Sunday, March 3, 2013

Book Spotlight: The Postmortal by Drew Magary

Guten Tag Beardies!

It’s not often you encounter a book that stays with you weeks, even months after you read it, and when you do, it’s a treat like nothing else. The Postmortal is the first novel from Drew Magary.




The Premise:
The world changes over night when the cure for aging is discovered—death from old age is no longer inevitability. Unfortunately, everything else is still deadly, and as population and social tension rises, the  dystopian world created by "the cure" is ripe for a violent evolution.

Gems for Writers: 
Characterization: The story follows John Farrell, a character so real I swear he sits behind me in Psychology. If we, the reader, are following this almost undying guy for a long time, he better be interesting—and he is. He may not be the most fascinating or Halloween-costume-inspiring character ever, but he’s real. He’s twenty-nine and, despite having a career and his own home, he's still not grown up. He’s not overly educated, he’s not eloquent, and he’s sure as hell not a saint. But he loves, lives, and grieves, and for us, he’s a perfect vessel through which was can see this world. The book wouldn’t have worked without the main character being so grounded in reality—OUR reality.

Storytelling (Or, how to use a time jump effectively): The events of the novel span sixty years, but the reader does not see all of it. The book is divided into four parts by time jumps, most spanning about ten years (of course, in Postmortal time, this isn’t very much). The reader naturally questions what happened between the time jumps, but Magary sucks the reader in with the NOW so well that you stop caring about the events in the time lapse. This is fine writing. The downside to this technique is that, as an author, you need to make the reader trust you enough to believe that you would only show them what’s important. I think that Magary’s experience as a reporter enables him to do this.

The story opens with the framing device that all of this was recorded onto a piece of technology, which allows the author to insert articles that John is reading into the story. This narration style reminds me of Bram Stoker's Dracula, except with one viewpoint character throughout the novel. Most of the information the reader gathers about how the world is changing due to this medical advent is through the articles that John reads, or letters between him and his friends. Like Dracula, this allows the reader to know things outside of the POV character’s own head and knowledge.

Social Comment:
It’s me; of course I’m going to be talking about the social comment. This book stays with you because it’s so alarmingly real. Every reaction to the cure would happen in real life if such a thing were invented tomorrow (such as the Catholic Church excommunicating anyone who gets the cure or the creation or a bigger gap between the rich and poor as the rich become immortal and the poor eventually die). Population control was the first thing I thought of when I read the back of the book and my boyfriend and I thought of what would happen if no one grew old. This is a focal point of the book. Western governments react to the population growth by legalizing euthanasia. John becomes an End Specialist and carries out the killings. China outlaws the cure and tattoos birth dates onto all infants. In the streets, pregnant women are reviled for bringing another mouth to feed into the world. The best part is that none of this is shoved down your throat or said out of context. Magary weaves the social comment into the narrative and makes it a part of the story, not just the background of the story. This is something that makes good SpecFic good and bad SpecFic intolerable.

Conclusion:
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. It is unique, and it makes you think about uncomfortable topics in a way that makes them comfortable. The story grabs you, sucks you into its world, and does not let you go until it’s done with you. It’s the first novel from author Drew Magary, and I look forward to seeing more.

God bless,



***The Postmortal (2012), by Drew Magary, is published and copyright Penguin Group USA. It is available in stores, online and at your local library.
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