Monday, November 14, 2011

The Postmortal by Drew Magary

The Postmortal is either horror or scifi, but really both.

If you open a magazine or turn on the television you are bombarded with ads for things that claim to be “age defying”, creams, and exercises, and foods that will keep us young looking longer. Stuff that is supposed to keep us all from looking any older as we get older is everywhere.  Entire industries are built on this “age defying” concept; cosmetics, and plastic surgery, just to name two.  In fact our whole society is youth focused; the clothing is geared toward people 16-25, the television shows are geared toward people 16 – 25, as are advertisements and movies.  So what if science came up with a “cure” for aging?  That is the premise of the book; The Postmortal by Drew Magary and the story is very cool and very disturbing.

Postmortal is the story of John Farrell, a normal guy living in the not so distant future.  He is a lawyer, and although the US currently has banned “the cure”, he has found a black-market source.  He is 29 years old when he gets the treatment, and so he will always appear to be.  We follow John on a journey that is darkly comic and becomes seriously desperate.

At first glance the idea of never aging sounds so great, so awesome, that a downside does not even enter our minds, nor does it occur to most people in Postmortal. After all, who wouldn’t want to be 26, or 29, or even 35 forever?  No aching knees, no failing eyesight, no frailty, no senior moments that take up residence in our fears as precursors of Alzheimer’s, sounds great.

And it isn’t that you can’t die, you can definitely die; from being shot, or contracting a disease, or a car accident, but you won’t die of old age, because you simply won’t age, ever.  That idea is carried to what seems like an almost inevitable conclusion is this book.  If you have a fear of dying, this book will take that fear and laugh in its face until it chokes.  It will make you understand how someone can welcome death.

As the population stops dying of old age, things start to get a bit crazy.  Population control becomes a critical issue as food and fuel become scarce.  And with so many people hanging around the planet, space becomes an issue and a shift in the culture takes place until you have mobs of “organics”, those who could not afford the cure when it becomes widely available, roaming the streets hungry and angry and eating anything they can find.  What they can find in abundance of course is people.  Then there are “the  Greenies”, a group of violent anti-cure trolls, or terrorists who kill at will, or simply maim in creative ways. Prisons become overcrowded so lesser offences (drug charges for example) become capital offences and the death penalty is carried out, in what even Texans would consider short order. And hey, what are all these old people, people with a “cure age”, the date at which they stopped aging, of 70 or more doing taking up much needed food and space?  Could old age become a capital offence?   Is it still a society if it is every man for themselves?  It reads more like a slow and global decline into madness.

This story is told in bits and pieces as recorded by John in his blog, combined with the news feed snippets he chooses to include.  This book is horrifyingly realistic as Dave Magary creates a logical progression of events that lead mankind from what seems like the greatest discovery ever, to a superbly frighteningly bleak future.  It is terrific in its disturbing depression and hilarious at times as well.  It is like a zombie apocalypse without the zombies.

This book is on order for the Bangor Public Library's collection, until then...

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