Drew Magary’s tale of man living in a world where aging has been cured starts off strongly. The Postmortal is filled with dark humor and astute observations about human interactions, motivations and behavior. The first half takes a close look at how society begins to change when people have the option of halting the aging process by getting a series of injections which make up the black market “cure”. Eventually the process is legitimized as governments seek to appease populations clamoring for the cure. As legislation changes, and the cure becomes widespread, debates arise over most of the basic operating procedures of humanity – marriage is a whole different ball game when the death parting the dearly beloved might not occur until hundreds of years later, and fierce questions arise over quality of life and what age is too old or too young to receive benefit of the cure. Originally most doctors won’t give it to anyone over the age of 35. Ouch. Religion in the light of the new order of society is also closely examined.
The Postmortal follows several moments that change the scope of John Farrell’s life after he, illegally, receives the cure. He sees his best friend, Katie, killed in a bombing of a cure doctor’s office. Farrell can’t escape the guilt in being the one who recommended the doctor, even after he had been cautioned not to do so. His life undergoes other changes in the aftermath of his renewed relationship with an adolescent crush. Magary is witty and imaginative in his writing and the story unfolds in a series of journal entries, blog posts and news bulletins chronicling both the spread of the cure, and all its implications, along with the deterioration and virtually inescapable collapse of society.
While offering plenty of food for thought, The Postmortal goes astray in its overwhelmingly broad scope that essentially strands the reader in its aimlessness. Magary tries to cover all the angles, and it’s exhausting. John takes several radically different paths, and in conveying all those journeys what was a promising novel becomes a long and plodding one. Those who enjoy dystopian novels will appreciate The Postmortal because you actually get to witness the slow breakdown of society with the spread of the cure. However, a tighter structure and fewer sub-plots would have allowed this story to truly shine.