Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Review: The End Specialist

Title: The End Specialist / The Postmortal
Author: Drew Magary
Pages: 400
ISBN: 9780007429080
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Published: 2011
Genre: Science fiction
Source: ARC copy from publisher

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

"You got me. I don't want to die. I'm terrified of death. I fear there's nothing beyond it and that this existence is the only one I'll ever possess. That's why I'm here." 
(An excerpt from the digital journal of John Farrell, cure age 29)

2019. Humanity has witnessed its greatest scientific breakthrough yet: the cure for ageing. Three injections and you're immortal -- not bulletproof or disease-proof but you'll never have to fear death by old age.

For John Farrell, documenting the cataclysmic shifts to life after the cure becomes an obsession. Cure parties, cycle marriages, immortal livestock: the world is reveling in the miracles of eternal youth. But immortality has a sinister side, and when a pro-death terrorist explosion kills his newly-cured best friend, John soon realizes that even in a world without natural death, there is always something to fear.

Now, John must make a new choice: run and hide forever, or stay and fight those who try to make immortal life a living hell.

You’d think that finding a cure for ageing would be a cause to celebrate, but it turns out that immortality will kill us all. The End Specialist (also known as The Postmortal in the US) explores the devastating consequences such a cure would bring about in the best “what if” scenario I’ve read in a long time.

The story unfolds in the form of blog entries (or an online journal) written over the span of sixty years by a lawyer called John Ferrall. It chronicles his life in meticulous detail as he receives the cure at age 29 and the struggles he has to face as a Postmortal. In later life John becomes an End Specialist, a sanctioned killer for the US government tasked with assisting those people who choose to bring an end to their lives. As the situation worsens the End Specialists are forced to become sanctioned executioners of criminals, pro-death terrorists and those deemed too “old”. 

While the story follows the life of John Ferrall it is primarily about exploring the consequences the cure has on society. Marriages become rare and everyone wants to get a divorce. Nobody wants to be tied down to one person when “until death do us part” could mean thousands of years. The old generation never makes way for the new generation. Unemployment skyrockets, lifetime achievements become meaningless, resources become increasingly scarce and outrageously expensive as the worldwide population spirals out of control. Pro-death terrorists create havoc planting bombs and scaring or mutilating those who have received the cure.  Mothers even go so far as creating Peter Pan babies, curing their babies so they can stay cute and cuddly forever. It is clear things can’t end well…   

I really enjoyed how well-thought-out the far-reaching consequences of the cure was. Drew Magary has a talent for extrapolating a vast and believable world from a seemingly basic concept. There were lots of things I would never even have considered and some of them are quite disturbing.

The blog post format really works well and makes for a compelling read. The last chapter really stood out for me. It was very well-written and I really didn’t expect the dark, bittersweet ending.

The Verdict:
I really enjoyed The End Specialist. It was funny, tragic and surreal at times, but thought-provoking throughout. The ending is spectacular and took me by surprise. This is definitely worth a read!

The Rating: 7/10 (Good)

1 comment:

  1. I love the covers for this book! It sounds like Magary has done a great job of taking his idea to its natural conclusion. The idea of living forever freaks me out and I think I'll keep an eye out for this book.

    The Word Fiend