My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
What this novella is about:
In the year 2099 a bright scientist has come up with the “elixir of life”. A magic blue pill that adds centuries to the human life span by keeping the users, called “fixers”, from growing older. But, not everyone is privileged enough to have the opportunity to stay young for centuries to come. Youth comes at a price and that price is expensive. A small group of activists who see themselves as modern Robin Hoods strive to steal the blue pills from the rich and provide them to the poor. Can these young anarchists take power into their own hands and bring down the emerging gerontocracy?
With Laurie Penny’s new short story we are taken forth into a shocking future reality not so far away from our own. The story follows three main protagonists, Alex, Nina and Daisy and a cast of smaller characters as we read in a third person perspective. We fall face flat, as we usually do in future dystopian scenarios, in a world of dominating white males where fighting for your rights has become more difficult and more crucial than ever.
Time is a weapon wielded by the rich, who have excess of it, against the rest, who must trade every breath of it against the promise of another day’s food and shelter. What kind of world have we made, where human beings can live centuries if only they can afford the fix? What kind of creatures have we become?
Daisy is a 98-year-old woman with the outward appearance of a teenage girl. She is a brilliant scientist, the very one who came up with the blue youth pills. Her medicine is distributed by a grand company who provides years of youthful life to rich people while ignoring the smaller classes who are left to wilt and die hundreds of years before their privileged peers. The world is under a – ironically enough – gerontocracy of sorts, where people who are older than 80 years old get to live as young men and women who thrive in this futuristic landscape. Nina and her friends cannot stand this. They have decided to steal as many pills as they can and secretly distribute them to the lower layers of the economic society. Alex works as a double agent, reporting on his friend’s actions back on Daisy’s employer, TeamThreeHundred.
The truth is that life extension itself is not sinful. The only sin is to treat time as a privilege. We have been given the gift of extra time to live, to love, to do the work of our hearts. We discovered the fountain of youth, and then we put it behind high walls and poisoned its promise.
Laurie Penny’s writing style is fast-paced in a way that is pleasant and smart. While the beginning of the story is a little bumpy, the second half of the book takes a good hold of your attention and successfully manages to keep you hooked until the end. Unfortunately, I found many flaws in this novella that didn’t work out well for me. Reading a science fiction story requires a conceptualisation of a good story. Having one girl come up with a pill that keeps people young for many years is just way too simple for my taste. Furthermore, the focus of this story was not there. There were political issues, gender issues, feminist issues and economic issues all in a very short book. And while this could have been a very successful punch to the direction our society is headed, the execution was poor leading to an angry, confused look into an idea that seemed rushed and provoking.
Don’t eat the fairy food. Don’t make deals with demons. They play under the table with cards you can’t see, and they can make you pay forever, and they are always smiling.
For the most part this is an okay novella that is saved by the rapidly evolving sequence of events that manages to keep you hooked despite a somewhat too simple, too childish, storyline. As a person that is often troubled by the concept of time and the fleeting nature of it, Laurie Penny was a very interesting author for me. She is, too, troubled with youth and the hurried manner in which it strives to leave us and her philosophical passages were a delightful addition to the story. What I think was my biggest issue was the shortness of the book. The author came up with a mediocre idea executed poorly in a pleasant, engaging and straightforward writing style. This book could have been turned into a full length novel that would allow Laurie Penny to tell an intriguing science fiction tale. After all, she did manage to draw my attention to a simple and not very exciting short story.
Cells work together like groups, she wrote, but groups don’t work like machines. People get upset and problems happen but that doesn’t mean they’re broken. People find a way to compromise and work together, and that’s what makes the difference.
Again, I can’t say I didn’t somewhat enjoy this book. It is well written and draws a horrific picture of the future but with the drawback of a weak conceptualised idea. If you are fans of short works of fiction and fancy a science fiction novela this could be worth your time. It’s angry, sharp, diverse and at times horrifying.
I received this book from the publisher (Tor.com) to review.
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BookDepository: Everything Belongs to the Future