A note from Jessica: I’ve been with BFGB since its inception 4.5 years ago. This will be my last review, since I’m leaving for a new job in a new state. Writing about books has been my favorite part of working at WRL. Thank you for the good times, readers.
They call it a cure for death, but that’s misleading. You can still drown or starve or fall out a window. It is merely a cure for aging, it is completely illegal, and it can be had for seven thousand dollars on the black market. That’s not a bad deal in the year 2019.
John Farrow decides to get the cure at age 29. He can afford it on his income as a lawyer, especially now that he’s changing his specialty to divorce law. (“‘Til Death Do Us Part” has taken on new meaning.) He does not struggle with the decision. He is not Catholic, so he can’t be excommunicated. He is not worried about potential societal consequences of pollution, scarce resources, or violence. He is normally a logical and conscionable thinker, but, he realizes, “no argument could be made against my profound interest in not dying.”
After a few years of indecision, the United States legalizes the cure. This sharply-decelerated death rate provides a fallow playground for debut novelist Magary, who imagines all sorts of unintended consequences. There are the Peter Pan cases, young children whose mothers illegally suspend aging in their infants. There are the hyper-violent trolls who forswear the cure and instead seek to maim, but not kill, people who might live forever. There are the viruses that now have decades to perfect their attacks against individuals. And there are new career opportunities, even as the planet bulges with people. Our hero John eventually takes a job as an End Specialist, a government employee who grants death to people who no longer want to be cured of aging.
John is a shrewd narrator with a strong streak of resilience, imperative for people trying to survive in a post-aging world. The novel starts out as a quirky thought-piece, filled with speculative “What-if?” scenarios of the near future, but it gets progressively deeper as the years go by. The ranks of the homeless swell. Cars are abandoned when worldwide gasoline reserves are tapped dry. Transportation grinds to a halt. Some nations use nuclear weapons to control their populations, while other nations employ ageless armies as career pillagers.
Though playful at first, Magary’s book transforms into a bleak vision of the future. Let us hope it is not prophetic.
Check the WRL catalog for The Postmortal