by Rachel Heng
Reviewed by Galen Strickland
I received a free ebook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. There are good things and bad in this book. The good includes a couple of interesting characters, plus the basic premise of new technologies assuring long life spans to those who qualify. It is also unpredictable, but the reasons for that are part of the bad, because the plot and world-building are inconsistent, and characters frequently act illogically.
Lea Karino is a lifer, just beginning her second century. She has a good job and a comfortable life, taking advantage of both anti-aging technologies and the most current trends for healthy eating and exercise. Anja Nilsson is also a lifer, but not as affluent, mainly because she is caring for her mother, another lifer whose existence is perpetuated by almost indestructable medical implants, along with the strict Sanctity of Life laws. She is in a coma, perhaps even brain-dead, but her life must go on as long as her artificial heart is beating. Lea and Anja's lives collide after Lea comes under suspicion for self-harm when she jaywalks into traffic one morning on her way to work. She tells investigators it was because she was late for work and was simply negligent about checking traffic, but the real reason was because she was following a man she was sure was her father, whom she had not seen in eighty-eight years. He had been branded anti-sanct after an incident when Lea was a child, one which we learn about later in flashbacks. He had been a fugitive since then.
The Suicide Club is a group of people who oppose the Sanctity of Life laws, and object to the strict dietary laws which forbid meat, dairy, other high-fat and high sugar content foods, as well as alcohol. The laws are enforced primarily in the metropolitan areas of the U.S. Rural areas, and other countries still produce livestock, and there is a black market for those goods in the cities. Anja is a member of Suicide Club, although it is not clear if she had been for some time or only since her mother's recent deterioration. She and Lea meet in WeCovery, therapy sessions mandated for Lea since she is under Observation by the Ministry of Health. It is also not clear why Anja is in WeCovery, but perhaps it was voluntary so that she might meet others to recruit into Suicide Club. Anja was the instigator of the club's viral videos that show members commiting suicide. Several things don't make a lot of sense. Many of the leaders of the Suicide Club are rich, connected to both the life-extension industries and the government. If they are anti-sanct, why don't they have the means to change policy? Also, how has Lea prospered when the Ministry knew all along she was the one responsible for the incident for which her father confessed, the one that branded him anti-sanct?
Some interesting thoughts on how a longer life might affect a person's psychological and spiritual outlook, as well as an examination of a society in conflict with itself, made up of those eligible for life extension due to their DNA makeup, and the underclass of the Sub-100s, who will never qualify. That needed more examination, since I would think the Sub-100s would have more resentment towards the lifers than was shown. Will life lose its meaning if it is forever? That seems to be where it's headed with the latest discoveries, the Third Wave. Or can life only be meaningful if it ends naturally? Is suicide ever justified, whether or not society has laws against it? Not sure it's a discussion that even needs to be considered, and it's hard to understand the author's position. This is a debut novel, and while it shows promise and it will be interesting to see what they do next, I can't give this one a recommendation.
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