01/06/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: Harper Voyager. 419 page small enlarged paperback. Price: GBP 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-00-742908-0.
check out websites: www.voyager-books.co.uk and www.harpercollins.co.uk
This is Drew Magary’s first novel, ‘ The End Specialist’, and venture into Science Fiction. Divorce lawyer John Farrell is amongst the first recipients of extended life by genetic manipulation. All it takes is three rather painful injections. This is seen through Farrell’s diaries and other things, like presidential speeches and so forth, as much as story material. Essentially, the story plays out standard human reaction with how people would react, including terrorist reaction to the doctors involved in creating such a transformation. Ultimately, the US President has no choice but to allow extended life under certain conditions. You have to be over twenty-six years old because that’s the way you’ll stay forever more. You also have to forego Social Security and Medicare so you aren’t a burden on the state. This doesn’t mean you can’t be killed because you still weren’t neither disease-proof or bullet-proof amongst other choices so I doubt if extreme hazardous challenges would be very appealing. No one seems to have thought about population explosions, eating and little things like work for money. Looking back at my description as I’m editing this review, there are similarities to the ‘ Torchwood’ story, ‘ Miracle Day’, although here is doesn’t happen spontaneously for the entire world.
Then again, it becomes obvious that this reality doesn’t have Science Fiction or there would be comparisons so immortal examples from there and a curtail on breeding. You hear the odd bit of news from other countries, although oddly not the UK which seems to have been missed on Magary’s radar. Considering that this expanded life is based on turning on a DNA switch, you would have thought it would have obvious to just turn the switch off again to return mortality, which many people ultimately crave. Seems Magary doesn’t consider this as fifty years down the line, Farrell joins a league who provide assisted death to those who are fed up with life and hence the title of the book and its range extends to areas he finds abhorrent but agrees to when he sees the reasons for such decisions.
Something I did find odd was in the end credits that Magary admits to more than some assistance with the last third of the book. I suspect that there were problems with how to end the story and I’m not entirely sure the way it ends was the best way to go considering that this is largely in first person. It’s all very well showing what happens to one person in what looks like an ultimate madhouse but it tends to ignore the bigger issues that are happening. If anything, I would have thought it would have taken less than seventy years to reach Armageddon. Even so, the science that created long-life by a gene switch would surely have done a similar thing to stop breeding or at least there should have been an explanation why this wasn’t used which would have happened in our world. You can’t just change one thing by advanced science and expect no other advances to take place. Magary’s take on terrorism and religion does show some possibilities that haven’t been explored before.
Despite these flaws, it is a page-turning read and not a particularly nice world to live in. Whether our world would turn out this way if such a discovery happened, only you can decide.
Add SFcrowsnest.com daily news updates to your own web site or blog - just cut and paste the code below...
Stephen Hunt's novels - USA