Technology is the magic of the future. The wand and magic spells have been replaced by screens that can pop up virtually anywhere and simulations that can bring your dream man right into your living room. There is no need for cash, as money flies right out of your account when you’re wearing your “system”. If you think social media has brought about the loss of privacy you have no idea how accurate that is and how hard is to have a moment when nobody is watching. No need to learn spells and magic formulas like Harry Potter. No, it’s way easier than that. And less complicated.
I had my doubts about getting this book. The title is quite catchy, and the cover art even more so – the book does get a bonus point for that, but science fiction is rarely a genre I pick up on my own. Still, after reading Carl’s review, I decided to give it a try. We should get out of our comfort zone sometimes, right?
The story begins in 2103 in a dating center where Mira, a woman who’s been dead for eighty years, is revived for a few minutes to speak to a potential husband. The future has brought about the marvel of revival, where people with a generous insurance or attractive enough can be brought back from the dead. The Bridesicle program is a special section of this “experiment” and wealthy men can pay for the revival and reconstruction (that sounds awful but accurate, given the extensive physical damage some of the women had sustained) of a woman, in exchange for a lifetime marriage contract. A very disturbing version of Sleeping Beauty, except that Prince Charming is neither young nor charming but obscenely rich.
The story revolves around Mira and another woman, Winter, who also ends up in the Bridesicle program. Rob, the man who killed her by accident, is consumed by guilt and decides to visit her as often as possible, which is not a very easy thing to do as only a few minutes worth of conversation with a revived woman costs several thousand dollars. In order to get the money he has to give up his dream, move back in with his father and work a menial job – a big change from his former lifestyle.
I liked the small number of characters that inhabited the story. Each one of them feels real enough to evoke sympathy, even the attention-seeking Lorelei, who lives entirely for her social media ratings. The small cast of characters include Veronika, a shy dating coach with a not-so-secret crush, Lycan, a brilliant scientist but socially awkward, Nathan, the handsome guy who falls in love with the wrong person, and Rob, the young man whose one reckless act makes him reconsider his lifestyle. There is also Sunali, a former bridesicle who fights to change the rules of the facility that runs the Bridesicle program.
It was a weird experience reading this book. Not only because it depicts a very technologically driven world but also because it’s described in such a way as to make it very plausible. Technology had made so many wonderful things possible – traveling for example, and extending one’s life, but it has also altered the real world with the aid of virtual simulations. Imagine walking in a dilapidated old neighborhood and with just a touch being able to change the landscape, the smell, even the sounds – all this made me think of a pretty bandage over an infected wound.
The language is appropriately futuristic, from acronyms to the name given to people who have chosen to live without technology – raw-lifers they are called – but the story offers only a glimpse into what that means. It would have been interesting to see the world through their perspective.
In spite of the technological background, people’s emotions manage to shine through and the events force the protagonists of the story to reevaluate their lives. Some of them even manage to find a measure of happiness, while others are content to live a life that has more in common with a soap opera. It’s disturbing how close this feels to a near future. It made me think of the choices we have and the paths we decide to take in life. Would people accept to be frozen in case of an accident or illness, so they can be revived in the future by someone who would have entire control over their lives? Is it worth living a hundred and twenty five years in an artificial world? Is it worth living a life without privacy for a fleeting moment of fame?
I based my rating on the emotional rather than literary merit of the story. While the idea the book is based on is surprising and intriguing (not sure how original, but it certainly feels special) it made me feel sad, faintly repelled by it all, and not even the less bleak and quite abrupt ending managed to dispel that.
*Read in February-March 2014