Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Steven-Elliot Altman and Diane DeKelb-Rittenhouse: The Killswitch Review

Steven-Elliot Altman and Diane DeKelb-Rittenhouse's The Killswitch Review is a heavy-handed diatribe against government control of death and dying. In the year 2156, stem cell therapy and other advances make it technically feasible to extend lifespans indefinitely. But a malthusian economy makes it necessary to restrict the technology to Conscientious Citizens, and to control access to suicide at the same time.

The Killswitch of the title is a technology introduced by the government to allow a painless suicide, and record the context to ensure that nothing nefarious is involved. Jason Haggerty works for the agency that reviews the records. Anyone over thirty can request a Killswitch--access is forbidden to minors. (And as usual, they want access as a sign of their maturity.)

The society is so depressing that people who could live indefinitely do kill themselves, and people with no hope want to do the same. For some reason, the authorities want to prevent the latter, while society suffers from overpopulation and many forms of ecological catastrophe.

The story follows Jason as he and his sidekick android track a public suicide that may not have been what it seemed. They find conspiracies, speakeasy torture parlors, freedom fighters toiling in the wilderness, and of course, the richest man in the world is responsible for the plot.

For me, the story never overcame the premise. A future in which people are a burden, only the well-connected have access to longevity treatments, but they aren't sure they want them, and masses of young people who are unemployed, bored, and forbidden access to anything that might give them a way out. Bleah.

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