REVIEW: The Postmortal by Drew Magary

REVIEW: The Postmortal by Drew MagaryThe Postmortal by Drew Magary
Published: Penguin (2011), Paperback, 369pg
Source: Publicist
Genres: Fiction, Satire, Sci-fi

John Farrell is about to get “The Cure.”

Old age can never kill him now.

The only problem is, everything else still can . . .

Imagine a near future where a cure for aging is discovered and-after much political and moral debate-made available to people worldwide. Immortality, however, comes with its own unique problems-including evil green people, government euthanasia programs, a disturbing new religious cult, and other horrors. Witty, eerie, and full of humanity, The Postmortal is an unforgettable thriller that envisions a pre-apocalyptic world so real that it is completely terrifying.

You know how The Magicians is basically like a “literary fantasy” novel? Well, The Postmortal is basically like a “literary sci-fi” novel, and it knows it. I mostly enjoyed reading The Postmortal— it was scary and kind of exciting and also really disgusting, in a way– but it had this self-awareness to it that I didn’t like.

I’ve never read a literary sci-fi novel before (that I’m aware of), but it was an interesting experience. It was more “realistic” than a lot of sci-fi novels are, I think. There was no space exploration, only minimal technological advances (besides the cure for aging), and basically everything sucked. The most interesting part, to me, was how everywhere on Earth things slowly devolved into a dystopia. You’d think that the cure for aging would be awesome, right? It’s not. It’s only awesome if only a few people don’t age and die– if everyone does it, things take a turn for the suck.

In that sense The Postmortal is a lot like The Magicians, only instead of telling us that living in a fantasy world isn’t that amazing, The Postmortal is telling us that living forever (or nearly) isn’t that amazing, either.

The author

Normally when sci-fi goes into its “in the future everyone will live for a long time and have no sicknesses” it also has a space component, because obviously if no-one’s dying then we need to leave Earth before, well…before The Postmortal happens. Normally, I think, advances in health care are followed by advances in technology (or the other way around), but in The Postmortal everyone lives forever and then they get nothing else done because they’re too busy partying. The tech fifty years from now is basically the same tech we have now, only slightly upgraded, and I kind of think that’s…wrong? I mean, would everyone really be too busy boozing it up to not come up with a fix for lack of water/food/whatever? So much so that the only solution is to kill people off to lessen the population count?

Anyway, the other thing I didn’t like was how ALL the female characters were Chicks, and all of them (but one) died horrible deaths. Which really stinks, and which really annoyed me. I don’t think it helped that John also annoyed me, and that the ending was so sentimentally sappy that it seemed like it was from a different book entirely.

So: literary smugness, dead female characters everywhere, cynical view of humanity, and an annoying protagonist. What’s good about The Postmortal?

Well, it made me not want to live longer than I’m already going to, so I guess that’s good. It’s written in the form of blog posts, which is interesting and surprisingly effective (at least until the ending sequence). It’s enthralling in that watching-a-car-wreck-happening sort of way. The (really dark) humor edged into absurdism, which I liked. And for all that many of the characters stunk, the plot itself was really good.

I wasn’t all that satisfied when I finished reading The Postmortal, but I also didn’t want to throw it against the wall. It didn’t make me happy, and in fact it pissed me off a few times, but neither did it make me miserable. By that I’m assuming that literary sci-fi just isn’t my thing, but that if it’s your thing you might like The Postmortal more than I did.

Read: August 27-28, 2011

I had this whole other rant on how every woman (except one) in this book either wants to get pregnant or IS pregnant, and how every man (except one) doesn’t want to get married but every woman DOES, but I’ve ranted too much already and, really, there are other things to worry about besides gender stereotypes in a book I’m already ambivalent about.

6 thoughts on “REVIEW: The Postmortal by Drew Magary”

  1. But Anastasia, don’t you know that all the girls in real life want to get pregnant? That’s just truth in television. (Books, in this case.)

    1. I think I’ve probably complained about how male literary fiction authors never seem to get their female characters entirely right, so, yeah. 😛

  2. Great review, you brought up some excellent points, especially about the healthcare/technology advancement and the issue with women. I sort of wonder if Magary was writing based on the current atmosphere of malaise/self-centeredness with the idea that if we received these advances _now_ AND nothing changed then this is how it might play out. A greater variety of female characters would have been nice though.

    Also, thanks for mentioning my blog. 🙂

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