I kept seeing the book cover art for Drew Magary’s new novel The Postmortal and something about it drew me in, so I agreed to read it to see if I wanted to review it. The Postmortal takes a very intelligent, realistic look at what could happen to our planet if scientists discovered the secret to immortality. It’s partially a morality tale, partially a conspiracy thriller and partially an action adventure. Above all, it’s a really fun and eye-opening read!
Given our culture’s fascination with youth, no one seems to want to get old – much less die – and we definitely don’t want those we love to die. We also like certainty in and control over our lives. There’s just too much uncertainty in dying. Obviously religions tell us what happens next but no one we know personally has come back after death to tell us what really happens, not counting near-death experiences. Besides there’s the curiosity factor – what kind of neat stuff are you going to miss that will happen after you die?
It’s June, 2019 and a scientist has unlocked the secret to never growing old. It’s called the cure, and anyone who gets it locks in their current age and can never die from old age. Think about it. You could be 20 or 25 or 30 or 35 or whatever your age is for the rest of your life.
John Farrell has been thinking about that a lot. When the cure was discovered, it was kept under wraps for a while but nothing like this could stay secret. At first only the wealthy could get it but, through a banker friend, John has found a reputable doctor in Manhattan who gives the cure by referral for only $7,000 and John is going to get it. It sounds like a cheap price to him for immortality.
“I should have been required to do more to get it, like cross an ocean or fight off a tribe of bloodthirsty headhunters, or answer a series of complex riddles asked by an evil bridge troll, or defeat some really big guy using karate. Something like that. But I didn’t need to do much of anything, and I didn’t feel at all guilty about it. I still don’t. Once I realized I could get the cure, I instantly wanted it, more than I had ever wanted anything.”
The protests against the cure on moral grounds aren’t too bad but, unfortunately, there are radical pro-death groups who are determined to get rid of these doctors by blowing them, and anyone near them, to smithereens. Environmental groups are also harping on and on about how making the cure available to the public will destroy the environment. On the opposite end are the groups who talk about the enormous talent and brain drain that results from our brightest and most creative minds becoming lost to death. What could the world have accomplished if someone like Einstein or Michelangelo could have lived forever?
“…The world has been confronted with a seismic change in the very nature of who we are and how we interact. I am not an enemy of science, nor do I ever want to be someone who stands in the way of progress…Like many of you, I marvel at the possibilities opened by this cure. It means the potential to have a very long, very wonderful life surrounded by those we love for perhaps thousands of years or more…” Excerpt from a speech made by the U.S. president in August, 2019.
The pressures to make the cure available to everyone are just too much for politicians to resist and soon it’s made available to anyone who wants it all over the world. At first the results are amazing and the world rejoices. Gradually though things begin to change in very disturbing ways.
The Postmortal is based on a “wireless enabled projected screening device (WEPS.8)” found by a worker in March, 2090. The contents of that device were used to reconstruct its library and, based on that information, all of the changes to John Farrell’s life and to the world before and after the cure have been published in this novel. Basically I’ve only set up the premise for you. I’m being careful to not give away more about this novel because what makes it so addictive are the twists and turns John’s life and the world’s future take after the cure becomes commonplace.
As Pogo used to say, “We have met the enemy…and he is us.” There’s an inevitability to The Postmortal that at times makes you feel like a looky-loo at a gigantic planet-sized train wreck, yet you can’t look away and you can’t put it down. You have to find out what will happen to John and to the world next. This intelligent, dark, funny, endearing, cynical and insane novel is one amazingly entertaining funhouse ride but all of that is balanced by the little voice in your head that keeps you shuddering as it says, “OMG that’s exactly how people would behave.”
The Postmortal will be released on Tuesday, August 30, 2011. You can pre-order or purchase it at the online bookseller of your choice by clicking on their link in the upper right column.
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