In 2019, a gene therapy process has been perfected, one that allows your body to stop the aging process. This cure for aging does not guarantee that you'll live forever though. People who have the cure administered to them can die from fatal diseases and gunshot wounds. One John Farrell decides to take this cure and write about his experiences.
In The Postmortal, we get to read the entries written by Farrell. I guess that's why Christopher Priest lambasted this book for being backward looking, which isn't common in the SF genre. Farrell's entries begin at the time he got the cure to several decades after when society has broken down because of the ramifications of the cure.
So Farrell, a lawyer, gets the cure, specializes in divorce law, witnesses a terrorist bombing that kills his roommate, and ultimately becomes an 'end specialist'. Cut to several years when basically everyone has had the cure. Of course, population has increased, and the government has employed people called end specialists who are tasked to kill people with death wishes. It's a dirty job that Farrell excels at.
It's not just the plot of The Postmortal that makes it a very interesting read. I got hooked because of the many situations that it presents and the questions that left me thinking. If I got the cure and was married to someone, would I also get a divorce after a few years? After all, one couldn't imagine living with the same person for several decades, yes?
And what about if I know someone with a death wish, would I be willing to do the deed myself? After all, that overpopulated world would surely benefit from one less mouth to feed, no? And if I were a doctor, would I be giving the cure to someone who is, say, 80 years old, knowing that that person would stay 80 forever? Or would I just give him a placebo and let him go through his natural course of life?
The world that Magary conjures in The Postmortal is fascinating in a disturbing kind of way. Even though no one younger than 26 is allowed to get the cure, we know that there will be deviations. Here we see babies who will forever be in liquid food just because their mothers don't want them to grow up. We read about 'barely legal' prostitutes, the Chinese government which has never allowed the cure and opted to tattoo on babies their birth dates just to monitor if they do get the cure, and over-the-top parties to celebrate one's getting the cure.
I loved The Postmortal. Aside from being a thriller, it's also a thinking novel. It made me reflect on a lot of issues such as what happens if society gets whatever it wants and if people did really live for a long time. I hope it wins the Arthur C. Clarke award.
Read this novel if:
- You like your thrillers to be thinking novels too.
- You'll read anything that's nominated for an Arthuc C. Clarke award.
- You know that age is more than just a number.