“What if your choice was to live forever or die tomorrow?” I asked.
Neither of them had an answer for that. Neither did I, which was why I’d asked the question. Because while not many of us are comfortable with the idea of immortality, most of us will do everything we can to delay our death for as long as we can.
The morbid topic came up in the queue to get our copies of The Suicide Club signed by Rachel Heng, and remained in the back of my mind while I was reading it. The premise of The Suicide Club is that in a future New York where ‘lifers’ can hope to live for three hundred years as long as they obsessively nurture their health, a chance encounter upends Lea’s carefully regulated life and throws her into contact with the situation every lifer dreads – group therapy.
The Suicide Club presents a world that could be a dystopia or a utopia depending on your point of view, but it takes a very different direction to predecessors like Brave New World or 1984. The usual trope of dystopian fiction is to follow a character who is disaffected from the system and becomes a lone rebel in a sea of conformity. Lea follows a different path in that far from being a dissident, Lea’s goal is to find her way back to conformity in a system that suspects her – which would be a lot more straightforward if she didn’t find herself caring about other people.
Heng gives us a dark satire on the health obsession of our time, but also explores the inescapable truth of our own lives and of those close to us: sooner or later, they end.