is the most advanced.
This attempt to reach immortality is told from Shadrach Mordecai’s point of view with his etical dilemmas and the risks connected to working in tight contact with a dictator who can be unhappy with the work done. This novel was in fact written during Robert Silverberg’s mature period, when the writer got more interested in the “inner space” for example with the “novels of the metamorphosis”. In general those are stories where even big events are seen from the point of view of a single person whose psycology is developed through the novel.
Some of the other novels by Robert Silverberg are known better but if you appreciate stories where che psycological component is fundamental “Shadrach in the Furnace” is a novel you have to read.