The Postmortal

Drew Magary, Author
Drew Magary. Penguin, $15 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-14-311982-1
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The "postmortals" of the title of this debut novel, set in the near future, have voluntarily undertaken "the cure," a form of gene therapy that bestows eternal youth although not immortality: recipients can still die of disease or be killed. But as narrator John Farrell explains, taking the cure is a way of sitting "in immortality's waiting room." An odd mixture of satire and dystopian fantasy, this thoughtful novel cleverly explores the consequences of having a long-term lease on life, from the mundane (a woman realizes "I'm always gonna get my period") to the profound (the world's resources exhausted by an ever-growing population) through a series of short, date-stamped blog posts found in 2090 and considered "one of the definitive personal records of life in the former United States" during the 60 years after the cure was discovered. The premise is fascinating, and Magary, a comic sports blogger and satirist (Men with Balls), has an eye for the odd, surprising detail that makes science fiction credible. The plot, though, is little more than an extended exploration of the ramifications of the cure, none of them pleasant. While there's a certain pleasure in watching this brave new world unfold on the page, the narrator's passivity becomes tiresome, and the dry, ironic tone is at odds with the dark vision of a future gone amok. (Aug. 30)
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