Suicide Club By Rachel Heng

See my complete review on my site.

Would you want to live forever?

In her debut novel Suicide Club, Rachel Heng reaffirms the notion of “be careful what you wish for” and challenges her readers to reflect upon the price they would pay for immortality.

We live in a world where the quest for long life is a multimillion dollar industry. In Heng’s near future setting, people live for hundreds of years. But at what cost?

In this engaging story, Lea Kirino is a successful woman with the potential to live forever. By all accounts, she has a profitable career, a loving relationship, a comfortable apartment. Lea follows all of the suggested guidelines for nutrition (juicing), exercise (low impact, including no running), and avoiding stress (even too much smiling causes unwanted wrinkles).

Then one day, she sees her estranged father on the street and it changes everything. Lea begins to question being a “lifer” as she is confronted by the divergent and illegal ideas of her father and the mysterious Suicide Club...

Suicide Club is a thought-provoking novel perfect for readers who like dystopian or speculative fiction that makes you think. I was both entertained and intrigued by the book; it held my interest throughout. With characters you will relate to and a story that will draw you in, Suicide Club is one of the strongest debuts of the year. 339 Fitness as morality, aging, dying, beauty -- Heng raises a host of great topics. But why, whenever old people are depicted in fiction, they usually represent merely death, lost chances, regret, and a younger character's sentimentality? And hmmm... is it just me or are younger writers freer with wanting to 'help along' oldsters through those pearly gates when life extension and immortality are discussed? Caveat: not advisable for animal lovers and the squeamish. 339 Many thanks to Henry Holt Books for providing my free copy! I’m going to say right up front that I thoroughly enjoyed this debut novel. It is a slow burn with an original premise and lovely writing. In a world where we all strive to look younger and more beautiful, this book almost mocks that but in a very intelligent way.

Lea Kirino is considered a lifer, which means she can potentially live forever. She works in a career in which she helps her clients in the organ trade business through the New York exchange. She and her fiancé, Todd, are genetically elite and as long as they engage in organ replacements, various technological enhancements, exercise, and proper nutrition, their potential to live forever is possible. However, all of this is in peril after Lea runs into her estranged father and he introduces her to the SUICIDE CLUB. It’s a group that is against this notion of immortality and wants to live and die on their own terms. Does Lea want to shatter her chance at immortality? I finished this book weeks ago and I cannot get it out of my head. The narrators, Lea and Anja, are two strong women with very distinct voices that I love. They are each searching for their own idea of quality of life and the meaning behind it. The concept of immortality is so fascinating, and the realistic, detailed dystopian future that Heng creates is seems entirely plausible. For instance, instead of the New York Stock Exchange people are similarly trading human organs. The idea of death is forbidden - the notion that looking at art or listening to music is taboo is unimaginable but makes total sense if you’re serious about a regimented, long life. This book begs the question is this life of immortality worth the sacrifices you need to make?

This beautiful book is thought-provoking and really makes you consider whether these type of science and medical advancements would be ideal for the future. The idea of genetically engineered humans walking the earth is a real brain teaser and a lot of fun to ponder. My only critique is wanting more: more world building, expansion on the suicide cult, and on the bionic aspect. But I’m in love with this book anyway. 339 If you could live forever . . . would you?

Oh man! This premise is such a fascinating one and makes an incredible story. It also raises some provocative questions about the human race, life, death and immortality. I always love it when an author is clever and creative enough to incorporate deeper topics into the narrative. I appreciate that sort of storyline - the ones that allow the exploration of big questions. I salute you for this brilliance, Ms Heng!

Suicide Club is a science fiction novel that is set in near-future USA. The population is in decline so to combat this people are strongly encouraged to live a super-healthy lifestyle and to get various different body enhancements and replacements. Those lucky enough to do these things are often able to live for over one-hundred years and are known as lifers. But those who aren't as fortunate live for under one-hundred years. As a result, they are classed and treated as second-class citizens and live and die just as us mortals do.

I think we can all agree that the concept is an intriguing one! I knew after reading the synopsis for the first time that I had to get my hands on a copy by whatever-means-necessary. The story follows two female characters through their deeply contrasting lives - Lea, a lifer, seems to have it all - A great job, a fiancee, and tries to live her life as close to perfection as possible - in order to do so she consults the governments directives. Then there's Anja, a classical violinist and who's mother is at death's door.

The contrast between the two main characters/protagonists is great and Heng is adept at developing her characters distinctive personalities. As the book progresses you get to know them both well. We learn about Lea and Anja's past experiences as they are relevant to the story that is being told here. Although the characters are a vital part of the book, I found that Suicide Club was definitely more concept-driven than anything else. I don't mind this and I don't blame Heng for writing it this way as the concept is such a magnetic one. As for the characters, they are all pretty unlikable in nature but I didn't mind that as it fit with the conceptual aspect of the book extremely well.

The pace of the book is fairly pedestrian and although this is the case throughout, there is plenty of intrigue to keep you reading and turning those pages right up until the finale. On the whole, I found it quite unpredictable which very much appealed to me. I was also pleasantly surprised that the writing was rather beautiful - Heng has a lovely style and I would definitely dive into another of her titles in the future. I don't think that this is touted as being part of a series but if that were the case I would have enjoyed the story continuing and developing further.

All in all, this is a well-executed and beautifully told story that I found pleasant to read. Maybe not as much as I would've liked but it was a great read nonetheless. What let it down a little was that it lacked the excitement necessary to make it unforgettable, I honestly don't know if it's likely i'll remember this book in a couple of months time. A slow-burning dystopian future that seems all too real (which is scary).

Many thanks to Sceptre for an ARC. I was not required to post a review and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 339

Content Warning: Animal Death, Violence, Graphic Internal  Body Descriptions

Living forever in a future society that helps restore your body sounds like a utopia. But in this future world people have to meet certain standards to be given the treatments they need to love forever. This book builds character development flawlessly. I was rooting for the main character Lea despite some of her very unlikable traits. Lea is a lifer who at the age of 100 is trying to extend her life and hopefully be apart of The Third Wave that will begin making people immortal. A wrench is thrown into her world when her estranged father Kaito comes back into her life. The book is a character study of how Lea and Kaito come to terms with their shared past and choices they make for the future.

The Suicide Club that Lea and Kaito find themselves caught up in are a group of people who are against being unable to choose when and how to die. In the club we meet characters who shun technology gone wrong when a person doesn't receive the right treatments their body may be kept alive for decades beyond when they are brain dead. The world building could have been better, but while reading I intimately got to witness what love, regret, and freedom mean in this future world. I was excited to keep reading and interested in the surprising ways this society maintained control.

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Characters Suicide Club

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. And Lea is an overachiever. 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 fiancé 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

Everything started going wrong after the Second Wave…They’d had the lifespan tests and predictive treatments for decades…but this was something different. The Second Wave, it was dubbed, when a whole raft of new Medtech measures were approved for mass distribution: first-generation SmartBloodTM, an early prototype of what would later become DiamondSkinTM, the first truly functional replacements. And with the new technologies, a whole host of new Directives, aimed at keeping the Ministry’s biggest investments—lifers—safe and healthy. The Second Wave. There would be immortals by the Third.

Rachel Heng’s Suicide Club reimagines a near-future America as a place where medical advancements have made immortality possible and where class lines are now redrawn by a new form of classism and ageism: the estimated length of your lifespan. Here, people are separated into groups, “lifers” and “sub-100s,” those who have the potential to live forever and those who do not. It’s a fresh and unique way to envision a new version of a system that we’re already so familiar with and to see it play out in a futurist narrative, but this novel fell flat for me in more ways than one.

Lea Kirino is a “lifer” who lives life by the rules. She maintains an ultra-healthy lifestyle to upkeep her biological upgrades, has a job she’s doing well at (trading organs on a new version of Wall Street), and has the perfect lifer fiancé. But, when she sees her father, who disappeared nearly ninety years before, her entire world is turned upside down, as he unwittingly leads her to the Suicide Club—a group of individuals intent on living and dying by their own rules.

The problem with this storyline, I must first point out, is that Sorry lol most of that was spoiler! This is literary, character-driven fiction, sure, but the characters didn't drive much of anything.

Heng’s Suicide Club offers up beautiful imagery, but it failed to move the story along. There are few things worse to a reader than pointless narrative that takes up space on the page simply for the sake of being pretty. I don’t know about you, but I like my narratives like I like my stilettos: pretty but still functional. But here the purple prose brimmed the pages, fluffed up like 80s hair, describing nothing that resonated or left a lasting impact. All the space of written nothingness could’ve been used to progress the actual plot. Such a wasted opportunity on the part of the author is such a source of ennui for me.

I also found all the characters in Suicide Club to be uninteresting and dull in that drained-of-color sort of way. I regularly confused the two female protagonists in my mind, because neither of their stories grabbed me and they both seemed overwhelmed by a kind of neurosis about their circumstances rather than actively trying to do something about it for much of the novel. They blended together in my mind because I wasn’t interested enough to notice or appreciate the subtle nuances of character differentiation between them—or because they hadn’t been effectively imagined and presented on the page. Either way, Suicide Club did not live up to my expectations, a real shame, because it was my first foray into anything resembling Sci-Fi in quite a long while. 3 stars ***

**I received an advance-read copy of this book from the publisher, Henry Holt and Co., via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.**


Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram | Get a Copy of My Book | Book Editing, Author Coaching, Submit Your Book to Me 339 Suicide Club is a book full of brilliant concepts that never develop into a convincing or engaging narrative. It's a speculative novel set in a near-future New York society in which death is illegal and the pursuit of immortality is all-consuming. 100-year-old Lea Kirino is a model citizen; she has a high-level job on the New York exchange, which now deals in trading human organs, she has a genetically beautiful fiancé, and she's being considered for a promotion. But things change for Lea when she spots her estranged, fugitive father for the first time in 88 years, and she comes in contact with a group called the Suicide Club, which advocates for the right for everyone to live and die on their own terms.

So it pretty much goes without saying that this is a fantastic premise; where Suicide Club falls apart is in the execution. It starts out on a promising enough note - the worldbuilding at first seems impressive, and Rachel Heng does a good job of integrating her new terminology into the narrative so that it doesn't overwhelm. It's not until you get a decent amount of the way in that numerous holes begin to develop - and it's not so much in the nitty-gritty details as it is in the overarching concept. If society is still comprised of so many sub-100s (people with a 'normal' lifespan), how has death become such a cultural taboo? And why don't these groups revolt against those in power to gain access to their technology? Why is Lea so closely monitored for a supposed suicide attempt after she's hit by a car; does no one ever have a genuine accident in this society? In some ways this reminded me of Felicia Yap's Yesterday, another underwhelming speculative novel whose premise falls to pieces if you look too closely.

But the biggest problem with this book was the protagonist, Lea. I don't even know where to begin. I was sort of buddy reading this with my friend Hannah, who at one point said that the only logical explanation she would accept for Lea's behavior was if she were revealed to be an alien at the end of the book. Spoiler alert: she isn't. But I think that just about sums it up. Even though Lea has a lifespan of 200-300 years (so she's technically only middle aged), she's still 100-years-old, so you'd think we'd see some wisdom and life experience occasionally reflected in her behavior. Instead, she is the world's most wooden, immature, simple-minded character, who makes the most incomprehensible decisions and shows absolutely zero critical thinking skills. This would be convincing characterization for an 11-year-old girl; not a 100-year-old New York businesswoman. Her backstory too is laughably incongruous with her characterization, and her character development is hackneyed and unrealistic. Despite the questionable worldbuilding and positively dull narrative, I think this book could have been saved if we'd been focusing on someone other than Lea.

Which brings my to my next point, which is that we follow another character for a few chapters, Anja, a Swedish immigrant living in New York with her mother who is being kept alive in a vegetative state. Anja is vulnerable, complex, sympathetic - everything I hoped Lea would be - and it makes no sense to me why we follow Lea's journey so closely at the expense of Anja's. The split between their chapters is probably 70/30 in Lea's favor, which makes me wonder how Lea can come across as so under-developed when she has more than twice the narrative that Anja has.

So all in all, a disappointment. But it's worth noting that this is a debut novel, and a rather ambitious one at that. The writing itself was solid, and again, the premise was brilliant, so I think Rachel Heng shows promise. I'll be interested to see where she goes from here - though hopefully it's somewhere with a more convincing and sympathetic protagonist.

Thank you to Netgalley, Henry Holt, and Rachel Heng for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review. 339 I found the first 20 pages unengaging but later found myself reading half of this novel in one sitting.

The idea of the novel was interesting but it could have been fleshed out a bit more. Additionally I did not like the main character much and Liked Anja more. 339 An interesting concept, but much of how this society operates is overstated and exaggerated, like a Black Mirror episode without the subtlety. There doesn't appear to be a strong message that the book advocates for or interesting questions beyond what the typical dystopian story asks. I also found it odd that the protagonist is clearly portrayed as a flawed character who isn't a good person, yet we are somehow supposed to sympathize with her. Overall, the characters are very dull, which tempers down the emotional resonance of the ending, and the themes explored are cookie-cutter dystopian with underdeveloped world-building. 339 This book has such a brilliant premise: in this future, immortality is within grasp, but only for those 'deserving' and as such suicide is illegal, anything that might be construed as bad for your health is illegal in fact. I found this idea of preservation of life being the most important thing even before individual happiness and fulfillment so very very brilliant. But I struggled with the execution to no end.

I did think that the world Rachel Heng has created here is interesting and developed in such a way that it never felt info-dumpy. But once you start pulling at the threads it does not really make sense. Innovation has led to a world where organs are augmented, skin can be built to be near indestructible, and science has found out the best ways to life long and healthy lives - but at the same time there are people who will not receive those treatments and it never did become clear to me how that works - I would have liked to have this dichotomy explored more: how is decided whose life if worthy enough to make their suicide illegal? There are infinite possibilities to make this a strong indictment on our current society and I would have loved the book more for it. There were other things that did not make sense for me: it never becomes clear how much in the future we are and as such I did not buy the fundamental changes in education that have occurred. It is a plot point that only those who have long life-spans can become medical doctors because the education takes 40 years - and I don't buy that. Why would anybody have to study for 40 years to be a good doctor? I don't think education would change this fundamentally. It irked me especially because I think another explanation would have worked far better: medical degrees are expensive, amongst the most expensive in fact (when considering how much a single student costs universities), so why not make the exclusion of people with shorter life spans about this?

My biggest issue, by far, was the main character, Lea. I found her to be less than convincing and unpleasant to spend time with. She is 100 years old and even if that is young in the scheme of her potential life span she is still more than three times as old as I am but she felt like she was 20, tops. I did not get her and the weird back story she had did not work for me either. She never felt her age and never felt like a person. I had this whole elaborate theory in fact that she might actually not be human because this would be the only way her behaviour makes any sense. Also, a petty problem I had with her: she kept sweating behind her knees whenever she was uncomfortable and if that doesn't scream 'weirdly programmed robot' then I don't know (I am sorry if I am the weird one and everybody is in fact sweating behind their knees).

The second main character, Anja, was so much more interesting and if the book had been told from her perspective I would have enjoyed it a whole lot more. Her mother was one of those whose bodies were used to test new procedures and now her heart keeps going even though she is brain-dead but she is not allowed to die because life is precious even though she might be stuck and suffering. This is such a creepy, brilliant concept that I would have loved to have seen explored more. But we spend so much more time with Lea than with Anja that this could not save the book for me.

So yes, I struggled with this, and I am super disappointed because the bones of this story are so brilliant.

I received an arc of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton in exchange for an honest review. 339