The novel “The Star of Life” by Edmond Moore Hamilton was published for the first time in 1959.
Kirk Hammond is an astronaut engaged in a space mission on a spacecraft that in theory is perfect. However, something goes wrong and there’s no hope for him but only the prospect of returning to Earth’s atmosphere after he’s run out of oxygen. Desperate, he exposes himself to the cold space to hibernate in the hope of waking up again.
When the spacecraft returns to Earth, Kirk Hammond awakens from hibernation but discovers a world quite different from the one he left behind. He discovers that millennia have passed since he left and the Earth is dominated by the Vramen, descendants of human beings who have become immortal.
The 1950s and 1960s were the period of the peak of quality in Edmond Hamilton’s production. After accumulating a lot of experience over the years in which he wrote for pulp magazines, the author started producing works that were still adventurous but offered greater depth in characters and plots. His marriage with the writer Leigh Brackett also benefited his style thanks to the unofficial but constant collaboration between the two of them in the course of their work.
“The Star of life” is part of that golden age for Edmond Hamilton. The basics of the novel remain very classic, with the protagonist Kirk Hammond exposing himself to the cold space in the hope of hibernating and then waking up millennia in the future and finding a completely changed Earth. However, the author develops plot and characters much better than he did at the time of pulp magazines.
When Kirk Hammond awakens from his long sleep he must quickly understand what kind of future he ended up in because he’s immediately in danger and must learn to hide. That’s because at that time humanity has spread among the stars but there’s a very large majority governed by a small minority, known as the Vramen, who hold a monopoly on some crucial technologies including that of immortality.
Immediately after his awakening, Kirk Hammond comes into contact with a resistance group that fight the Vramen and is told the history of the millennia he spent in hibernation. In telling the protagonist’s story, Edmond Hamilton digs into his emotions, which are very important in his reactions to the events in which he ended up.
Kirk Hammond isn’t a spotless hero, but a man totally out of his time, a situation he could not be prepared for, also emotionally. The consequence is that especially at the beginning he doesn’t have the full awareness of what’s happening around him and can make errors of judgement.
The plot also shows a good complexity with twists that are used not only to keep the pace fast and the readers’ attention but also bring changes of perspective. The revelation of certain secrets leads to a different assessment of certain characters’ behavior because the situation of humanity, which initially seemed easily understandable, turns out to be much more complex.
Emotions and feelings, in some cases especially the negative ones, are also important in other characters of “The Star of Life”. Other authors would have developed much more the relationship between these human factors and immortality with a greater introspection but for Edmond Hamilton those were elements that enriched a story that’s basically adventurous. There’s also a romantic component that’s quite superficial and is functional to certain plot developments.
Like many works of that era, “The Star of Life” contains some naivety such as the idea that a man can hibernate by exposing himself to the cold space and then awaken after warming up in his reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere. Despite that, the difficult choices that await humanity in the future with what Edmond Hamilton calls cosmic traps in my opinion make this novel above the average of its genre and therefore still worthy of being read.