The Diary of an Immortal (1945-1959) by David Castello
Reviewed by Suzanne Odom
The story begins during the height of World War II. Twenty-one-year-old U.S. Army combat medic Steven Ronson, describes his weariness of the death that’s all around him. For him it is especially difficult when his company is the first to liberate the Nazi Concentration Camp, Dachau. While exploring the camp along with some other soldiers, they enter the cottage of a commander of the German military. Inside they find a lavishly decorated room with beautiful paintings and fine furniture. Behind one of the paintings, a wall safe is discovered. It contains German cash, jewelry and a large, mahogany box which is given to Steven. Thinking that it may consist of medical instruments, he opens it and finds two envelopes and a sizable stash of bottled pills. Thus begins his dalliance with immortality.
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The letters explain a doctor’s discovery of a formula designed for Adolf Hitler to give him immortality. After seeing so much death, Steven decides to take the pills and develops amazing, superhuman abilities. For one, his body is able to heal itself of any injuries.
Once he realizes that death no longer rules his life, Steven travels to New York City to fulfill his dream of becoming a jazz saxophonist. His new abilities allow him to play music that is both magical and beautiful. Music that very few have heard before. His performance is noticed by a former missionary and his lovely niece who knew Buddhist monks in China that have guarded the secret of the immortality formula for centuries.
Soon he joins the former missionary and his niece on a trip to Xian where they travel to a monastery located in the mountains outside the city. He learns the truth about the formula and becomes involved in the Chinese Communist Revolution embarking on a mission to vanish a foe.
Castello weaves a tale filled with an intriguing plot, and the curious concept of immortality. His choice to change what we know of history and religion, yet still keep enough factual details, kept me reading. I found Steven’s character to be fascinating, especially in how he viewed the world and his desire to become immortal. Also the interactions between himself and the other main characters were riveting.
The book shows that a lot of research and hard work went into this debut novel, and I look forward to reading future Castello novels. Perhaps there will be a sequel to this one for it certainly appears as if there will be.