A Brief History of Living Forever

Little, Brown. Mar. 2023. 320p. ISBN 9780316463188. $28. SF
This dual-timeline novel presents society both before and after a deadly virus and environmental disasters as the lives of two women are connected through their experiences coping with crisis, supporting family, cultural changes, travel, memories, and storytelling. The parts of this novel that make it science fiction are almost secondary to the relationship that develops between the women. As one of them contemplates the end of her life, the other grapples with society’s future, all the while meeting two generations of her birth family. Contemporary issues such as immigration, environmental concerns, medical consent, surveillance, and information privacy are all deftly and provocatively handled. Radical creativity in 1980s Czechoslovakia is juxtaposed with technological innovations in 2030s New York City and Florida. While the chaos that creates upheaval in societies around the world is not overtly discussed, the changes in political and social life are reminiscent of stories about Big Brother, authoritarianism, and the quest for immortality.
VERDICT The post-apocalyptic setting makes Kalfar’s (Spaceman of Bohemia) latest an excellent addition to SF collections, but it’s also an interesting story of an adopted adult reuniting with her birth family.
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