There’s a lot to admire in Drew Magary’s debut novel, The Postmortal. The plot is fascinating: what if, this year, scientists could discover the cure for aging? What if you could get a series of shots that would guarantee that you would never age a day — and would live for as long as you wanted, unless you died from a disease or an accident or an act of violence? Would you do it? If you did, what would it change about the way you live your life?
Like I said, a fascinating idea. And some parts of it are brilliantly laid out. There’s a lot to like in this book.
But there’s even more to dislike. And the parts that I didn’t like, I REALLY DIDNT LIKE.
Last year, Magary’s The Hikewas one of my favorite books of the year. Yes, I know, like emmalita mentioned in her recent review, I had issues with the main character, but I felt that the story, and the ending, and the BADASS CRAB won out for me, putting me firmly on the side of really liking it.
This time, that’s not going to happen.
The story is told via a series of blog posts told over a period of about 75 years, starting in 2019. They are discovered at some point in the future, and are touted as the best description of what was like “before.” The blog posts are all made by a man named John Farrell, who was an attorney in New York City when he got “the cure” in 2019.
John Farrell is one of the absolute worst main characters of all time. He’s an asshole. A terrible friend, boyfriend, brother, son, and father. He drinks to excess constantly. He tricks women into liking him, and finds that to be charming. He won’t get married to a woman he loves because he’d rather go out to bars and drink and meet women for years and decades and maybe even centuries.
And I think Magary knows that John Farrell is the worst. But that doesn’t make it better.
All of the women in the story (except for John’s sister) inexplicably find him attractive and desirable. They want more John Farrell, even if the version of himself that he’s presented to them is nowhere near the real version. They want MORE.
And all of the women (except maybe for Solara, but I’m still trying to figure her out) play the role of the martyr. The women are good. They want to have families and be married and be in love forever, no matter how long forever is. They can’t understand why ALL OF THE MEN IN THE WORLD can’t handle commitment and family and love. And they all want John. I don’t know why.
All men just want pretty, young, girls. And as many of them as possible. John’s job as a divorce attorney keeps him busy and wealthy. But John — like all men — sucks. When he finally gets together, with the woman of his dreams, the woman he’s been in love with since he was in middle school, and then tragically loses her, this is what he thinks:
Sometimes I think the fact that she died is the reason I’ll never stop loving her. She wasn’t around long enough for me to grow tired of her personality or her appearance. Every relationship seems to lead to that end. She said it herself. She left me just as my mind had perfected her. The prime condition of love…Sometimes I wonder if that’s a good thing. I despise myself for thinking that.
I mean, just no.
In between all of the annoying character traits, there are some interesting and fun visions of a potential future on an overcrowded planet. What happens to food? Water? Gas and oil? Travel? Religion? Terrorism? Marriage? Parenting?
People go to Las Vegas to get “the cure” and celebrate their new eternal lives. They drink out of grails (that they got at the local grail shop — try the one made by Oxo with a good grip) and carouse non-stop until they return to their regular lives. The whole thing is gross.
Eventually, scientists (actually, the son of the man who discovered “the cure”) discover something called “the skeleton key,” which cures all disease, leaving more and more people on the planet to worry about. Hospitals are filled to the brim with people who were in accidents or shot, they have to wait in the ER for days before they are seen. There are simply too many people to treat and only so many doctors and nurses out there.
John eventually leaves New York and the law, and moves to Northern Virginia to become an “end specialist” which is basically a killer for hire. If you decide you’ve lived long enough, he and his partner will come and officially kill you. A very in-demand service, as more and more people realize that living forever isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
I hated the end of this book. It involves mass chaos on a highway and a nuclear bomb and I just couldn’t wait for it to be over.
One last thing that I hated: the narrator. I listened to this book on audible and I despised the narrator. I really didn’t like his voice or his cadence. I hated how the book was edited and the volume changed in the middle of a paragraph. And I HATED how the narrator mispronounced all of the towns and streets that are near me. A lot of the book took place in towns around me, and the narrator managed to mess them all up. I don’t know how Drew Magary, who lives somewhat close to me, allowed this.
I still think Magary is a unique voice in fiction and I will continue to read anything he decides to write. The Hike was definitely a stronger book than this one, and I hope that his next book will be even better. And have more crabs. I hope he is doing well after his recent accident, and I look forward to many more takedowns of the Williams Sonoma catalog in the future.
Oh, and hey, Cannonball.