Dudes. Dudes. How did you let me not read this for so long? I picked it up because a) it has to go back to its library home soon and b) I hadn’t read anything in a week and it looked like it would go quickly. You should pick this book up because it turns out to be pretty fantastic!
I guess there are some caveats to the fantastic, as you kind of have to like a few different kind of things to get into this story. For one, it’s a semi-dystopia — “semi-” because the world isn’t ever really advertised as utopia, but it’s definitely got that dystopian/apocalyptic air to it. Two, it’s written as a series of blog posts, which I of course think is delightful but maybe you read enough blogs already? Three, for a book about quasi-immortality, a lot of people die in it, and not very nicely at that.
So. Yes. The background to the story is that some ginger guy invented the cure for aging instead of the cure for gingerness (sorry, Mary!) and everyone is like, “I gotta get me some of that.” And that’s kind of the story itself, too. We follow this guy John’s blog posts as he guides us through 60 years of almost no aging, from right before The Cure is legalized to everyone getting them some of that to those who aren’t everyone beating up/throwing lye in the eyes of everyone to some people deciding that cure, whatever, it’s time to die if that’s cool to government-sponsored bounty hunting to government-sponsored murder. It’s pretty intense. And of course the whole time the population is increasing like crazy and all the countries are freaking out at each other and a plane ticket costs $12K because there is no oil left and the lines just to get on the highway (in your plug-in, of course) are hours long because America still won’t get behind useful public transportation.
That last is probably (and sadly) the little detail that makes this story ring most true to me, but there are plenty of those little details in Magary’s story. This whole book, although it’s told as John’s story and follows his generally poor handling of all the crazy going on in the world, is really about those details and how on earth the Earth is going to handle a population that suddenly can’t get old. And Magary does a great job of showing every facet and really making you think about how this universe is going to play out.
And I really like the blog conceit, which exemplifies the intense nose-to-smartphone social media obsessiveness that Magary predicts will only increase in the next seventy years (right, the book starts in 2019, which is not that far away oh no!). There’s a brief intro at the beginning that sets up the story as coming from a hard drive on a discarded old smartphone, with the entries in this book selected to construct a narrative, so right away a couple levels of unreliable narrator, which is excellent. But also I like the blog posts because they convey the right tone for the story, which is this sort of personal-but-one-level-removed, kind of journalistic, kind of diary-ish tone that, and this is key, doesn’t really allow John to go exposition crazy because he’s nominally writing for people who know what the hell is going on. It would be so easy to go exposition crazy in this kind of story (see Torchwood: Miracle Day, which I would compare and contrast to this except it would end in me yelling), but for the most part Magary avoids it (except for a stray “as you know,” which, yelling).
It’s not a perfect book, and I found myself super-annoyed with John at many points in the story, some of which were probably not supposed to make me annoyed, but on the whole I found it quite intriguing and thought-provoking. In fact, I had to stop more than once along the way to play “what-if” with my husband, who was trying to play a video game and is probably now trying to figure out how to get one of those cycle marriages all the fictional people are talking about, only maybe five years instead of forty because he’s not going to live forever.
Recommendation: For enjoyers of dystopia, sad truths, and a little gratuitous violence (not too much).