The year is 2019, and a cure for aging has been discovered. With three injections, the genes for aging are turned off. You can still die of anything else that can kill a person, but not old age. As yet, “the cure” is not legal, but if you know someone and have enough money, you can get it. Which is exactly what New York City lawyer John Farrell does. His “cure age” is 29.
John is our guide through the “postmortal” world. A conventional sort, he sees his values change when no longer faced with the standard life trajectory. He also finds his practice of divorce law evolving because “til death do us part” has taken on new meaning.
John is not alone in seeing changes as a postmortal; all of society is changing with him, and not in positive ways. As the planet is strained to support ever more people, the very structure of human society frays and begins to break down. And John finds that having a 29-year-old body is not the same as being 29 forever.
As Drew Magery paints it, life after the end of death from old age is scary. The Postmortal is anything but a dire read, however. It is filled with touches of humor, elements of warmth, and a great deal of wisdom about the human condition.
Everything that happens makes sense; you think, “of course people would do that if there were a cure for aging.” Magery also includes many technical details that are science fiction right now but completely believable extensions of today’s technology.
The central conceit of the book is that John Farrell used a hand-held device to record much of his life for a blog, and that this device is found much later and turned into a book. This is explained in the prologue, which brings up my one small beef.
The prologue is almost unintelligible before you read the story and would have served better as an epilogue. It is well-constructed, however, and I recommend you re-read it when you’re done with the book.
Magery is a very good writer; although this is his first novel, he has written professional for many years and it shows. The Postmortal is science fiction at its best, portraying a realistic potential future while plumbing the depth of human nature. And in this case, providing a truly a cautionary fairy tale.
Article first published as Book Review: The Postmortal by Drew Magary on Blogcritics.