Â The Postmortal is a book about a near future in which humans develop a â€œcureâ€ for aging.Â Take the cure, and youâ€™re locked in at the same age until an outside force like cancer or a bullet ends your life.Â Avoid those things, live forever.Â The novel is framed as a found document, a diary covering 60 years in the post-cure life of a 29 y/o lawyer named John Farrell.Â Through the diary we learn about a world just starting to struggle with the legal and social ramifications of this new medicine.Â Opening in 2019, the cure is illegal.Â Factions are setting up on either side of the debate.Â There are cable news talking heads, religious groups, freedom fighters, all of them agitated and trying to get out in front of a major shift in human development.
Magary tells Johnâ€™s story via a personal journal.Â But the scope of the book is much larger.Â In addition to the narrative, Magary includes fabricated interviews, newspaper reports, even blog style â€œLink Dumpsâ€ featuring news items like;
Â â€œThe date of the consumer gas ban has been pushed back to March 1, 2037. (FNN)â€
â€œThe US Army desertion rate has increased 104 percent in the past year alone. (The New Yorker)â€
The Link Dumps are particularly interesting because John, the lead, is 29 in 2019 when story begins. This means he was born in 1990.Â Heâ€™s a character who has spent most of his life with reliable broadband.Â John watched the shrinking market share of traditional media.Â This story is his diary and in it we see John leaving a record in the way blogs/social networks have conditioned him to.Â It is subtle.Â These asides rarely get in the way and almost always add value for a reader like me who enjoys future worlds that feel thought out beyond the protagonistâ€™s immediate concerns.
One of the many things Magary does well in The Postmortal is take that idea of â€œthe cureâ€ and push it to, and past, its logical conclusions.Â IfÂ you’veÂ ever daydreamed about a scientific antidote to aging Magary has a reality you should consider.Â Put simply, things donâ€™t go so well.Â But it doesnâ€™t start like that.Â We learn as John learns.Â At, first, he is excited.Â In fact, everyone in the novel save a small group of rebels is very happy to have this new treatment available to them.Â There are massive resorts dedicated to it. Laws are created or rewritten to accommodate a population who no longer feel rushed by the traditional lifespan.Â The beginnings of this book are filled with hope.Â And then everything goes to shit.
I was not prepared for how bad things get.Â I was familiar prior to reading the novel with some of Magaryâ€™s comedy writing.Â And I expected The Postmortal to have something a farcical feel.Â Or, at the very least, for any type of social satire to bite hard and be funny.Â But that isnâ€™t the case.Â Any humor here comes in reaction to grim, grim circumstances.Â I certainly laughed while reading this book.Â But it was more as a defense against something horrific.
In theÂ AcknowledgementsÂ to the novel Magary thanks Byrd Leavell at the Waxman Literary Agency for his guidance in writing the second half of the book.Â It is a sincere thank you and once you read the book youâ€™ll see why.Â Something starts to really move halfway through.Â All the promises of terror brought up in the first half starts to actualize and what once seemed like an intelligent experiment in â€œwhat might happenâ€ turns into visceral page turner.
If you care about spoilers, you might want to skip this paragraph, but as an example of where The Postmortal is going to take you, Iâ€™d like to share a moment from the first half, the less frightening half, in which the narrative takes a break to deliver a news interview with a woman named Mia Burkhart.Â Mia is 44, cure-age 35.Â She has two grown children but wanted a third.Â So, she contacted a fertility service and now has an 8 month old girl named Emelia.Â I am sure you can see where this is going.Â In the book Mia is delivering her interview from jail because, at 8 months, she gave her baby the cure.Â The childâ€™s foster parent sums it up best,Â â€œEmelia will be a baby as long as she lives.Â And I know I have to care for her that whole time.Â But to think Iâ€™ll never see her grow into a woman? That is more than I can stand.â€
Humanity does not react well to the cure.Â This novel goes out of its way to show how a drastic alteration to the natural order of things results in exponentially more powerful consequences.Â There are dozens of very popular books dealing in dystopia but those books almost always ignore the transition from present day normalcy to whatever comes next.Â The Postmortal is entirely about the transition and that makes it unique.Â The worlds at novelâ€™s start and novelâ€™s end are so different that even remembering the early pages is difficult.Â All the changes are drastic.Â And it isnâ€™t that there are two books, only that this is a story that pushes and pushes.Â It begins by assuming we are capable of stopping death.Â With death out of the way, the book shows us everything else we are capable of.
Steven CasimerÂ KowalskiÂ lives in Cleveland, Ohio. Â Twitter his Tumblr on Facebook.