Perfect for fans of Tom Sweterlitsch’s The Gone World . In this thrilling futuristic novel, the secret to eternal life is closely guarded by people who will do anything to protect it — even if it means destroying everything in their path.
Set in Washington D.C. 20 years from now, climate change has hit hard, fires are burning, unemployment is high, and controversial longevity treatments are only available to the very rich. Enter resourceful young police detective, Jen B. Lu, and her ‘partner’, Chandler, a SIM implant in her brain and her instant link to the Internet and police records, and a constant voice inside her head. He’s an inquisitive tough guy, with a helluva sense of humor and his own ideas about solving crimes. As a detective in the Elder Abuse unit, Jen is supposed to be investigating kids pushing their aging parents to “exit” so they are eligible to get the longevity drug. But what really has her attention are the persistent rumors about Eden, a black market version of the longevity drug, and the bizarre outbreak of people aging almost overnight, then suddenly dying–is this all connected? Is Big Pharma involved? When Jen’s investigations of Eden take her too close to the truth, she is suspended, Chandler is deactivated, and her boyfriend is freaked out by “the thing inside her brain.” This leaves Jen to pursue a very dangerous investigation all by herself.
The Last Exit is a dystopian sci-fi crime novel that follows Jen Lu, a detective in the Elder Abuse Unit, and Chandler, a SIM implant that is embedded in her brain. Her interaction with Chandler was kind of akin to having a conversation with a voice inside your head — although Chandler’s personality is that of a snarky, tough guy, which I found quite amusing. I immensely enjoyed the banter between Chandler and Jen and loved seeing Chandler’s personality develop throughout the pages.
In this world, people are encouraged to “Exit” when they reach the age of 65; that is to say, they are expected to agree to kill themselves. Once they do, their children will be given the Treatment that’ll protect them against a deadly disease called ROSE, an illness similar to Mad Cow except that it’s fatal for a high percentage of the population. If the parents refuse to exit, the children are subsequently denied the Treatment. Needless to say, this opens the door to all sorts of elder abuse, with children forcing their parents to exit should they refuse.
Of course, all these rules don’t pertain to the mega-wealthy who are not required to exit at all and who can partake of a different treatment guaranteed to provide everlasting life (people who have this are called “The Timeless.”)
So what we have here, then, is a society where the wealthy can prolong their lives indefinitely, whereas those who aren’t rich are expected to terminate their life so that their children don’t die before their time (of 65). I found the idea of this society extremely intriguing….and chilling.
The intrigue of this story, however, lies in a black market version of the longevity drug called Eden and the subsequent outbreak of people experiencing accelerated aging and then dying, all within a couple of days. As detective Lu investigates, she unearths a mystery that runs a lot deeper than anyone had initially thought. She ends up getting thrust into the center of a deadly conspiracy. There are also those — including her boss — demanding that she abandon her investigation.
I ended up thoroughly enjoying this book and loved how each piece of the tightly plotted puzzle falls slowly into place as we race to the finish line. The author redefines here the boundaries of crime fiction with a novel that is part dystopian/sci-fi, part thriller, and part mystery. I loved Jen’s character in this book; she’s intelligent, relentless, and determined, and the crisp banter between her and Chandler caused several laugh-out-loud moments.
But at the end of the day, I found this to be an engrossing and intelligent story — a complex, somewhat chaotic, dark, and entertaining read as we follow the sinister and menacing machinations of a foe whose identity is up to Jen to uncover. And in so doing, puts her own life in danger. Weird, wacky, and wonderful!