SUICIDE CLUB by Rachel Heng


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In a frighteningly plausible future, the economy revolves around the currency of health, life spans are potentially eternal, and the new have-nots are born with poverty encoded in their genes.

Lea Kirino is a career Lifer. At 100 years old, she is already high up the ladder at the Healthfin fund, where she spends her days working with clients whose fortunes are invested in the organ trade—mostly hearts, lungs, and livers. A stringent devotee of the shadowy Ministry’s recommendations for maximum life expectancy, Lea and her equally genetically pedigreed fiance, Todd, are perfectly poised to join the long-rumored Third Wave. If chosen to receive newly developed life-prolonging treatments, Lea’s expected life span of 300 years might be extended indefinitely through a combination of organ replacement, enhancements, nutrient and exercise regimes, and, of course, strict avoidance of cortisol-increasing activities like listening to music or looking at art. Yet, even with immortality at stake, Lea can’t let go of the complications of her past—her brother’s death, her own violent impulses, the disappearance of her “antisanct” father, Kaito, who turned his back on the family 88 years ago and hasn’t been seen since. When Kaito suddenly returns, his radical influence stirs up Lea’s own unruly impulses and exposes her to scrutiny from the Ministry. His presence also has the unintended consequence of introducing her into the inner circle of the Suicide Club—a group of well-connected rebels who choose the crime of death over the sentence of eternal life—forcing Lea to decide if living means the experience of life or adherence to the cult of immortality that has replaced all other forms of culture in this speculative New York of the future. Heng expertly threads a ribbon of dread through her glittering vistas and gleaming characters; however, the plot is so solidly foreshadowed that the climax, when it comes, feels almost preordained. This speaks to the intricacy of the world Heng has created and sets a dark mirror against the robotic bureaucracy of the Ministry's oversight that assigns at birth "an algorithm [that] decides who lives and who doesn't" so as not to waste resources on anyone with subpar genetic potential. Unfortunately, it also undercuts the author's considerable skill at rendering her characters in all their solid, bodily reality by making their actions seem less like startling acts of free will and more like functions of an overweening plot.

A complicated and promising debut that spoofs the current health culture craze even as it anticipates its appalling culmination.

Pub Date: July 10th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-250-18534-1
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2018


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