Review: The Postmortal
In THE POSTMORTAL, Drew Magary explores what the realistic fallout would be if scientists discovered a cure for aging. A “vaccine” that would stop aging in its tracks. Take it when you’re twenty-five, and you’ll be twenty-five forever. On the surface, this sounds really appealing. Who wouldn’t want to live forever, after all? But that’s where the “realistic” part comes in. The future Magary paints is much bleaker than the knee-jerk reaction everyone automatically thinks of.
This near future is seen through the eyes of John Farrell, who gets the Cure relatively early on, when it’s still on the black market and officially banned by the US Government. Farrell takes us from the dawn of this new age all the way to its natural conclusion, at least for him. At each stage, Magary does an excellent job exploring the nooks and crannies of a society that’s had death relegated to such an afterthought. What happens to Hollywood, for example, if the movie stars stop getting old? You don’t really get many new movie stars, for one thing. The established stars become entrenched in their roles, and new ones have an even harder time breaking in to the business. Imagine a world where authors aren’t just competing with Stephen King and John Grisham, but with Twain, Dickens, Tolstoy, Cervantes, Poe, Shakespeare, and all the other greats. As an author, the thought gives me nightmares, although as a reader, it would be epic!
The book has a lot going for it. Compelling characters with conflicts you can relate to (not always a given in a Science Fiction setup like this one), a plausible near-future setting, and a “What if” foundation that really makes you want to keep reading, because surely it can’t get any more horrible for these people. (Hint: it can.)
My biggest gripe with the book (and it’s fairly substantial) is that the basis of the novel seemed off to me the entire time. Yes, scientists discover the cure for aging, but it’s treated by everyone as the cure for death. The two don’t go hand in hand in my mind. After all, how many people actually die of old age these days? You’re not suddenly immune to cancer, accidents, car wrecks, drowning, gunshot wounds, choking–the list goes on and on of things that can still kill you. Sure, the death rate would decrease, but it wouldn’t decrease at the marked rate depicted by Magary.
In the end, this is a fairly moot point, however. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything to say that Magary does have his characters eventually find the cure for cancer and other diseases. Science is rushing along so quickly (both in his imagined future and in our own present) that it’s not a huge leap to believe this can and will happen. And once those two cures are developed (one for aging, one for disease), then it’s definitely believable to me that the results could be as catastrophic as Magary depicts.
I enjoyed THE POSTMORTAL, both as a thought experiment and as Science Fiction. It was interesting to see how something that seems so good on the surface can have so many far reaching consequences. I’m not convinced it would play out exactly as Magary portrays it, but he makes a good enough argument for me to concede the very frightening possibility.
Recommended Age: 18+
Violence: Lots of it, at times very detailed and gory.
Sex: A few fairly explicit scenes
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