The Not Yet

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Overview

It’s 2121. The Heirs control society’s resources from their lavish walled city-states. Through life extension, they live hundreds of years. Outside, the poor barely survive. Malcolm de Lazarus, twenty, is a “Not Yet”—one counting on joining the elite. But when his fortune mysteriously disappears, he must sail to the chaotic New Orleans Islands for answers. On the way, he encounters the darkest side of Heirs’ privilege, which threatens everything he knows and loves.

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Overview

It’s 2121. The Heirs control society’s resources from their lavish walled city-states. Through life extension, they live hundreds of years. Outside, the poor barely survive. Malcolm de Lazarus, twenty, is a “Not Yet”—one counting on joining the elite. But when his fortune mysteriously disappears, he must sail to the chaotic New Orleans Islands for answers. On the way, he encounters the darkest side of Heirs’ privilege, which threatens everything he knows and loves.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Robert Penn Warren Award-winner Crone (A Period of Confinement) makes her impressive genre debut, mixing standard dystopian tropes with social commentary and a strong literary voice. Malcolm de Lazarus is one of the titular "Not Yet" destined for inclusion in the immortality program run by the Heirs of New Orleans in the year 2121. On discovering a problem with his Trust—a fund partially fueled by his years as a teen actor—he sets off for the New Orleans Islands in search of some answers. Crone fills in Malcolm's—and the world's—story largely via flashback, introducing his mentor, Lazarus, his friend Ariel, and the scientist Lydia Greenmore, who is both connected to and conflicted about the process that has granted her eternal life. In addition to an engaging story line made all-the-more compelling by recent advances in bioengineering, readers will appreciate Malcolm's slightly off-kilter narrative voice. Crone ably mixes styles and does a nice job of creating a portrait of a dark future while remaining accessible. (Mar.)
From the Publisher

Malcolm de Lazarus is the Not Yet of this books title, an orphan who spent his childhood performing grueling Sims in order to entertain the Heirs, a transhuman ruling class with fading memories of what it was like to really live. His earnings went into his Trust, and when he reaches the Boundarytime those savings should pay for his own longevity treatments. He'll become one of them, shrunken, shriveled within a spectacular skin suit and head piece—and he can't wait.
In 2121 we see him struggle to discover why his Trust is in escrow, whether a beloved mentor has betrayed him. Chapters from 2117 and subsequent years see the Sims business in ruins and the orphans in search of alternate work, bringing Malcolm in contact with Dr. Lydia Greenmore and her efforts to understand the fogginess that afflicts the oldest of the Heirs. From earlier than that we see episodes from his childhood in the orphanage, where the children are taught to shrug off the worst that can happen because "It's all Prologue."

This, I think, is Moira Crone's first science fiction—previous literary fiction such as What Gets Into Us having examined the history of the South since the 1950's—but there is no sense of dabbling; rather, of a writer who has identified science fiction as an effective method of addressing her concerns.

Published by the University of New Orleans Press, it imagines a time when that region is mostly beneath the waves, and though some sections saw publication long before Hurricane Katrina, it feels like a reflection upon that disaster, imagining an America where the poor must paddle not just for a week or two, but for the rest of their lives.

Its cover, at first glance an underwhelming photography of a river and trees, gains resonance as the book proceeds, a reminder that this is not one of Vance's far-off, extravagant worlds, it's ours with a few nudges in the wrong direction. Reflecting contemporary concerns about healthcare provision in the US, the lives of ordinary humans (NATS) will be short. All research into the diseases that affect them has been abandoned, partly to encourage them to save up and join the Heirs, but also because there's no profit in it since the economy collapsed. Through Malcolm's fascination with the Heirs and disgust at such ordinary processes as eating solid food, we see why we idolize the ersatz, photoshopped faces on magazine covers and movie posters: he hates himself for his fascination with fleshy, human, real Camille.

It's a novel that shows, in its ultimate underground anti-Sim, the VERITE, where nothing is simulated at all, the degradation that ordinary men and women will endure to survive, to provide for their children—in this case, to fund an enclave's transfer to new land—and while grieving for that degradation, celebrates the pride of those who do not give up.

Although The Not Yet delivers a stern warning about the present, and though it was published by a University Press and written by a professor, it is by no means academic, dry, or lecturing. From the first we share Malcolm's febrile desperation to get his money back, even if we hope he won't use it to turn himself into a monster. Like Taylor among the apes, he has a series of exciting adventures and uncovers the great secret of the world—the circumstances and consequences of the Reveal, when the Heirs make themselves public—much of which sounds horribly plausible. In many ways the novel resembles the story of an alien occupation, the aliens of our self-proclaimed Heirs.

The Not Yet should appeal to any reader with an appreciation for the kind of novels Silverberg wrote in the late sixties and early seventies: short, tense, discomfiting and serious-minded. An intelligent and thought-provoking piece of work.

--Stephen Theaker, Interzone, a leading British Science Fiction magazine; June 1st, 2012

Moira Crone's new novel might make you want to die. If so, I believe the author's intention will have been realized. The Not Yet is a richly imagined dystopian novel set about a century from now. Its dark vision of the future on a national and global scale resonates with earlier efforts in the genre, like Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time (1976), Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale (1985), A.D. Nauman's Scorch (2001), and even H.G. Well's The Time Machine (1895). This is not to say that Crone's imagination is derivative or unoriginal, though. Like Atwood, Nauman, and Wells, Crone predicts a hardening of class society and the disappearance of whatever illusions of social mobility that have made class society a consensus society in our own times. There's an environmental angle, too, as current as one could hope, with due attention to global warming and sea level rise and how these factors have altered the landscape of the planet in drastic ways. The most original aspect of Crone's novel is how it's a regionalist dystopian novel, imagining in very plausible, logical ways how New Orleans and environs would look in a worst-case scenario of today's immanent social, economic, and climatological forces. In doing so, she not only constructs the detailed verisimilitude of a scary future society, but she also makes the case for New Orleans literature as a specific body of work, spanning several genres but containing a set of conventions, themes, and tropes that set it apart from broader categories like "American" or "Southern" literature... Her attention to detail, character, and storytelling are the icing on the cake, as her arguments about meaningful living blend seamlessly into a pleasurable reading experience, to be savored like rich food.
-- C. W. Cannon, American Book Review; May/June 2012

Roy Blount
A vivid, suspenseful, and (literally) layered imagining of what's to become of New Orleans and humanity (a new kind of love?) in the Twenty-Second Century.
Tom Piazza
Moira Crone has written a deeply strange novel of a dystopian New Orleans of the future—troubling, vividly imagined, audacious, and utterly unlike anything else you will read this year, or next.
Valerie Martin
Moira Crone's simple observation that New Orleanians, like people everywhere, really want to live forever, clearly leads into a world of ethical marvels, perversities hitherto undreamed of. Her narrator, an ambitious outsider, a pure Dickensian foundling, is perfectly situated to guide the reader on a revelatory journey to where we are headed right now.
Elise Blackwell
This fully realized and expertly rendered vision of the future has much to show us about the here and now. The Not Yet is a provocative contemplation of what it means to live in a world of haves and have-nots, in which the desire for longevity and beauty has overtaken good sense and human longing matters even as it is thwarted. It is also a great story—the kind that keeps you up late because you want to know what happens.
Jim Grimsley
New Orleans has always been an island, and in Moira Crone’s new novel, The Not Yet, the island is literal and the city is flooded for eternity. New Orleans has always been a crossing of worlds visible and invisible, and in Crone’s lyrical prose the intersection includes the future and aliens and transformations beyond our dreams. New Orleans has always signified decadence and death for our gothic region of the South, and Crone’s story begins with a boatman ferrying something very much like a dead man into a place very much like the land of the dead.

New Orleans has always created monsters, so why not Crone’s race of Heirs, superbeings who hold Creoles and Cajuns as pets. To classify this novel in any way would detract from its ability to resonate on many levels, as myth, as high literature, as science fiction, as fantasy, with the hints of a graphic novel in the rich imagery and finely honed writing. Malcolm’s odyssey, like a good gumbo, cannot be described but begs to be tasted. I have not read a more compelling novel in a very long time.

The Advocate, May 13, 2012 - Greg Langley
The words Crone puts in the mouths of her 22nd century Nats and Heirs are marvelous. The truncated words will remind readers of the Anglo-Russian slang, Nadsat, that the 'droogs' used in Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange. It’s not an argot, though, it’s English, even if it is a bit perplexing at times. Another similarity to Burgess’ book is that while it’s set in the future, Crone’s book is really about now. The questions of privilege and class, allocation of resources and reproductive rights are not things to come, they’re today’s political issues. We’re not yet to the point of Heirs and Nats, but the gap in life expectancy between members of rich societies and members of impoverished societies is startling. A license to procreate is not an abstraction. Ask the Chinese.

What Crone has combined is wry social commentary in the vein of Swift or Voltaire with a dystopian coming-of-age tale. It’s a brilliant book full of adventure and humor and no small amount of pathos. Best of all, Crone uses her book to ask what it means to be human, a question all of us Nats need to keep asking ourselves.

American Book Review, May/June 2012 - C. W. Cannon
Moira Crone's new novel might make you want to die. If so, I believe the author's intention will have been realized. The Not Yet is a richly imagined dystopian novel set about a century from now. Its dark vision of the future on a national and global scale resonates with earlier efforts in the genre, like Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time (1976), Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale (1985), A.D. Nauman's Scorch (2001), and even H.G. Well's The Time Machine (1895). This is not to say that Crone's imagination is derivative or unoriginal, though. Like Atwood, Nauman, and Wells, Crone predicts a hardening of class society and the disappearance of whatever illusions of social mobility that have made class society a consensus society in our own times. There's an environmental angle, too, as current as one could hope, with due attention to global warming and sea level rise and how these factors have altered the landscape of the planet in drastic ways. The most original aspect of Crone's novel is how it's a regionalist dystopian novel, imagining in very plausible, logical ways how New Orleans and environs would look in a worst-case scenario of today's immanent social, economic, and climatological forces. In doing so, she not only constructs the detailed verisimilitude of a scary future society, but she also makes the case for New Orleans literature as a specific body of work, spanning several genres but containing a set of conventions, themes, and tropes that set it apart from broader categories like 'American' or 'Southern' literature... Her attention to detail, character, and storytelling are the icing on the cake, as her arguments about meaningful living blend seamlessly into a pleasurable reading experience, to be savored like rich food.
Popmatters, April 3, 2012 - Jennifer Vega
In Moira Crone’s vision of the future, the one percent are immortal. The US population in 2121 is divided into social strata even more rigidly segregated than the socioeconomic classes of today. The secret to possibly eternal longevity has been discovered, and it’s available for a steep price. With the economy geared almost exclusively toward the preservation and entertainment of 'The Heirs,' most live in poverty outside the beautiful cities that house the Heirs.

Malcolm is a foundling and a 'Not-Yet', or 'Nyet,' a kind of indentured servant to an Heir. Malcolm’s guardian, Lazarus, pays into a trust for Malcolm, so that one day Malcolm can afford to be Treated, to undergo the process that will keep him alive for a very long time. As Lazarus tells him, before sending Malcolm off to complete required training, 'This is all just your Prologue!' Malcolm decides that 'prologue' means 'you weren’t supposed to live now, so you could live later, when you deserved to.' But just as he is about to take the next step towards immortality, Malcolm discovers that his trust is in escrow and, pursued by men who want to kill him for unknown reasons, he embarks on a journey to find Lazarus and ask him what has become of his trust.

The metaphor of islands and its attendant theme of isolation can be connected to almost every aspect of the story, from the re-imagined city of New Orleans (which, post-Katrina and its fictional successors, has become an island); to the walled cities in which the Heirs live out their centuries-long lives, surrounded by the poor and aging; to the Heirs themselves, who wear over-skins of living tissue, or prodermises, to keep them looking young and to protect them from the environment. The prodermis can be ordered to any aesthetic specification the wearer wishes, but it also prevents the wearer from feeling anything with her real skin or seeing anything with her own eyes.

Heirs are so far above the rest of society that it is considered taboo for others to touch them. They cannot eat real food because of the delicate nutritional balance they must maintain, and regulation of their hormones prevents them from feeling any real pleasure from most sex. The closest thing to pleasure for Heirs is a kind of play that depicts death, also known as 'the so-long,' or 'that dirty awful thing.' which they are simultaneously disgusted by and obsessed with. Malcolm, meaningfully, spent much of his youth as a well-regarded actor in these kinds of plays.

As a traveler on a quest, Malcolm becomes a navigator of the book’s islands, both literal and human versions of them. He knows that to be immortal is the greatest thing the world has to offer him, but he can’t seem to cut himself off from mortality the way he needs to: he falls in love with a 'Nat,' or untreated woman, he longs for physical affection and approval from Lazarus, whom he sees as a father, and he’s unable to estrange himself from his brother, Ariel, whose rebellious ways and desire to discover his and Malcolm’s origins threatens to ruin Malcolm’s chances of completing his Not-Yet training. Though Malcolm is not a character who engages emotional sympathy, his version of the hero’s quest and realization as a combination Moses/Oedipus figure unfolds at a steady pace punctuated by compelling revelations.

The richness of the story’s environment is a lot to take in, and for much of the first half of the book, I had no choice but to settle temporarily into ignorance of what new terms and situations really meant, and trust that they would be revealed in time. This is intelligent science fiction that does not coddle the reader by providing tidy explanations of its novelties in the first 50 pages—but a bit more background provided early in the story would have set up Malcolm’s adventures more effectively by making the significance of certain events clearer.

For example, a better explanation of the class system and types of people who inhabit Malcolm’s world would have made his reactions to 'Yeareds' and 'Altereds' he meets near the beginning of the story more understandable. Too much of the story is too ambiguous or cryptic for it to be as effective as it could be. This becomes especially problematic because of the many side-plots circling Malcolm’s quest to reconnect with Lazarus; it’s hard to understand all the implications of the discoveries Malcolm makes without a stronger baseline understanding of the world and its terminology.

Even so, more than enough meaning leaks through to make it apparent that this is refreshingly original and thoughtful science fiction. The Not Yet is slightly flawed in its execution, but its intriguing premise and philosophical inquiries into the nature of life and death make it a worthwhile read with potential for an equally good sequel, should Moira Crone choose to write one.

Southern Literary Review, April 16, 2012 - Philip K. Jason
Imagining a Mississippi Delta area significantly transformed by decades of ferocious hurricanes, Moira Crone takes us to a realm of islands where immortals rule and the rest live lives of aspiration or rebellion in a caste-bound, static society. Who wouldn't want to become an heir, a medical marvel with a replaceable designer outer body (prodermis) that keeps one looking youthful and in style? Who wouldn't want to join the power elite and control the resources of the 22nd century United Authority (UA), its various districts and protectorates?

Who wouldn't want to be taken care of by the administrative bureaucracies of WELLFI and WELLVAC? In Ms. Crone's fascinating vision, at once inspired and grotesque, the health system is equivalent to the government. (Sound familiar?)

How much room is there for new Heirs when the existing ones are immortal? How powerful is the incentive to become one when the path requires so many years of subservience and discipline and medical transformation? When the system works no better than the moral compass of its leaders?

The novel's protagonist and narrator, 20-year old Malcolm de Lazarus, is a Not Yet. He has spent much of his life as a performer for the amusement of the Heirs. As an orphan who has been selected for Heir status, he has now approached the boundary-time for his remaking. However, something is wrong: the Trust established to maintain him - hypothetically forever - has been compromised. He sets out to determine the facts and to discover if it's possible to restore his Trust (at once faith and funds).

Malcolm's voyage, which moves both forward and backward (to the orphanage where he and others were raised), takes on a mythical feel while raising key philosophical questions about identity, loyalty, rules, and the limits of human wish fulfillment.

What amazes about Moira Crone's novel is not only the boldness of the premise, but also the startling minutiae of its execution. The Not Yet transports us to several distinct geo-political subdivisions of the UA, presents a wide range of crisply individualized characters that represent different classes, and conjures up over two centuries of imagined world history that leads up to the ongoing present of 2121. Crone extrapolates from today's biomedical research to its fulfillment and application in the future.

That said, there are some difficulties for readers to overcome.

Malcolm narrates his story as if he is telling it to his contemporaries—people who already know the caste system and the names given to its various segments; the nomenclature of the medical treatments; and the governmental and political situation. However, we—his readers from the long—gone past—are not familiar with these matters. Readers will make educated guesses, most often serviceable enough, but many will be disoriented.

Late in the novel, Ms. Crone clears up the ambiguities (including those that touch upon Malcolm's destiny) with the use of a somewhat precious literary device, allowing readers a firmer grasp of issues and details that may have seemed hazy.

To put the issue another way, Moira Crone is true to the narrative point of view she establishes, even though that point of view sometimes makes things difficult for the reader.

The novel's vivid details, eerie tension, and arresting vision more than compensate for the moments of confusion or disorientation, and even those experiences can be understood as working in the service of Ms. Crone's purposes. The future is disorienting, especially to those who haven't yet lived it.

Moira Crone's The Not Yet is a profound, risky, and highly idiosyncratic achievement that projects a frightening yet intriguing future focused on New Orleans and its surroundings. This book should add substantially to her acclaim, which already includes many awards, including the 2009 Robert Penn Warren Award for overall achievement from the Fellowship of Southern Writers.

Interzone, June 1, 2012 - Stephen Theaker
Malcolm de Lazarus is the Not Yet of this books title, an orphan who spent his childhood performing grueling Sims in order to entertain the Heirs, a transhuman ruling class with fading memories of what it was like to really live. His earnings went into his Trust, and when he reaches the Boundarytime those savings should pay for his own longevity treatments. He'll become one of them, shrunken, shriveled within a spectacular skin suit and head piece—and he can't wait.

In 2121 we see him struggle to discover why his Trust is in escrow, whether a beloved mentor has betrayed him. Chapters from 2117 and subsequent years see the Sims business in ruins and the orphans in search of alternate work, bringing Malcolm in contact with Dr. Lydia Greenmore and her efforts to understand the fogginess that afflicts the oldest of the Heirs. From earlier than that we see episodes from his childhood in the orphanage, where the children are taught to shrug off the worst that can happen because 'It's all Prologue.'

This, I think, is Moira Crone's first science fiction—previous literary fiction such as What Gets Into Us having examined the history of the South since the 1950's—but there is no sense of dabbling; rather, of a writer who has identified science fiction as an effective method of addressing her concerns.

Published by the University of New Orleans Press, it imagines a time when that region is mostly beneath the waves, and though some sections saw publication long before Hurricane Katrina, it feels like a reflection upon that disaster, imagining an America where the poor must paddle not just for a week or two, but for the rest of their lives.

Its cover, at first glance an underwhelming photography of a river and trees, gains resonance as the book proceeds, a reminder that this is not one of Vance's far-off, extravagant worlds, it's ours with a few nudges in the wrong direction. Reflecting contemporary concerns about healthcare provision in the US, the lives of ordinary humans (NATS) will be short. All research into the diseases that affect them has been abandoned, partly to encourage them to save up and join the Heirs, but also because there's no profit in it since the economy collapsed. Through Malcolm's fascination with the Heirs and disgust at such ordinary processes as eating solid food, we see why we idolize the ersatz, photoshopped faces on magazine covers and movie posters: he hates himself for his fascination with fleshy, human, real Camille.

It's a novel that shows, in its ultimate underground anti-Sim, the VERITE, where nothing is simulated at all, the degradation that ordinary men and women will endure to survive, to provide for their children—in this case, to fund an enclave's transfer to new land—and while grieving for that degradation, celebrates the pride of those who do not give up.

Although The Not Yet delivers a stern warning about the present, and though it was published by a University Press and written by a professor, it is by no means academic, dry, or lecturing. From the first we share Malcolm's febrile desperation to get his money back, even if we hope he won't use it to turn himself into a monster. Like Taylor among the apes, he has a series of exciting adventures and uncovers the great secret of the world—the circumstances and consequences of the Reveal, when the Heirs make themselves public—much of which sounds horribly plausible. In many ways the novel resembles the story of an alien occupation, the aliens of our self-proclaimed Heirs.

The Not Yet should appeal to any reader with an appreciation for the kind of novels Silverberg wrote in the late sixties and early seventies: short, tense, discomfiting and serious-minded. An intelligent and thought-provoking piece of work.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781608010721
  • Publisher: University of New Orleans Publishing
  • Publication date: 4/16/2012
  • Pages: 220
  • Sales rank: 1,514,444
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Moira Crone is a fiction writer living in New Orleans. The author of three previous collections including What Gets Into Us, and a novel, A Period of Confinement, her works have appeared in Oxford American, The New Yorker, Image, Mademoiselle, and over forty other journals and twelve anthologies. She has won prizes for her stories and novellas, and in 2009 she was given the Robert Penn Warren Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers for the entire body of her work.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2012

    It is the early 22nd century. The world's resources have been re

    It is the early 22nd century. The world's resources have been reserved for an aristocracy of "Heirs;" the underclasses have grown paranoid and provincial; and the city of New Orleans is a swampy archipelago. Malcolm de Lazarus is a "Not Yet," waiting to join the Heirs—until somebody hijacks his trust fund on the eve of its maturation. Malcolm sets out through the Islands of New Orleans to track down his fortune and the truth about the Heirs. In The Not Yet, Moira Crone paints a psychedelic vision of a futuristic dystopia that we all secretly worry about. —New Orleans Magazine online

    When Moira Crone's The Not Yet is read in 2121, the year in which much of this wildly inventive novel is set, its readers will ask of us, "If you knew enough about what was coming to have books like this, why didn't you do something about it?" And they'll be right, for The Not Yet sounds an awful lot like The Pretty Soon. —JOHN BIGUENET, author of Oyster

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2012

    From her vast and tasty imagination, Moira Crone has fashioned a

    From her vast and tasty imagination, Moira Crone has fashioned a post-apocalyptic picaresque to rival Riddley Walker and Fiskadoro. In The Not Yet, her foundling Malcolm navigates a bizarre, fallen New Orleans as strange and wonderful as the real one.
    —STEWART O'NAN

    Moira Crone's The Not Yet is as thought-provoking as a novel can get. Set in a future dystopian New Orleans that is run by people who think they have figured out how to live forever, the story contains echoes of Jonathan Swift. It's a captivating meditation on the curious way love springs out of what we give up in life, not what we gain.
    —TIM GAUTREAUX

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