Audiobook Review: The Postmortal by Drew Magary

16 12 2011

The Postmortal by Drew Magary

Read by Johnny Heller

Tantor Audio

Length: 10 Hrs 58 Min

Genre: Speculative Fiction/Future History

Quick Thoughts: The Postmortal is a pre-Apocalyptic Dystopian Future History that truly does what the best speculative fiction should, it entertains you while making you think. Magary’s straight forward presentation of his world is enhanced by some wonderfully emotional moments as he takes you on a tour of his main character’s chaotic life.

Grade: B+

I’m not really scared to die. We’re all going to die eventually, that’s a given. It’s non-existence that freaks me out a bit. I grew up in a religious home, and the concept of an afterlife was drilled into my head from day one. For me, I want to believe in an afterlife. I want that safety net that allows me to know that at any moment I can be wiped off this planet, but I will still exist in some manner. In Drew Magary’s future history, The Postmortal, Magary presents us with a world where they have discovered a cure for aging. People can still die of disease, accidents or violence, but your body will not break down and follow the normal aging process. Now, I know, intellectually that life extension on such a grand scale will have many negative consequences on our society and our planet, yet, if you presented me today with a drug that exponentially increased my ability to exist for a long time, I would take it. I’m pretty sure I am not alone in that. This is what makes the premise of the Magary’s novel so harrowing. You want to shake your head at his world and wonder how these people can be so shortsighted, yet in reality, how can they not embrace such a discovery. This is why Magary’s thought experiment was so compelling to me, yet premises are all fine, it’s the execution that matters to us audiobook fans.

The Postmortal has a style that is becoming more and more utilized in a society that shares information on such an amazing rate. It is told is a series of almost journal like entries of one man’s life. It is not a first person, blog style account, but more of historic telling of one man’s life. The story moves in chunks, outlining important moments in the main character, John Farrell’s life starting from when he decided to take “the cure.” Along the way we are also shown news stories and documentary films explaining the development of the world as it transforms more and more into a dystopia. The prose is straight forwards and tight, and the peripheral characters are all there to serve a purpose. There really isn’t a lot of superfluous moments in this novel. Yet, at times, I was surprised by the novel. There are real strong emotionally moving moments that become even more striking in its contrast to the books tone. Early in the novel, I found John Farrell a bit cardboard, yet Magary really fleshes him out well as the novel progresses. Farrell becomes an allegory for Magary’s world, his emotional turmoil and self doubt paralleling the break down of civilization. The Postmortals is a pre-Apocalyptic Dystopian Future History that truly does what the best speculative fiction should, it entertains you while making you think. Magary’s straight forward presentation of his world is enhanced by some wonderfully emotional moments as he takes you on a tour of his main character’s chaotic life.

It’s been a while since I listened to a book narrated by Johnny Heller and it was great fun remembering what I like about his work. Heller presents Magary’s world without a lot of bells and whistles. His reading matches the tone of the book perfectly. Heller never tries to do too much with the characters, he uses slight tonal changes and an occasional accent for the many different characters in this novel. What he does so well, is give each character, no matter how big or small their own rhythm and style of speaking that does more that any sort of vocal gymnastics can. You recognize the characters by how they talk much more than how they sound. If done right, this allows a listener to totally immerse themselves in the story, and Heller does is so right. The Postmortal offers much to fans of speculative fiction of all stripes, and is a novel I know I will be thinking about as we progress in this scientific world.

Note: A special thanks to the good people of Tantor Audio for providing me with a review copy of this title.

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