Suicide Club: A Novel About Living

Suicide Club: A Novel About Living

by Rachel Heng

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250185358
Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 07/10/2018
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 175,886
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Rachel Heng’s fiction has won Prairie Schooner's Jane Geske Award and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. An extract from Suicide Club was included in The Huffington Post's "15 Stellar Short Stories You Can Read Online" list. She graduated from Columbia University with a BA in Comparative Literature&Society and Economics and is currently a James A. Michener Fellow at the Michener Center for Writers, UT Austin.
Rachel Heng's debut novel, Suicide Club, was published by Henry Holt in July 2018, will be translated in eight languages worldwide and has been featured as a most anticipated summer read by ELLE, Gizmodo, Bitch Media, The Rumpus, NYLON and The Irish Times. Her short fiction has received a Pushcart Prize Special Mention and Prairie Schooner's Jane Geske Award, and has been published in Glimmer Train, The Offing, Prairie Schooner and elsewhere. Rachel is currently a James A. Michener Fellow at the Michener Center for Writers, UT Austin.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

The cake was a huge, tiered thing, painted with buttercream and decked with tiny red flowers, floating on a glass pedestal in the middle of the crowded room.

No one talked about it, or even looked at it. But every now and then, someone would linger a little too long by the drinks table, pretending to assess the various bubbly greens on offer while peeking at the cake out of the corner of their eye. Todd stood dutifully by Lea's side, a slender flute of pale cordial in hand.

"Lovely party," he said, nodding as if someone had asked him a question. He beckoned at her with his glass. "Great drinks. I'm really enjoying the Spirulina Spritz."

Lea smiled absently. Her eyes flitted over the crowd, taking in the navy dresses and delicate silver jewelry, the tasteful suits in varying shades of gray. The flowers on the cake stood out like pinpricks of blood in an otherwise bloodless room. Even the bronzed faces, framed by shiny locks, so well hydrated and even-boned, seemed gray to her.

But it was a success, by all accounts. The party was a success.

She wouldn't forget to smile. Healthy mind, healthy body.

* * *

"There they are! My favorite couple."

"Natalie." Todd brightened, tilting his head in welcome.

Natalie delivered her air kisses with the forbearance of a celebrity deigning to have their picture taken. First to Todd, then to Lea, careful not to actually touch their cheeks.

"You look — wow — great," Todd said, still nodding. Lea suppressed the urge to grab his head and hold it still.

She did look great, though. Her sheath dress shimmered in the candlelight, shadowy indigo. It looked as if Natalie had been poured, a creamy, fragrant liquid, into the sleek dark length of it.

Lea flashed a smile, mentally cataloging her own appearance. She measured her straight black hair against Natalie's glossy brown curls (Natalie's was more luscious, more full of life), the burnt umber of her skin against Natalie's pale, freckled visage (prone to UV damage and melanoma, so here Lea had a clear advantage). Natalie's face was angular and long, which, together with her large front teeth, gave her an equine aspect. Lea, on the other hand, had never lost her baby fat and her cheeks remained full and plump, lacking in angles altogether. It was something which had bothered her as a girl but that she prized today. As with most lifers around the same age, their bodies were as similar as their faces were different, nearly identical in stature and muscular tone.

"Please," Natalie said. "Don't patronize me. Can you see these lines?" She pointed to one smooth, rouged cheek. "I know you can, so there's no need to be polite. I've had the worst week, just the worst, must have taken at least three months off my number. But I don't want to talk about it."

She pressed her lips together. It was evident that she did, in fact, very much want to talk about it, but no one said anything.

"Lea!" she said suddenly. "Tell me all about you! You are naughty, always keeping things to yourself." Natalie glanced coyly at Todd.

"Trust me, I'd love to have some secrets. But with friends like you ..."

They burst out laughing. Todd laughed too, right on cue. Their laughter was rich and cascading, a golden ribbon unfurling through the party, making people turn to look, people who were until then perfectly secure of their position in life but at that moment felt something was missing.

More friends arrived to join the group, and the flirtatious barbs continued. Lea was up for a big promotion, which she made sure to slip in casually while complaining about how much more work she was getting. She felt the information sink in and waited for the reaction it would generate. Sure enough, Jasmine jumped in with a cautionary tale about how promotions tended to turn co-workers against you; after all, that was what happened to her when she was the first lifer at her firm to get to director level before she hit a hundred.

The conversation fizzled, and they cast their gazes about, looking for a new topic. Some pulled out their tablets.

"So," Natalie said, lowering her voice conspiratorially. "Have you seen it?" She tossed her hair, the lush ringlets giving off the faint scent of coconut. Her neck was firm and smooth. Like the flank of a racehorse, Lea thought.

"Seen what?"

Natalie rolled her eyes, pushed her shoulders back. Her left shoulder, Lea noticed with satisfaction, was slightly lower than the right. Lea drew herself up to her full height as well, glad that her sleeveless silk top showed off the definition of her upper arms, the symmetry of her clavicles.

"The video, of course," Natalie said.

No one looked up from their tabs, but Lea felt the air freeze. She saw the man's eyes, hard and shiny, pupils perfectly opaque, like a fish. His mouth, filling up with heat and fire, melting into brown and black and red, flesh vanishing into smoke and flame.

"Oh, God," said a tall man with poreless mahogany skin. He sipped on his vitamin spritz and shuddered. "Can we not talk about that again, Natalie?"

Natalie's new fiancé, Lea remembered. She looked at him closely, taking in his height, posture, muscle tone. She noted the dark intelligent eyes, long lashes, elegant, broad forehead.

"What? We know everyone's thinking about it," Natalie said.

"Unfortunate, unfortunate, very unfortunate. How could we not?" Todd bowed his head.

"Exactly!" Natalie crowed.

"They're sick," someone else chimed in.

"Disgusting."

"Antisanct."

"Imagine children watching that."

"Imagine us watching that. Who knows how many months you lose watching that kind of thing?"

"Right! Just think about what it does to cortisol levels."

"Pure spectacle, that's what it is."

"And to do it like that. I feel nauseated just thinking about it."

Suddenly Lea could smell it — the acrid burn of flesh, the eye-watering sting of smoke. The man's eyes, filled with a hard, unfamiliar conviction, a deep sadness. Something inside her lurched. Revulsion, she told herself. Shock.

"Are you okay, Lea?" Todd said. "You look a little pale."

Everyone was looking at her now.

"Oh, yes, Lea," Natalie said, eyes wide with concern. "Now that Todd's mentioned it. How are your vitamin D levels, darling? I can recommend a clinic, you know, if yours isn't quite up to the mark."

"Perfect, actually." Lea smiled, ignoring the barely veiled insult. "And no, thank you. I would never leave my Tender. Jessie and I go way back — she was assigned to our family when my mother made senior VP."

"Of course," Natalie said. She pressed her lips together and turned back to the others.

* * *

It won't kill you to be nice. At least try.

I am, Lea thought. I am trying. Irritation flared in her belly. She saw her mother's face, the lines emanating from the corners of her eyes. Then she heard her voice in her head again: Wrinkles are caused by the loss of elasticity in the skin, a consequence of wear and tear that can be delayed, but not eliminated, by Repairants™.

Ever practical, her mother. Even after she'd been dead for thirty years. Her spine had remained upright till the very end, her downy hair as black as it had always been, kept neatly cropped close to her skull by monthly visits to the salon. Her skin retained its elasticity far better than some of her lighter peers, who had withered decades earlier. Her muscles stayed firm, her feet smooth and well-groomed, her mauve lips full. Such were the benefits of being the CEO of Talent Global and having access to Tier 4 treatments.

Uju had lived to a hundred and forty-two — forty-two years older than Lea was now. It had been a good outcome for someone of her generation, someone who had been in her sixties when the Second Wave began. For Lea, however, a hundred and forty-two would be failure. Three hundred was now the number to beat.

Don't waste it. I gave you everything. Everything your brother couldn't have. Her mother's voice was quiet now, but Lea heard in it the ache that always made her snap to attention, that threatened to open up the wound that the decades, so many of them, could not heal.

She looked around the room at the sleek, glossy haircuts, the smooth foreheads and ramrod spines. The beautiful, wealthy, life-loving people conversing in low voices, politely laughing and clinking glasses from time to time. She took in the premium vitamin spritzes, the fine crystal flutes, the high ceilings and expansive view of the city down below. The space she had rented for the party was usually reserved for corporate functions, but select employees at the Healthfin fund she worked for were able to book it for special occasions.

No, she hadn't wasted anything, Lea thought. Her mother would surely have been proud.

* * *

"Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday, dear Lea!"

The room burst into thunderous applause. Cameras flashed. Lea smiled the way Uju had told her to eighty-eight years ago: Your eyes, make sure to use your eyes, or it looks like you don't mean it.

She picked up the knife and sliced into the bottom layer of the cake. The Styrofoam gave a high squeal when the plastic blade went through it, but even as she winced inwardly, Lea never let the smile leave her face.

CHAPTER 2

The pavement was a slipstream of browns and grays. The jacket-clad men and women all walked in the same way — elbows pinned to their sides, heads down, gaze directed at the heels of the commuter in front of them.

Lea didn't know what it was that made her look up. Perhaps it was something in the air, the smell of summer giving way to fall, that first nip of coolness brushing her cheeks. Perhaps it was the delicate ankles of the woman in front of her, clothed in dark mesh. Or the leftover buzz from her birthday party the night before, a desire to take in the expanse of the street, the eggshell blue of the morning sky.

When she saw him the air went out of her lungs. He was crossing the road some way ahead of her. He moved slowly, unaware of the disruption he was causing to the flow of commuters around him. Lea could see the looks of annoyance on their faces as people were forced to veer off their usual unthinking paths. The impatient clicks of tongues and issuance of sighs filled her head. He, however, did not seem to notice and only kept walking at the same ponderous pace, one heavy footstep after another.

This old, oblivious man couldn't be her father. Yet she couldn't tear her eyes from him. She saw how his once-black hair had faded to gray, how thinly it sat against his scalp, the unkempt edges of it curling at his lined neck. She drank in the curve of his jaw that used to hold more flesh than it did now. She watched as he brought his chin to his chest and his hand to his nose, pinching its base as if preparing to go underwater. The gesture was unmistakable.

Lea felt a violent jerk in her chest. A pressure on her diaphragm, a tightness in the throat. Eighty-eight years since the day he'd disappeared without saying goodbye, and there he was again. On the other side of the road, as if he'd never been gone at all.

Let him go. Uju's voice to twelve-year-old Lea. We have to let him go. It's better this way, after what he's done. He doesn't belong in your life.

The crowd was bearing the man farther and farther away, despite his slow pace. Now he was on the other side of the street, disappearing down the pavement. Soon he would be out of sight.

Her mother had been right then and she was almost certainly right now, especially now. Everything Lea had worked so hard for, decade after decade, was about to pay off. She'd done it with her mother's support and discipline, yes, but she'd also done it in spite of her father, everything that he'd done and was.

Lea bit down hard on the inside of her cheek, sucking the soft flesh between her teeth. She started elbowing her way through the crowd.

"Watch out!" A stray shoulder rammed into her chest.

He was getting farther away. Only his lack of speed allowed her to keep her eyes on him; he was like a pebble in a stream, forming ripples in the crowd that surrounded him. Now all she could see was the top of his gray head, bobbing amidst the swirling human currents.

The traffic crossing was too far away. Lea craned her neck as she continued pushing her way through the crowd, but he was turning the corner on the other side of the street, and would soon be out of sight altogether. She made a sharp right.

Sorry. Excuse me. Sorry, sorry. Pardon me. Sorry.

She found herself at the edge of the sidewalk. Vehicles sped past, their tinted windows hiding those powerful enough to use car pools at peak hour. On the other side of the road, her father was about to turn the corner, about to disappear again. For the second time in eighty-eight years, she was going to lose him.

A gap opened in the flow of traffic. Lea stepped out onto the road.

* * *

She woke up with the familiar cold of tiny electrodes attached to her bare skin.

"Lea Kirino, one hundred years old."

The voice came from a woman in Tender's maroons, standing next to the bed. She was reading from a tablet. When she lifted her eyes from the screen, Lea saw that they were the dark, damp color of moss.

"Happy belated birthday. Could you tell me what happened?" the Tender said.

"I was walking to work. I was late —" Lea stopped. Work. The Musk presentation. She stiffened and tried to sit up, but her head felt thick, her brain swollen. "What time is it?"

The Tender placed a hand on Lea's shoulder. Her touch was gentle but surprisingly heavy. Lea sank her head back into the pillow.

"What happened?" the Tender asked again. "Why did you step out onto the road like that?"

Her father's face in the crowd. The sagging cheeks, the thin neck. Lea thought of the white envelopes that were slipped under her door every few months, the statutory declarations she had to make stating that she did not know where he was. They were still looking for him, decades later. What was he doing in the city?

"I was late for work," Lea said again, her thoughts whirling. "I was trying to take a shortcut. The cars — they didn't stop."

The Tender was looking at her with eyebrows drawn together, two deep lines between them. Lea wanted to tell her not to frown, to remind her of the importance of a neutral expression in preserving skin elasticity. But she could tell from the Tender's skin that she was well hydrated and pH balanced.

"How bad was it? Will I need to have anything replaced?" Lea recoiled. She had managed thus far to keep all of her limbs organic, no mean feat for someone who had just reached a hundred. It was only when the Tender failed to reply that Lea noticed the white stripes across her maroon sleeves.

"Which division is this?" she asked.

The Tender tapped a silent note into her tablet. Its red recording light blinked.

"Late for work, you said."

"Yes. Why does that matter?" But Lea's heart was sinking even as she asked the question. Directive 109A: Reckless Pedestrian Conduct in Undesignated Zones.

"Look, I know it was an undesignated zone," Lea said. "Butyou'll see, just look it up, my record is spotless. It was one tiny mistake, surely this doesn't matter?"

The Tender was listening carefully now, head tilted to one side. "Where did you say you were crossing again?" Her cool gaze didn't budge.

"Somewhere along Broadway. The intersection with Thirty-second. Maybe Thirty-fourth."

The Tender's fingernails clicked neatly against the polished glass of her tablet.

"And where do you work?"

"Borough One West. Why does that matter? You haven't answered me — how bad was it? Am I okay?" Lea spread her hands out underneath the sheets, feeling the webs of skin between her fingers stretch. She wriggled her toes and bent her knees. Around her, the electrode wires rustled like a bed of grass. Her body felt normal, as far as she could tell. But she'd heard that these days, replacements felt normal too.

Posters lined the wall, comforting and familiar in their thin metal frames. A fat-encrusted artery stretched out like a sock ("Meat kills"); a raw, torn joint ("Switch to low impact today"); the ubiquitous glowing red eyeball ("Fruit — #1 cause of diabetes-led blindness"). Recessed ceiling lights cast a warm but insistent glow, leaving no corner of the room unlit. Lea recognized the album streaming from invisible speakers as Sea and Mandolin, dubbed one of the most calming records of the decade. Nevertheless she felt her cortisol levels ticking up. What was this Tender doing? Certainly not her job. Lea looked around the room for a feedback box, but except for the bed, the room contained no furniture or equipment.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Suicide Club"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Qingpei Rachel Heng.
Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Suicide Club: A Novel About Living 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
LeslieLindsay 10 months ago
Provocative debut set in near-future, NYC SUICIDE CLUB is a speculative novel about immortality and the human connection. Would you live forever if you could? This is the overarching question Rachel Heng sets out to discover in her razor-sharp debut, SUICIDE CLUB. Lea Kirinio is a "Lifer," which means she has been given the opportunity to live forever--if she does everything right (low-impact exercise, Nutripaks, etc). She's an overachiever, a perfectionist, and so it just might work out splendidly. She lives and works in near-future NYC with a gorgeous fiance, a fabulous apartment, and buys and sells stocks on the NYSE (it's not money she trades, but human organs). So what's the problem? After eighty years of estrangement, Lea bumps into her father on a crowded sidewalk. Just why did he leave so many years ago and why is he back? Soon, Lea is drawn into the mysterious world of the Suicide Club, where 'lifers' chose to reject society's sanitized immoral existence; choosing to live and die on their own terms. But death--especially suicide--is especially illegal in this future world. Heng's prose is exquisitely crafted. I adored her turns of phrase, her glimmering words. But there were times I failed to follow the narrative--this could very well have just been me--but I persevered because the writing dazzled, the premise felt timely and topical, and the humanity intrigued. At times I felt the narrative lacked urgency and I didn't feel particularly bonded to any of the characters (again, could have just been me); still The last few chapters were quite visceral and jaw-dropping. What I found quite astute was the clear delineation of 'before' and 'after' [Lea's father's disappearance/reappearance]. We jump into ordinary nostalgia at times, alternating with vignettes of this future world. That's where I feel the heart of SUICIDE CLUB lies: the intersection between humanity and memory versus sanitation and future. I was reminded of several dystopian, speculative fiction authors and works as I read and feel SUICIDE CLUB could be compared to Margaret Atwood's work (ORYX & CRAKE especially) meets VOX (Christina Dalcher) with a touch of THE GIVER (Lois Lowry). L.Lindsay Always with a Book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was utterly mesmerized by the world-building Heng accomplishes in her debut novel -- honestly, I haven't been quite so sucked into a fiction-verse like this in many, many years. It sounds cheesy, but I was honestly reminded of my middle- and high-school years when I read a great deal of fantasy and sci-fi, and I found myself quickly steeped in the world that I was reading about. The book struck me as an interesting portrayal of societal grooming. Characters are taught that living as long as possible is the most worthwhile achievement a person can make. They're obsessed with prolonging their lives, so much so that relationships -- and anything else that is considered cortisol-producing -- are minimized and abbreviated. In some ways, the observations in the book felt a bit like a sardonic glance at society's current fads: characters get their nutrition from a drink, not unlike the juicing and Advocare fanatics who swear by the supreme nutrition of liquefied meals. Characters are zealous about their appearance, fretting over any visible wrinkles or laugh lines, and it is a mark of the truly elite that they are able to receive "treatments" that eliminate signs of aging. Again, I was reminded of our cultural fear of aging, and especially the efforts undertaken to retain youthful features (here's looking at you, Kardashian troupe). So, is it possible to enjoy such a novel -- one in which characters are ultimately superficial and human relationships are dictated by social class and the placability of such pairings? In a word: YES. I found so much to love in the flawed characters and ideologies of Heng's futuristic world. This book moved me in deep ways, forcing me to reflect on the darker realities of death as an endpoint -- or a destination -- of living. While some bigger questions went unanswered -- chiefly, who/what determines the "number" people are assigned at birth? Is it random? Why? -- I wasn't significantly distracted by these flaws in the plot. If you're a highly cynical reader, though, you may find more to criticize in that respect.
OwlishReader More than 1 year ago
*This book was provided to me by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review* This is a science fiction book set in a dystopian world in which some people are born with genes which allow them to live much longer than our current life expectancy. Those who have this gene abnormality succumb to treatments and procedures which further extend a person's life. This, combined with an excessively healthy lifestyle, is leading to humans potentially achieving immortality. Out protagonist is Lea, who is well on her way to becoming one of the first people to be allowed the treatments that will allow her to be immortal. Our other protagonist is Anja, who was born with this gene but rejects societies obsession with immortality. This book touches on many themes, such as, suicide; control; quality of life; extreme lifestyles; as well as others. This is a pretty basic run down of the plot, there are a lot more elements that add to the overall story but I will not mentioning them in order to avoid spoilers. I really enjoyed all the underlying themes of this book, however, the plot itself did not seem to have a clear direction. That could be a good thing or a bad thing. It made very difficult to guess what the outcome would be, but at some points the plot just seemed aimless rather than mysterious. My favorite thing about this book was all the underlying themes. I enjoyed the sort of parody of an extreme healthy lifestyle where people are so obsessed with living as healthily as possibly in order to prolong their lives' that they don't actually enjoy their lives. I also enjoyed the overall message about allowing people to control their own lives' despite whether or not they are living it in a way that is considered suitable. I enjoyed this style of writing as well, although the transitions from one scene to another were a bit stilted. As far as science fiction is concerned, this idea was unique and interesting. The only thing that let it down was the plot. The characters were alright, neither terrible nor exceptional. Overall, this was a decent book. I would recommend it if you generally enjoy science fiction and find the plot intriguing. It was a good quick read.
LoudMindReviews More than 1 year ago
**Review** __________ Title: Suicide Club by Rachel Heng Publisher: Henry Holt Genre: General Adult Fiction Release Date: July 10, 2018 My rating: 3.5/5⭐️ __________ I recently finished an ARC copy of Suicide Club by Rachel Heng (thank you, Netgalley) and the following is my honest review. __________ Lea Kirino is a “lifer”, one of the chosen ones. Due to her genetics she has the potential to live forever, given that she does everything right and follows the perfect regimen for optimal health. She has a great job, an even greater fiancé, and lives in one of the corporations beautiful condos. She’s got it all… or does she? She believed she did until the fateful day she spotted her estranged father of eighty-eight years while bustling along with hundreds of other walking commuters on her way home from work. Without thought she ditched the sidewalk and stepped into the street, desperate to catch him before he got away… and walked right into her new fate.. one in which everything she does and says is in question, and her status as the perfect lifer is put in peril. She now has to make a choice. Will she forfeit any chance at immortality to pursue the relationship she never got to have with her father or will the the thought of living forever prove enough of a motivator for her to turn her back on him for good? __________ “She would emerge from the clinic week after week, each time stronger, glowing, invincible. The blood running through her veins a liquid life force, the stuff of gods. Her skin dewy and impossibly supple, yet impervious, impenetrable. She, a goddess. Nothing would ever hurt her again.” -Excerpt from Suicide Club ___________ This book reminded me of the Matched trilogy by Ally Condie, a YA dystopian in which the future has amazing technological advances, especially in the health industry. That is where the comparisons stop though, as this book goes in a completely different direction than the afore mentioned dystopian. Suicide Club shows a better rendition of “healthy society”, it’s much more imaginative, believable, and clever. Heng has a beautiful, smooth writing style that I enjoyed a great deal and she was very creative when naming future medicine and surgical techniques. Unfortunately, the reason I only gave this book 3.5 stars is because I felt disconnected from the story while I was reading it and never managed to connect with the characters. The relationship between the main character and her father could have been so much more visceral, and emotionally charged, giving the reader the chance to be invested in the outcome of the story, instead I was merely curious. I felt as though Heng was always just skimming the surface of the story and never delved deeper below the surface to give the reader that integral love (or dislike, in some cases) for the character. Despite these criticisms I am confident enough in the author’s talent that I would give her another chance, were she to write another novel. This author has so much potential as a writer ( as you can see from the excerpt I have included above) that I felt was completely untapped. Hopefully her future novels will showcase her talent a little better than this book did. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys dystopian novels, futuristic or technologically advanced worlds, or books set in the future.
SaraOxo More than 1 year ago
Suicide Club by Rachel Heng a thought provoking five-star read. This has been one of the hardest reviews I have ever written, It’s taken me weeks and many, many deleted words to get these final words on the page and I still don’t know if I have gotten what I want to get across. I loved the title and description of this book and the whole concept. That wasn’t what I got, I got so much more, but there was something lacking, but overall I desperately wanted to give it five-stars as the part that was lacking was just the way plot developed at times it was a little stilted but the flow through the whole book was well done. This story is one that is filled with beauty and passion and makes you take a good hard look at how the world we live in at present in one that takes beauty and popularity as a currency held above many others. This book isn’t what you may expect, and some of the flash backs gets a little confusing but keep with it as in the end you will love it.
Kaleena More than 1 year ago
"Something has to change. In being robbed of our deaths, we are robbed of our lives." Suicide Club is a chilling tale of a near-future dystopia where population decline has led to strict Sanctity of Life laws and systems to extend life ever longer. Poetically written, Heng weaves a dystopian nightmare that is plausible; however, I struggled to connect to the story as I had expected to and was left wanting much more. The novel takes place in a New York City that closely resembles modern day, which both adds to the fear of this potential reality as well as creates a dissonance between the futuristic technologies that are not really explained. There is a lot of jargon used that did not seem to be explained, which I found to be distracting - like DiamondSkin is something that I should be intimately aware of, or that a Tender is something that I personally understand. Suicide Club is told in two alternating points of view, something that I didn't realize right away. I found myself confusing backstories and just being confused until I went back and re-read. I love dual-POVs done well, but I struggle when the narrative shift isn't clearly notated and the perspectives bleed together. The first 20% of the book or so recalls the back histories of the two main characters and I struggled keeping everything straight. I found myself not really caring much about the characters in the beginning of the book, although by the end I did care a bit for Lea and Anja. For me, the story was lacking in explanation of what steps led the population to this point, the political Ministry and its purpose left largely unexplored. With comparisons to Margaret Atwood, I found this to be particularly disappointing as I find Atwood's writing to be largely about the political systems as well as the system's impact on the central characters. I can see what Heng was trying to emulate, but for me it missed the mark. "Someone once said that death was the best invention life had to offer." In my opinion, the overall story would have been stronger if the beginning of the novel spent a bit of time directly exploring the political climate, explaining what it meant to be a lifer or antisanc, how the tests at birth and the numbers play into the scheme of things. I found a lot of compellingly interesting tidbits about society that weren't explored. What is causing the population decline, what is the history of the Replacement business, why all the laws about taking care of yourself? Why the Lists and WeCovery? In a world where suicide is a sin and used as a form of civil disobedience, I feel that answering some of these questions would have strengthened the narrative. I found the lack of worldbuilding in a near-future dystopia to be the main reason that I struggled to connect with the story, and I was left wanting more. I found Suicide Club to be an interesting and innovative premise, Heng writes with lyrical prose and I look forward to reading her future work and seeing her develop as a writer. This is more of a story about family and choice and less about the dystopian world. I think readers who are interested in family dynamics and the personal story of the characters will enjoy this book, but those who are looking for a dystopian thriller with political intrigue may be disappointed. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, Henry Holt & Company, for providing me with an e-arc of this book in exchange for my hon
MonnieR More than 1 year ago
"Brave New World." "Soylent Green." "Thelma and Louise." All of these - and a couple more classics - popped into my head as I read this mesmerizing debut novel. More to the point, if I were given the chance to live for hundreds of years - most of them sans anything I now consider fun to do, eat or wear - would I want it? Now that I've finished this book, I'm still not totally sure, but I've sure got plenty of considerations to factor into my decision (and a doggone good story to illustrate them). The setting is New York City sometime in the future, when research has found ways for people to live to 100 and far beyond. Those "Lifers" - chosen mostly according to genetic tests - get regular "maintenance" and replacement parts, like fake but realistic skin, blood and internal organs. They also must follow strict and ever-changing dictums; they cannot, for instance, eat bacon or open windows because doing these things might be detrimental to their well-being. Now, these Lifers are looking forward to the Third Wave, when those selected to be on The List will receive updates that will allow them to live to 300. Two of these Lifers are Lea and Anja; Lea is about 80 years old and Anja is just over 100. Lea, whose mother died not too long ago, enjoys super success in her career (her father left the family years ago). Anja is caring for her 150-year-old mother, who remains alive - if one could call it that - only because her fake parts are still working (but they're starting to wear out). Anja is also a somewhat reluctant member of the Suicide Club, a group of Lifers who have come to reject the concept of extreme longevity and at some point commit suicide to escape both the fakeness of their bodies and the absence of a truly enjoyable life. Quite unexpectly, Lea's idyllic existence gets a jolt. Hit by a car when she veers off the standard walking path to chase a man she thinks is her long-disappeared father, she finds herself constantly monitored by the "Observers," who believe she was attempting suicide - a no-no for anyone who aspires to be named to The List. Since her father is an outcast from the utopian society in which she thrives, she dare not tell the truth - that she was trying to reach him and simply not paying attention to her surroundings. The future of her perfect life now in limbo, Lea tries to prove she's still worthy of The List. She's also been ordered to group therapy sessions, and it is here that she meets Anja, who works with "Sub-100s" - the folks who didn't qualify for replacement parts and will die naturally of old age. Still looking for ways to redeem herself, Lea goes to a meeting of the Suicide Club, where she sees not only Anja, but someone else who's very special to her. Even if it didn't touch on touchy subjects like engineered humans and euthanasia, this would be a wonderful book simply because of the characters. They're real, they question life and don't always get the answers they seek. But raising those issues makes it even more meaningful; as the characters try to deal with them, readers must do the same (and I admit I didn't come away with conclusive answers). All told, this is a totally engrossing, powerful story I highly recommend, and I thank the publisher, via NetGalley, for the opportunity to read an advance review copy.
readers_retreat More than 1 year ago
If you could live forever . . . would you? Oh man! This premise is such a fascinating one and makes an incredible story. It also raises some provocative question about the human race, life, death and immortality. I always love it when an author is clever and creative enough to incorporate deeper topics into the narrative. I appreciate that sort of storyline - the ones that allow the exploration of big questions. I salute you for this brilliance, Ms Heng! "Suicide Club" is a science fiction novel that is set in near-future USA. The population is in decline so to combat this people are strongly encouraged to live a super-healthy lifestyle and to get various different body enhancements and replacements. Those lucky enough to do these things are often able to live for over one-hundred years and are known as lifers. But those who aren't as fortunate live for under one-hundred years. As a result, they are classed and treated as second-class citizens and live and die just as us mortals do. I think we can all agree that the concept is an intriguing one! I knew after reading the synopsis for the first time that I had to get my hands on a copy by whatever-means-necessary. The story follows two female characters through their deeply contrasting lives - Lea, a lifer, seems to have it all - A great job, a fiancee, and tries to live her life as close to perfection as possible - in order to do so she consults the governments directives. Then there's Anja, a classical violinist and who's mother is at death's door. The contrast between the two main characters/protagonists is great and Heng is adept at developing her characters distinctive personalities. As the book progresses you get to know them both well. We learn about Lea and Anja's past experiences as they are relevant to the story that is being told here. Although the characters are a vital part of the book, I found that "Suicide Club" was definitely more concept-driven than anything else. I don't mind this and I don't blame Heng for writing it this way as the concept is such a magnetic one. As for the characters, they are all pretty unlikable in nature but I didn't mind that as it fit with the conceptual aspect of the book extremely well. The pace of the book is fairly pedestrian and although this is the case throughout, there is plenty of intrigue to keep you reading and turning those pages right up until the finale. On the whole, I found it quite unpredictable which very much appealed to me. I was also pleasantly surprised that the writing was rather beautiful - Heng has a lovely style and I would definitely dive into another of her titles in the future. I don't think that this is touted as being part of a series but if that were the case I would have enjoyed the story continuing and developing further. All in all, this is a well-executed and beautifully told story that I found pleasant to read. Maybe not as much as I would've liked but it was a great read nonetheless. What let it down a little was that it lacked the excitement necessary to make it unforgettable, I honestly don't know if it's likely i'll remember this book in a couple of months time. A slow-burning dystopian future that seems all too real (which is scary). Many thanks to Sceptre for an ARC. I was not required to post a review and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.