Why Call Them Back From Heaven?

Novel, first published: Doubleday 1967


In this future history, Simak imagines the world of 2148 A.D. in a state of constant hopefulness, waiting for the gift of immortality. In ten years Forever Center will make that dream come true, or so it promises. Despite technological advances, almost everyone is living in self-imposed poverty to buy Forever stock and investments for the future, while Forever Center, with the accumulated wealth of two centuries, has become more powerful than most of the world's governments. Some dissenters to this new dream of living forever are causing the Center problems: the Holies, an organized religious opposition whose motto is the title of the book, and the Loafers, a small population who roam freely in bands eking out a living. Space travel has not located any habitable living space for the ninety-six billion applicants for revival, and time travel will be a necessity to relieve the coming population explosion. Mona Campbell, one of the time travel researchers, was close to a solution using alien mathematics, but she has disappeared.
The plot centers around Daniel Frost, head of public relations for the Center, who stumbled on a piece of paper from a confidential file, which might be evidence that Forever Center is a fraud, a scheme dreamed up to end war. Frost is framed and ostracized from his fellow humans by the security chief at Forever Center, except for his lawyer girl friend Ann. Fleeing for his life, Frost returns to his home town of Bridgeport, Wisconsin, where he finds Mona Campbell. Mona has found a new hope for a better second life, but not what Forever Center has been promising for the last two-hundred years. Death is a translation to another form; life and death are like matter and energy and cannot be destroyed, only changed to another form, "the law of the conservation of life." Mona cannot reveal this truth - it would make fools of all mankind.
After this revelation, the ending is anti-climactic. The confidential secret that nearly gets Dan killed turns out to be the sordid fact that the security chief was embezzling funds from the Center.

Ewald, Robert J.: When the Fires Burn High and the Wind is from the North, p.87-88