Title: Everything Belongs to the Future
Author: Laurie Penny
Published: 18 October 2016
“Time is a weapon wielded by the rich, who have excess of it, against the rest, who must trade every breath of it against the promise of another day’s food and shelter. What kind of world have we made, where human beings can live centuries if only they can afford the fix? What kind of creatures have we become? The same as we always were, but keener.”
In the ancient heart of Oxford University, the ultra-rich celebrate their vastly extended lifespans. But a few surprises are in store for them. From Nina and Alex, Margo and Fidget, scruffy anarchists sharing living space with an ever-shifting cast of crusty punks and lost kids. And also from the scientist who invented the longevity treatment in the first place.
In the not so far off future, a cure for ageing has been found and patented. The Fountain of Youth and Beauty is real. Brilliant, right? Utopias all around.
Except, that’s not how it works. One of the most heartrending aspects of this story is the tragically predictable way humanity takes the ultimate scientific discovery and simply uses it to find brand new ways to push the big red self-destruct button.
Naturally the elixir of life isn’t available to everyone; only the super-rich and/or famous need apply, with the occasional exception of artists who are given the stamp of approval by the aforementioned super-rich and/or famous. If you want to imagine the future, imagine a price tag on life, forever out of your reach.
Everything Belongs to the Future explores the practical issues which this would raise, with the short term consequences of parents hanging on to their material assets long after their kids have had kids of their own, rendering the possibility of social mobility a thing of the past. It also explores the subtler and much more disturbing implications – that in the long term, and grander scheme of things, it wouldn’t just be a certain type of person who would die after living a natural and by comparison short life, but an entire section of society. With them would die philosophy, politics and art, if unapproved of by the privileged upper classes, in a sort of slow and insidious social cleansing. This is how the world ends; not with a bang, but drained dry of its diversity of thought.
Giving new meaning to the phrase “social justice warrior”, a small group of idealistic anarchists sharing a house together plan to fight back against the now very old establishment. They enlist the help of the scientist who originally invented the magical little blue pills, eventually resulting in a plan which carries enormous moral and ethical ramifications. There are no cut and dried heroes or villains here, just as there are no easy answers to the problems our protagonists face; there are only people, all of them believing they have the best of intentions and behaving in exactly the kind of flawed but sympathetic and very human ways you might expect.
It’s through Alex, a young man living with the anarchists, that we also examine how women might be viewed in a world where eternal youth and beauty are possible. Alex believes he loves Nina, but Nina is passionate in her belief that the fleeting nature of youth and life is what makes it so beautiful. Alex secretly can’t stand the thought of her becoming old; to be old means to be ugly, and a woman cannot be valued or desired if she is not beautiful. Alex wants to rescue Nina from herself and give her a happy ever after ending, regardless of whether or not she wants it. Through the course of the story, we see just how far both of them will go for their values, and through them, we are forced to question our own.
How far would you go to fight for equality? Do the ends ever really justify the means? Original and unflinching in its realistic portrayal of a utopia gone wrong, Everything Belongs to the Future is science fiction at its thought provoking finest.
History may belong to the winners, but the future belongs to the owners.
GS rating: 4/5
GS Blogger: Michaela Gray (@bookiesnacksize)