book reviews by Althea

Everything Belongs to the Future – Laurie Penny **

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Everything Belongs to the Future
Everything Belongs to the Future by Laurie Penny
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

For me, this was a story of diminishing returns. It started really, really strongly – I thought I was going to love it. 60-80 years in the future, society has been changed by the development of a drug that arrests the aging process. problem is, it has to be taken daily, and of course, the wealthy elites have made sure that it is expensive enough to be out-of-reach of the masses. Naturally, this has exacerbated the rift between haves and have-nots.

In the college town of Oxford, a small group of young artists & activists have hatched a plan to infiltrate a gala event at which a large supply of the drug – known as “the fix” – will be available. Unexpectedly, while they’re there, they will encounter the notorious inventor of the drug – a near-centenarian still in a pubescent body.

It’s a great set-up, and promises an exploration of all kinds of interesting issues and ideas. However, for me, it did not convince or deliver.

My main problem is that everything about the book felt so, so, so very 2016. It’s chock-full of contemporary buzzwords and issues, with absolutely no sense of awareness that issues-of-the-day ARE of a day, not universal & timeless. The author proposes a radical social change, but is utterly and wholly unimaginative about echoing repercussions of that change other than the one she wants to talk about, let alone natural social changes that would occur over the course of nearly a century. I really, really hope that decades from now, young people are not still nattering on, wittering about “safe spaces” and “coming out” to their parents (for just a couple of examples). People in this book even dress and group themselves just as people do today… “crust-punks” in the 2090s? Really? People aren’t going to come up with anything new?

The narrative gave me the impression that readers were supposed to be sympathetic to the activist group. However, for me, it failed. It wasn’t that I wasn’t convinced that this social problem needed a good dose of activism – it surely did. However, all these people were supremely annoying. They were self-righteous and selfish, but blind to their own selfishness, convinced that they were acting in the interests of social justice. How much of this is intentional? I’m not sure. I feel like the author is asking the reader to consider whether their actions within the plot were justified or defensible, and as they’re portrayed, they’re so clearly not that it doesn’t seem like it’s worth asking the question. The novella also feels unbalanced, because it gives us no perspective from ‘the other side.’ (It also fails to address the obvious ‘population problem’ question, which is the #1 corollary to an extended lifespan, in any meaningful way.)

The most interesting character was Daisy, the nonagenarian scientist, and her moral quandaries. How would it be, to be a supremely intelligent researcher, still mentally alert and actively working into your 90s, while in the body of a near-child? How would it be to see the changes your discovery hath wrought? Unfortunately, we never really got into her head, and I ended up finding her unconvincing. Her behavior and decisions just didn’t feel like things that someone of her experience and background would choose.

As the novella went on, it began to feel like it wanted to be a political essay more than a story, and it lost me. I was disappointed, as it had initially felt so promising.

Read for my SF book club; copy provided by Tor and Netgalley. As always, my opinions are solely my own.

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