Others live over a century—Sophia Nolan is expected to die at 27 in Woodsmith’s cautionary sci-fi novel.
The author confronts present-day obsessions with longevity and wellness in a future world where the human life span is almost doubled and the date of death can be foretold. Sophia is born with a life expectancy of 27 years. The story follows her from infancy to adulthood as she and her loved ones contend with the approach of inevitable death. As the pressure grows, family members and others show their true personalities, Sophia faces still more painful truths, and she resolves to try and outlive her PDA—Projected Death Age—despite all expectations. Most of the people in Sophia’s society value the quantity of years lived to a nearly obsessive degree; Sophia has no choice but to appreciate the quality of life and to question the validity of predicting its end. She becomes a sort of rallying figure for a divided society, and the story builds through 27 chapters to a thought-provoking end. Despite showing a future world that has a sprinkling of robots and “thanatometers” attached to people’s wrists (in an apparent nod to Logan’s Run), the author hews closely to a naturalistic account of everyday life among ordinary people. The central conceit of Sophia’s short life expectancy is an intriguing metaphor for terminal illness. Sophia herself is sympathetic and fairly multifaceted, as are most of the characters. The book is marred by some uninspired passages and somewhat awkward “infodump” sections, but the pace and tone are well-served by its deliberate brevity and urgency. Woodsmith seeks to tell a very human and topical science fiction tale that calls into question our expectations of life and medicine, faith and mortality. Although slightly unpolished, the novel has fiber.
A deeply emotional, but unsteady first novel.