Freddie Mercury already once wondered Who Wants to Live Forever? We live in a world where people are obsessed with staying young. Death scares us and many would like to live forever. This is the premise of the novel Suicide Club by Rachel Heng. It’s set in a futuristic New York where the average life span is 300 years. This is only for those who have a perfect genetic make-up. Lifers, as they are called. The Ministry is close to what they call the Third Wave, which will grant immortality. But even in a world where living forever seems like a blessing, there are still plenty who see it as a curse. Suicide Club is Rachel Heng’s debut novel which is set to release on July 10th. The American Book Center has been kind enough to provide us with an ARC copy.
What is it about?
GoodReads says the following:
Lea Kirino is a “Lifer,” which means that a roll of the genetic dice has given her the potential to live forever—if she does everything right. And Lea is an overachiever. She’s a successful trader on the New York exchange—where instead of stocks, human organs are now bought and sold—she has a beautiful apartment, and a fiancé who rivals her in genetic perfection. And with the right balance of HealthTech™, rigorous juicing, and low-impact exercise, she might never die.
But Lea’s perfect life is turned upside down when she spots her estranged father on a crowded sidewalk. His return marks the beginning of her downfall as she is drawn into his mysterious world of the Suicide Club, a network of powerful individuals and rebels who reject society’s pursuit of immortality, and instead chose to live—and die—on their own terms. In this future world, death is not only taboo; it’s also highly illegal. Soon Lea is forced to choose between a sanitized immortal existence and a short, bittersweet time with a man she has never really known, but who is the only family she has left in the world.
The concept of immortality is very interesting. It’s the thing many villains in stories long for (Voldemort for example), or it’s something a society is built around (Everless). In Suicide Club, it takes an even darker turn because the Ministry will not let those with a perfect genetic makeup die. Not enough people are born so they have to do something about it.
I think the whole idea of a society like this is frightening. You cannot indulge yourself in all that is deemed unhealthy or risky. It’s not really a life worth living, especially not if it lasts so long. The way Heng explores this is quite interesting. She shows how two main characters, who are both lifers, deal with this society. The focus of the book is on that as well. It is more of an exploration of what the prospect of immortality does to a person, than it is an actual story.
No real story
Still I never quite got into the book as much as I would have liked. While the book discusses interesting topics, there is barely any plot. Whenever it even feels like there is some sort of tension, Heng dismisses it quickly. I never felt like the stakes were high. The Suicide Club is a forbidden organisation, yet the Ministry knows about it and does nothing. The book even starts off in a rather confusing way.
The first chapter was at a party where many people were described in great detail. Most of those people never showed up again. It took me a long time to truly understand what the story was about. I like the books I read to be story-driven, instead of thought-driven. Perhaps that is why Suicide Club did not appeal to me. It just feels like something is missing. There are a lot of interesting concepts that Heng explores, but it just feels incomplete. It’s a terrifying world she’s created, but I feel like it was not utilised to its full extent.
Unappealing main characters
Main characters should be complicated, or at least have a little edge to them. Nobody likes a Mary Sue, because the story of a bland character is just not interesting. That said, the main characters in Suicide Club did not appeal to me at all. In fact, the more I read, the more I started to hate Lea in particular. She had no redeeming qualities about her. Heng explains that as a kid she used to be particularly violent, and those scenes made me very uncomfortable.
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of discomfort, if she had made it up in other ways. But Lea is blinded, brainwashed perhaps by the Ministry and the society she’s a part of. That would be understandable, but I just considered her a very unpleasant character. Hence why I did not care about her at all. While Anja was a little more interesting, she still wasn’t interesting enough to draw me in. A large part of the book is backstory on those two characters, and I just couldn’t bring myself to care. Which is a shame, as the book looked promising.
Suicide Club is not a bad book. It’s just not my kind of book. This is an interesting choice for those who prefer stories about human emotions and family ties and how that affects the choices people make. This is not a book for anyone who thinks they are getting a fast-paced dystopian story. Suicide Club is a novel that will be appreciated by a specific audience and that’s okay. You just have to be aware of that to make sure if you belong to that audience.
+ Interesting concept
+ Good writing
+ Interesting world-building
– Slow pace
– There is not really a plot
– Uninteresting main characters