The Postmortal, by Drew Magary, details how the world deals with the discovery of a cure for aging. It is written from the first person point of view, in a series of blog-like entries and link compilations, imitating how historical information might be gleaned from our current period. The documentation is made by a man who was an obsessivly detail oriented when it all began, so is considered to good so far as attention to detail and the like. It involves historical facts about the times, speeches and columns about current events, and even the author’s personal opinion of what is happening in the book.
The Postmortal begins with whispers that a cure has been found for aging. This cure does not stop you from getting older – it merely halts your body’s aging process. A 30 year old that receives the cure will have that same body and physical fitness until the day they die. The American government immediately bans it for three years, giving them time to study it and understand the implications better. During this time, pro-death and pro-cure protestors are waging more and more violent demonstrations. Black market cures are going wild. The narrator of the story ends up getting the cure at one of these black market deals. A week or two later, he takes his friend to get the cure and a series of tragic events occur involving a mysterious woman that guide the narrator through the rest of the novel emotionally. Eventually, the cure becomes legal.
The novel covers how the world changes in areas of marriage, love, law, and government. The marriage is under fire because the definition of “till death do us part’ has been dramatically changed. The narrator’s law firm comes up with a ‘cyclical marriage,’ which involves a binding marriage for forty years then a chance to go your separate ways with a 50/50 split of assets or choose another 40 year marriage. Marriages also nearly stop completely. Love is changed in many ways, because a lot of people think that they will have more time to fall out of love and find someone else.
The narrator chooses not to get married to his girlfriend who is pregnant with his child, but is still around for the baby. As the world changes, the writer continues to document what happens with all aspects of life. A new church is formed that worships only man and his place as the ruler of the Earth, stating that man is his own god. Many people become lawless and hedonistic; others become devout followers of religion. Some people choose to abstain from the cure at all costs.
The government, throughout the course of the book, slowly loses control over the population. Different measures are voted in, from expanding the death penalty to creating a ‘way out’ for people that wish to be killed humanely and legally without committing suicide. The narrator works in this business for a while. The other problems detailed include jails and how to house people, as well as how to deal with other governments likeRussia, who have become military powerhouses.
As the novel progresses, the narrator falls in love again but yet another tragic event occurs. Over and over again the narrator tries to find happiness but has it dashed away from him, symbolizing the fact that the ‘cure’ for aging isn’t really a good thing in many respects. AsAmericabecomes a dangerous, third world country andRussiatakes over a bunch of surrounding countries,Chinabegins to nuke itself to eliminate certain populations. Pregnant women are beaten because people resent another person being brought into the world. There is a war over Antarctica. Chaos ensues.
At the end of the book, nukes are dropped on theCaliforniacoast and the narrator tries to escape with his final love. It is supposed that his love survives, but the man is stabbed and decides to take his own life like he took so many people’s lives in his job. We are left knowing that the world is in lurch and that obviously more terrible things begin to happen, seeing as how the best historical resource for the past is a guy’s journal, as noted in the beginning.
There is a lot to The Postmortal. After finishing the book I just lay there for a moment, thinking about humanity and how much the world would truly suffer if something like a cure for aging were to be found. We already have population issues and are invading parts of the planet, wrecking the ecosystems and causing our own life support system to break down. Now imagine if old age never happened to anyone – that would be insane.
Much of what occurs in the book is disturbing, from the assisted suicides toChinabombing its own people. SeeingAmericadip in existence to a third-world state is strangely satisfying to me – almost as though I feel like we deserve to be knocked off the top rung of that ladder. I truly am glad to live in a country that gives me the freedoms and excess that I currently enjoy, but I do think we could all stand to gain a little humility.
A few things in the book stuck out most to me, including the ‘freezer’ babies, elderly genocide, and the gang activity. Freezer babies are cases where people administered the cure to infants, causing the baby to live its entire life as a baby. This horrified me. The narrator shows an interview with a woman who did this and it was quite disturbing to read about. Elderly genocide happens towards the end of the book, where the narrator’s profession as End Specialist is called upon to start relieving population problems through killing off those that have lived “long enough.” Luckily, the narrator decides to run away when it comes to doing this act and the little old lady we met that was going to be killed is saved. The gang activity is crazy, with members capturing people and carving their birthdays into their skin. At the end of the novel it becomes almost too out of control for anyone to handle and the gangs wreak havoc nationwide.
Other countries are subject to the same problems as withAmerica. Russiaadministers the cure to all of its soldiers, meaning that people can truly be a lifetime solider. Many of these soldiers go AWOL and become huge groups that terrorize the country, plundering regular citizens just like they did in the army. The world is a place of terror because of all of this.
So many things in this book can be written about; I can barely scratch the surface. I highly recommend it. It is thought provoking, even though some of the thoughts presented will give you nightmares. The scariest part of the novel is that I can see all of this coming true if we ever do find a cure for aging. For anyone interested in speculative fiction, apocalyptic scenarios, or even just thinking deeply about something – read this book.