Title: Suicide Club
Author: Rachel Heng
Release date: March 21st 2019
Star rating: 2.5/5
Purchase: Book Depository (Affiliate Link)
Thank you so much to Sceptre for sending me a copy of Suicide Club for free in exchange for this review, which is honest, unbiased and in no way affected by how I received this book.
This review may contain minor spoilers for the book, but only for the purpose of illustrating my viewpoint.
Summary (Taken from Goodreads)
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.
When Sceptre reached out to me to review Suicide Club, I was immediately intrigued. Set in a world where immortality is within reach and doing anything that’s bad for your health is frowned upon and illegal (and therefore, suicide is also illegal), I knew this was a story I wanted to get my hands on. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting in terms of execution, and maybe in hindsight, I wasn’t the best reviewer/reader for it, having (at times) to struggle and push my way through it, but I managed.
While I enjoyed reading through Lea’s eyes her perspective on this seemingly bizarre and strange world – where all anyone cares about is being healthy and workworkworkwork – I didn’t really connect to Lea herself. We were told that she looked no older than fifty (but in reality was 100 years old), but it didn’t really feel like she had an age. I don’t really know how else to describe it other than that. Sure, we were given physical descriptions of her, but I found Lea particularly hard to picture. She didn’t act like any age at all, whether that be twenty or fifty or a hundred. I don’t feel like we got to know her very well, besides the little bits of backstory we got about her mother, father and brother, the latter of which died of cancer and was a sub one-hundred (meaning he didn’t make it to 100 years old).
The second female protagonist, Anja, was more interesting than Lea, but her scenes still weren’t enough to justify a higher rating. Anja is a Swedish immigrant violinist living with her ill mother. If Suicide Club had been written solely from Anja’s POV, my thoughts might be a little different (and perhaps more positive, given the fact that Anja is much more of a character than cardboard-Lea ended up being), but alas this was not the case. I’m intrigued as to why Heng chose to centre the book more on Lea instead of Anja (with about a 70/30 perspective split, with Lea on the receiving end of the most chapters) when Anja would have likely made Suicide Club much more of an interesting story.
I found Heng’s writing to be slow in pace, but her imagery vivid and writing engrossing. Because of this, I often found myself skim-reading sections of the book, bypassing Heng’s impressive prose, eagerly awaiting the next exciting plot point and increase in pace, that ultimately never came. This being said, I would be more than happy to pick up any of Heng’s future works, if only to read more of her beautiful writing, and to see if her pacing increases (or if she is simply a writer with slow pace, which some writers are!)
One of the most – shall I say annoying and misleading – aspects about this book is that unfortunately, the titular Suicide Club doesn’t make its grand appearance until much later in the book than I had been anticipating. It’s hinted at a couple times earlier on, but Lea doesn’t begin to have much involvement with the group until nearer the end. Don’t get me wrong, an author is by all means entitled to introduce plot points whenever they see fit to, I was just expecting the introduction of this oh-so-mysterious group a little earlier on, given it’s the title of the book itself and what I can imagine readers look forward to experiencing the most (and likely why they pick it up in the first place).
I ended up wanting to read this book in an attempt to broaden my reading horizons, venture a little into sci-fi and make my way back to the dystopian genre I loved long ago. Unfortunately, what we got was a brilliant premise in a – in my personal opinion – poorly executed way, with pacing that was too slow for my preference, and characters that I just couldn’t connect with. As I mentioned earlier in this mini review, in hindsight I probably wasn’t this book’s target audience and therefore not the right reviewer for it either, but I was expecting more from Suicide Club than what I got. However, if science fiction or dystopian is up your alley, I’d definitely recommend giving it a try.
Once again, thank you to Sceptre for sending a copy of Suicide Club my way; I will be sure to pass it on to a fellow reader who will enjoy it a lot more than I did!