Bük Kloob is a series of book reviews loosely related to a book club I started.
Also: spoilers ahead. Nothing too damaging but it might suck the punch out of some parts of the book. You are warned.
In all media forms, there are always things that are comfortably vanilla. They don’t require much thinking, can be consumed in the background, and generally are good but not amazing. They’re not even great: they’re just good enough.
That was the response I had to Drew Magary’s‘s stylish sci-fi future The Postmortal. The book is about a near future where a cure to aging will be found and, while that sounds great, it is obviously a recipe for disaster, which we see through one man’s story.
There’s a lot that intrigues, the “If this, then what?” of Magary’s world. For example: this universe has something called Cycle Marriages, where couples can get married and agree to a forty year cap because they ostensibly are going to live for several lifetimes. Another example is a movement of pro-death persons who are fighting for the right to die, to make living forever illegal as the everlasting people will deplete the earth of its resources. There’s also an amazing section where you hear about a baby whose age is stunted so the mother can have a child forever. It’s moments like these where Magary’s universe excels, where you zoom in on aspects of what he has constructed and run wild, reveling in the genius of an idea.
However, much of the idea is tied to the storyline of twentysomething lawyer John Farrell and, unfortunately, John is not that exciting. He’s faux contemplative and obsessed with himself, a parody of the contemporary bro who might work on Wall Street. He isn’t masterfully intelligent nor is he that compassionate about anything. His story is a wandering through different future concepts that give under the weight of the future being so lush. For example: when he gets into the world of bounty hunting, you don’t care that he is in that world. You care to hear about the hunting in general because killing people who would otherwise live forever is kind of cool. Take or leave Farrell—especially when the ending is just about how he lived long enough to reconnect with a woman he only saw “that one time.”
I read the book by audio and it was great at points but ultimately a great venue for me to sing the chorus “GET ON WITH IT!!” as nothing seemed to happen. However, a quote in the ending did illuminate something that the Cycle Marriages, the pro-death persons, and the forever babies also pointed to, a comment on current culture that sci-fi seeks to poke a hole in: to live forever is to be a glutton of information.
As Farrell pleads for his beloved whatever woman to keep living for him in the final act, she is given the one line in the book that gave me pause. “I don’t want to know anymore,” she cries on a hospital table regarding her hopeful future death. It was a statement of anti-information that reminded of our need to constantly be awake and connected. It’s a comment that technology is enabling us to always be intertwined and—You know what?—that’s exhausting. That was the one moment where you realize that living forever is to know everything and having technology like the Internet is in a way living forever. Think about that.
Otherwise, The Postmortal is a very mediocre story wrapped up in a great concept. The future that you get to see in the book is absolutely of note. Unfortunately, the person who you view this future through is totally unappealing. He’s background information that is given a couple hundred pages to walk around in.