Published by: Henry Holt and Co.
Date released: 10/07/2018
Date read: 01/02/2021
*CONTAINS SENSITIVE CONTENT*
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 sanitised 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.
Being Rachel Heng’s debut novel, I obviously hadn’t heard of her before or had any preconceptions about her writing style, so went into this book completely blind, which I think is good as it means you don’t have any expectations. This was also a case of judging a book by its cover, which I know you’re not meant to do. It came up on my phone as a recommended read and I thought the cover looked really interesting, and before I knew it, it was in my online basket.
I found it a really compelling story and well written and a real joy to read. The only slight negative I can say about it, is I found the characters a bit confusing. There are two main characters in this book, and we follow their story stories; first as individuals, and then together as their worlds being to collide. Occasionally as I was reading it, I lose who I was actually reading about which meant I sometimes had to flick back to find out whose story we were in. It became easier once they met and their stories become intertwined.
The book has thrown up a lot of controversial questions. What does it mean to be alive? Is immortality really worth it? If you could live forever, what would you live for?
Rather trivially, I compare it to people who lose a lot of weight. I agree that some people who have lost a lot of weight have needed to for health reasons, which is fine, do what you need to do. But I remember reading an article on someone who had lost a massive amount of weight for their health, but they had stopped enjoying things in the process. They often craved a bowl of pasta but wouldn’t give in to that much carbs. They were gifted a lovely hamper as a Christmas present but they gave it al away as it contained alcohol and biscuits and the like. Now, I don’t judge people. If you feel that’s the only way you will keep healthy then by all means do what you need to do. But I ask: what is the point of adding a few extra years to your life if it means you’re missing out on all the pleasures that would make those extra years enjoyable?
In the Suicide Club, people who want to live forever are not allowed to eat processed or sugary food, no high-sugar fruit, no alcohol, no caffeine; they are not allowed to partake in high-impact sports as it might affect their knees or other joints; they must limit their stress levels to prevent high levels of cortisol; they cannot listen to particular music or watch particular shows; and they cannot even mention death for fear of being arrested.
I for one would rather live a ‘mortal’ life, enjoying good food and drink and good company, than live forever but not be in control of my own pleasures. Where’s the fun in that?