Friday, September 23, 2011

The Postmortal, 46/100

Was tired of being bombarded with recommendations for Drew Magary's novel The Postmortal through the Shelf Awareness newsletter, and decided to check it out for myself.

The Postmortal is pure speculative fiction. "So," it asks, "what would happen if there was a cure for aging?"

Wow. Let's see. Well it would probably end in nuclear war, right?

Don't it always? (You maniacs! You blew it up! *damns Statue of Liberty to hell*)

Magary takes the idea and runs with it, crafting the story of a man living in the near future who, along with millions of others, receives the "the Cure"; halting permanently the aging process. The author covers nearly every consequence that could present itself in this situation, although successfully keeping it from becoming a "masturbatory idea dump" (a term Magary uses in the epilogue that I loved) through good plotting.

So what are some of the consequences? Overpopulation, overcrowding, resource depletion, class warfare, terrorism, autocracy, slavery, sex trafficking, Kevorkian-style assisted suicide, mass genocide...just all kinds of sunshiney things!

But of course it's going to end up bad. If you consider the idea for more than 5 minutes you can see how horrible it would be. The novel makes you think about what really defines a life (hint: it's death). But the scariest part of the book is that all of the consequences I listed above are not dependent or unique to the idea of human immortality. Overpopulation is here already, even without a "cure." And the aftermath represented by the author is, frankly, terrifying.

This generation hasn't had to sacrifice one bit, and its reward for such callousness is now eternal life. It's the classic American scenario of people wanting everything right now without caring a lick about the long-term. You could excuse it by saying, "Well, that's just the way we are." Well, the way we are is going to cost us everything.

"I think a lot of people mistakenly hoped the cure would end not only death but also the anguish of processing death, of processing finality. I think people thought they would be able to escape that, and the opposite has proven true. They have to spend much longer dealing with their grief.

Oh, but it's not all horrible. There's this too:

The producers of the Saved by the Bell reboot petitioned the governor of California to allow them to administer the cure to the show's teenage stars, so that their characters wouldn't have to graduate in the show. The governor denied the request.

A world where Screech stays young and lovable forever? Where he never turns into a egotistic, perverted asshole? Where the domain isn't already taken? Maybe all that apocalypse would be worth it.

Here's a trailer for The Postmortal:

And you know what? Seeing the little blurb from Justin Halpern in that trailer just made me realize something. I read his book Shit My Dad Says several months ago and completely forgot to write anything about it. I gave it as a birthday gift to a friend (sneakily reading it before wrapping it up), so I can't go back and pull quotes from it. But damnit, I'm counting it in the 100 books countdown.


Shit My Dad Says, 47/100

If you want an idea of what it's like, just check out the twitter feed that started it all, @shitmydadsays.

It's pretty much like that, but with context and back story and sans William Shatner.

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