The Postmortal

by KasenC


In the not too distant future, scientists find the cure for aging. Age cannot kill people. People don’t change. Just to make sure, the novel’s main character, John Farrell, takes a picture of himself every morning for ten years. Nothing changes.

Drew Magary’s breakout novel, “The Postmortal”, takes readers through sixty years of American history, from 2019 to 2079. Farrell gets “The Cure”  from a back-alley doctor shortly before the president legalizes it. What follows is an orgy of youthful excess as everybody who’s anybody gets the Cure. A trip to the Fountain of Youth Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas reveals much about the nature of people when they realize that they actually are (almost) invincible. While people cannot die of old age, they can still get hurt and die from other sources – stabbings, cancer, car crashes and so forth.

Plagued by death, John blogs his way through the dystopian future. I liked the way Magary used the blog format, including attached articles, to tell the story of the future. It makes the story reach farther than a main character and his associates without running into people knowing more than they should. For example, Magary uses an article to talk about the scientist who found the cure and what happened to him.

The blog format makes the story more intimate, as well. We get a view into the mind of the character as he shares his own thoughts. More importantly, we get snapshots of events as they happened. Most of the blogs were posted the day of the event, or shortly afterward. This makes the events fresh, rather than an omniscient character telling the story from the end.

I like how the book unfolds. Rather than meeting a character in a totally different world, readers of “The Postmortal” are taken along for the ride. 2019 isn’t all that different from 2012. People post articles and comments on their “feeds”.

Even ten years later, the world looks similar. Clearly, the Cure has changed things. John, a lawyer, learns to negotiate marriage contracts. A system of 40-year cycle marriages develops. John includes a little blurb about how Utah outlaws such marriages.

Magary does a wonderful job of considering all different sides of the Cure. He presents readers with a number of consequences. Marriage is one, estates are another. He even envisions the Cure’s impact on religion. As the story progresses, overpopulation becomes an increasing problem. People cannot die, but many of them still want kids. And when the kids become old enough to get the cure…

The author is a sports writer, but he also blogs about pop culture. This experience adds a level of depth and understanding of modern American culture that isn’t found in dystopian novels. Magary imagines a world where there are still movie stars. People still connect with each other using the internet. He carefully extrapolates technological advances so they do not seem foreign. Perhaps living in an almost-Science Fiction world gives Magary a leg up on dystopian writers of fifty years ago.

The book opens with a note explaining where the text comes from. This forward presents an incomprehensible puzzle to the fresh reader, but the note makes so much sense when you read it at the end of the book. I like that Magary put it at the beginning. It was helpful to be presented with some of the vocabulary early on. The words are then familiar when you come a cross them in the regular reading.

They writing seems a little dry when put up against more vivid authors. There isn’t much action until the end of the book. You have to remember, though, that the narrator is a lawyer, not a writer. The book reads like a collection of blogs. There are novel-y parts to it, but Magary stays fairly true to his medium. I like that.

Magary’s normal blog voice takes a back seat to John’s writing style. There are definitely trace elements of the all-caps, hyperbole laden posts Magary’s readers are used to, but if you are looking for an extended Jamboroo, you’ll be disappointed. The language was quite managed – there are a few course words sprinkled about the book, but they do not distract from the story.

I did notice a few clunky points to the writing. Every once in awhile, Magary will repeat a point in a redundant sentence. Yes, I know that was redundant.

The book is absolutely believable, assuming you can get past the genetic cure for aging part. The characters act like real people. My wife even remarked, after I told her the premise, that a cure for aging would mean you could never retire. Early on, one of John’s friends realizes the very same thing. Magary could have been telling a true story.

At 369 pages, including acknowledgements that are much more like Magary, “The Postmortal” is infinitely readable. I couldn’t put it down. When I had to put the book down, I couldn’t help planning my next fix. It was fantastic. NO ONE DENIES THIS!