If given the chance, would you grasp eternal life? In the near future this is the question that faces John Farrell and almost everyone else on earth (if they have the money). All it takes are three, admittedly painful, injections and you can take the chance that you will live forever. It won’t prevent you from catching cancer and other terminal diseases – although the chances are that cures for these are just around the corner – but there is every possibility that you will end a long, long life with the face of the person you were when you took that treatment, whether you were 16, 30 or 60.
This intriguing premise lies at the heart of Drew Magary’s The End Specialist. However, as the title indicates, the novel doesn’t present a utopian future but one in which mankind finds itself at risk because of the very thing it craves the most.
The End Specialist is written in such a way that you will race though it and every page will fly through your fingers. What we have is a journal, or collection of sources, from our protagonist John Farrell, as we follow him move from his exuberance at taking The Cure – at that time illegal and illicit – to his growing realisation that mankind has created insurmountable problems for itself and, finally, he faces the truth and what may well be the end for us all.
John is immensely likeable and very understandable in his goals and desires. He is the ideal Everyman. He has friends and family and he has things he loves to do. But, as The Cure is legalised for all, John realises that nothing is the same: how can marriage last forever? What about babies and children damned to never grow up? Will Man replace God? How will the planet cope? As the population increases, states take drastic measures – people disappear, people are tattooed with marks, the elderly consume valuable resources, cities are clogged up with humans and filth, violence takes the lives of one’s children.
The entries of John’s blog perfectly present this change of perspective as time passes but the writer never ages. At one point, John is just like us, excited in getting The Cure, keen to share and celebrate it with his bubbly flatmate. But, through John’s experiences, we see the horror of it all, and learn in the opening pages that this journal is preserved as a warning for all mankind.
I read The End Specialist in under two days. I’d have read it faster if it weren’t for work. Not only is it extremely well written and plotted but also it’s one of those novels that catches you under the skin, hooks you and makes you think. Big themes are presented in a very consumable and modern fashion. The science fiction element is perfectly satisfying and mixes well with the human drama which finds itself racing ahead of what it’s able to deal with. There are surprises galore, not least as we come to realise the true significance of the book’s title.