An interesting novella of future politics and society
Time is a weapon wielded by the rich, who have excess of it, against the rest, who must trade every breath of it against the promise of another day’s food and shelter. What kind of world have we made, where human beings can live centuries if only they can afford the fix? What kind of creatures have we become? The same as we always were, but keener.
In the ancient heart of Oxford University, the ultra-rich celebrate their vastly extended lifespans. But a few surprises are in store for them. From Nina and Alex, Margo and Fidget, scruffy anarchists sharing living space with an ever-shifting cast of crusty punks and lost kids. And also from the scientist who invented the longevity treatment in the first place.
I quite enjoyed this novella. Set some distance in the future, but still recognizable and relatable. Inequality has worsened, the wealthy able to extend their lives considerably. Readers are introduced to a bohemian group of anarchists, who do what they can in their quest to make life even a little bit more fair. Introduced to someone with links to the rejuvenation formula, though, they plan a much larger, more audacious plan to address this future society’s inequality. Unfortunately for the group, there are forces already maneuvering to bring them down…
Penny’s prose is very well composed, and the pacing it maintained at a good clip throughout. The characters are diverse and interesting, all well-rounded and with their own distinct voices and identities. The author’s politics are clear and well-articulated, for the main, but the novella has just one handicap: sometimes, when getting a point across, it’s almost as if we’re having a Pause for Politics moment. While few, these passages disrupted the otherwise smooth flow of the narrative.
The anarchists’ plan is devious and horrifying — one can’t help but cheer at the idea, but also feel quite discomfited by the implications of its potential success. I particularly liked the ending, which had just the right amount of redemption and tragedy. I also finished this wishing it had been longer — it would have been nice to get to know the characters a bit more, and spend a bit more time exploring this future.
Despite the aforementioned occasional clunky moments, this is a good novella. Recommended. I’d definitely be interested in reading more of the author’s fiction.
Also on CR: Interview with Laurie Penny