Monday, July 16, 2018

Review: Suicide Club by Rachel Heng

Suicide Club by Rachel Heng
Henry Holt and Co., 2018
Hardcover. 352 pages. 

About the book:
"In this debut set in near future NYC—where lives last 300 years and the pursuit of immortality is all-consuming—Lea must choose between her estranged father and her chance to live forever. 

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. 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 fiancĂ© 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."

Suicide Club is another one of those books that leaves me with endless mixed feelings. The premise is incredibly compelling, and I was so excited to read a book following this idea of a society in which immortality is such a strong goal that death itself becomes illegal. Unfortunately, this is one of those books that suffers from great ideas with poor execution.

The beginning was promising, with strong, incredibly detailed world-building that made me excited to find out where the story would go. And then at some point it just sort of... petered out. It felt as though the author explained just enough about the world to get you started, and then decided to focus solely on plot points and moving the story forward rather than continuing to focus on the bigger themes and ideas that could be explored. The most frustrating part is that the concepts in this book are so intelligent and truly fascinating, but Heng never really dives deeply into any of them and doesn't take there this book to levels where it could thrive.

The two main characters we follow are Lea and Anja and after three hundred pages I still don't really feel like I know much about either of them. As the summary states, Lea is a Lifer, meaning that she can potentially live forever if the technology is developed, which she is full-force on track to do. She eats what she's supposed to, she stretches and de-stresses regularly--essentially, she does every thing possible to make sure that she keeps her body and mind in top form. But then she sees her antisanct father one day and her whole life spirals, which is where things really started to fall apart in the book as well. Lea's transformation and journey in this book felt so disjointed and didn't really make any sort of logical sense. I feel like I still don't understand her or her actions and I couldn't possibly predict anything she is going to do. She's entirely unrealistic, and for someone who just turned one hundred, she acts as though she's still incredibly young. There are many flashbacks to Lea's childhood that were randomly placed and also didn't make sense, and things she did as a child aren't really explained in regard to the motivation behind it and aren't connected well enough to the present.

Anja is a much more interesting character than Lea, and I almost wish we had followed her life more than Lea's. I still had some issues with Anja, but overall I found her to be a more realistic character that actually had semi-predictable patterns in her life. Her back story makes more sense and she acts more like a normal human being, which is always nice when you are reading about actual human beings. One major issue I had with these two characters, however, was that for some reason I kept mixing up various past experiences between Anja and Lea, which led to a fairly confusing and frustrating experience.

There are also many plot holes and similar types of issues that showed up in this book that really took away some of my enjoyment of the novel. Some of the ways in which society worked just didn't make sense and were highly inconsistent throughout the story. Even the entire reason for Lea's demise is flimsy and truly doesn't make sense at all. Despite that, I still managed to finish this book, if not for enjoyment than purely because I was interested to see where the author would take the story. I'm very unsure of whether or not I liked the ending, because on the one hand I found it be very satisfying and interesting, but on the other hand... nothing felt fully resolved. I'm just really uncertain on my thoughts on it.

The only sort of silver lining to this book is that this is a debut novel, so I do still have high hopes for Heng's future work. She has great ideas and thought-provoking topics, so the only thing missing is the execution, which fortunately is something that can be improved on as one writes more and more. I will definitely keep my eye out for Heng's future work!

Overall, I've given Suicide Club two-and-a-half stars. It just didn't live up to what it promised.

*I received an ARC of Suicide Club courtesy of NetGalley and Henry Holt & Co. This has no effect on my rating or enjoyment of the novel.*

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

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  1. This does sound like an interesting concept - I'm sorry it wasn't executed very well!

  2. Bummer!! This sounds like it would be a miss for me as well. Thanks for the heads up!!