The best speculative fiction takes a what-if? scenario and then explores the possible consequences of that idea. This book certainly does that. It proposes that a cure for aging is found, a process which stops the body's natural senescence so that a person using it remains forever at the same physical age. They may still die of disease or violence or accident, but the body won't age.
The book attempts to follow
the progress of societies post-cure by means of a journal, a
time-honoured technique which can work quite well. Here, however, the
author uses it to shoehorn in every little bit of speculation about the
consequences that he can think of, sometimes in only a few lines,
bullet-point style. To say that this makes the book disjointed would be
an understatement. It would have been far better, I feel, to focus more
tightly on the main character, John, and make it truly personal. Taking a
chapter to describe the problems of a character in China, where the
cure was banned, based tenuously on the idea that John once knew him,
doesn't serve to connect the reader with those problems.
pseudo-journal follows John's life as society gradually adapts (or
rather, fails to adapt) to increasing numbers of people who don't grow
old and die. The author tries to demonstrate the various approaches
taken by individuals and governments, but it really covers too much
ground to make an interesting story. Some aspects worked well, for
instance, the changes in technology are never explained, they simply pop
up in references to plug-ins and WEPS, used as if the reader is
perfectly familiar with them. It became fun trying to work them out.
Other aspects, like an outbreak of 'sheep flu' are described in detail,
as in a news report, and this was more tedious.
For anyone who
likes to watch the apocalypse unfolding, slowly, over several
generations, this book might do the trick. It's been nominated for a
number of awards so clearly its unusual storytelling technique is
appreciated in critical quarters. For me, though, it failed at the most
basic level, in not giving me any characters I could connect with, and
breaking the story into dozens of disjointed chunks. Two stars.