One man blogs civilization’s slow, terrifying decline after a cure for aging is discovered.
In 2011, an Oregon scientist discovered the precise genetic location of the trigger for aging, clearing the way to bring a halt to growing old. In 2019, when Magary’s debut novel opens, narrator John Farrell is one of the growing number of people who’ve surreptitiously signed up for the illegal "cure." He’s an easygoing attorney who hasn’t paid close attention to the religious and political furor the cure has caused, but that changes when his roommate is killed in a terrorist attack on the office of a doctor delivering the treatment. At first this brave new world seems mildly comic: John helps set up term limits for married couples who didn’t anticipate that “till death do us part” might take well over a century, and he considers what the cure means for sports records. But in the decades after the cure is legalized, the planet becomes rapidly overpopulated and the story turns dystopian, with John becoming an “end specialist” who helps euthanize people who find deathlessness a grind. Magary is blogger for the sports sites Deadspin and Kissing Suzy Kolber, and the blog format serves him well in the early sections of the novel: It allows him to integrate newspaper articles that set the scene, and he gives John an engaging, quick-witted voice. Trickier for the author are matters of deeper characterization and tone: John’s romantic entanglements and heartbreaks are swallowed up by the events around him, and the closing chapters make ungainly shifts between apocalyptic realism and Grand Guignol horror scenes. In a way, he’s imagined this milieu all too well, making the reader more interested in the world’s end than the people trying to survive it.
Magary has created a smartly realized vision of a planet that’s hit the skids, but it could use more interesting residents.