By Rachel Heng
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Genre: Sci-Fi/Speculative Fiction/Dystopian
In this debut set in near future NYC—where lives last 300 years and the pursuit of immortality is all-consuming—Lea must choose between her estranged father and her chance to live forever.
Lea Kirino is a “Lifer,” which means that a roll of the genetic dice has given her the potential to live forever—if she does everything right. And Lea is an overachiever. She’s a successful trader on the New York exchange—where instead of stocks, human organs are now bought and sold—she has a beautiful apartment, and a fiancé who rivals her in genetic perfection. And with the right balance of HealthTech™, rigorous juicing, and low-impact exercise, she might never die.
But Lea’s perfect life is turned upside down when she spots her estranged father on a crowded sidewalk. His return marks the beginning of her downfall as she is drawn into his mysterious world of the Suicide Club, a network of powerful individuals and rebels who reject society’s pursuit of immortality, and instead chose to live—and die—on their own terms. In this future world, death is not only taboo; it’s also highly illegal. Soon Lea is forced to choose between a sanitized immortal existence and a short, bittersweet time with a man she has never really known, but who is the only family she has left in the world.
Suicide Club is a beautifully crafted tale that rings of a convincing familiarity. It was my cup of tea served with an alarming wake-up call, and I devoured every page of it. However, I will note that I did not find myself comparing this to the work of Atwood nor would I. Too often we attempt to lump female speculative fiction and dystopian writers into a specific category with Atwood and it is not always appropriate, as the themes and political aspects vary greatly. If I were asked to make a comparison, I would be more inclined to say that perhaps this is reminiscent of what Huxley’s Brave New World was addressing.
In a world where the population is declining, death is illegal, and advanced technology has made the possibility of immortality more than a mere dream, Lea Kirino has it all. She has lived her life right. She has achieved career success, a gorgeous apartment and fiancé, and incorporated the perfect balance of a healthy lifestyle and HealthTech™ into her daily routine to obtain the desired social status. She is a “Lifer”.
But when her estranged father who refused to live by society’s laws resurfaces in Lea’s life, everything she has worked hard to achieve is suddenly at risk. Drawn back into his life, she finds herself at the center of an underground network where members of the Suicide Club refuse to conform and accept immortality. They are choosing to live and die under their own conditions. Now Lea will have to make a choice of her own, between the highly successful and “perfect” life she has strived to achieve and one that includes the only family she has left.
“Time was measured in the beating of her mother’s mechanical heart. Thud, thud, thud. Space, in the number of steps taken to cross the room to retrieve the dried meals that arrived at regular intervals.”
What I appreciated..
- Rachel Heng’s sophisticated prose crafts a hauntingly plausible story that hard to imagine as her first.
- The New York setting remains ever so distance yet frightening familiar and close to the present.
- Lea is relatable in her reluctance and fear to sacrifice or lose all that she has worked to obtain, the only life she has known. Her internal conflicts and challenges add an air of credibility that is easy to appreciate.
- The author provides readers with brief, subtle explanations at times while avoiding unnecessary spoon-feeding or information dumps. This allows the reader a very fluid and immersive experience that transitions beautifully between the alternating perspectives.
- Rachel Heng elegantly tackles the questions of just how much we value youth, beauty, and life as a society. More importantly, immortality and the costs that accompany it.
- The ending was poetic and gratifying. Very rarely do I feel as much closure with a conclusion as Heng has offered her readers here.
“Something has to change. In being robbed of our deaths, we are robbed of our lives.”
Challenges some may encounter..
- I felt that the actual Suicide Club was under-explored and could have added more depth to the prevalent themes within the story.
- This book addresses heavier elements of death, suicide and human rights that may not be appropriate for all readers.
While we are given small inclinations to the political atmosphere, Suicide Club presents more as philosophical dystopian, addressing the value of life and questioning the priorities of our societies. Rachel Heng challenges current trends and dares to question the true value of life through a bold and thought-provoking character exploration that is poetic and unsettling at its core.
*I would like to thank Henry Holt and Co. & Netgalley for this advanced copy. The quotes included above are from the advanced copy and subject to change. This review is my own, unbiased and honest opinion.
Serve with a large warm cup of medium-bodied Darjeeling tea.
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