The Age of the Conglomerates: A Novel of the Future
by Thomas Nevins
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Ballantine Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780375503917
Date: 19 August 2008 List Price $14.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Logan's Run meets 1984 in a not so Brave New World. Maybe that is an oversimplification, but it is the first comparison that came to me as I read this story of companies run amok. This future dystopia is an examination of who we are and what we value.
The U.S. is bankrupt. An aging and longer living population is straining society. In come the Corporations. They convince the government to outsource and mandate eldercare. Once a person reaches their 80's they get forcibly shipped to Arizona. It isn't just the coots that the conglomerates take care of; people can have their undesirable children removed as well.
The conglomerates have promised perfect children. They use gene therapy to enhance children and make them more than they could ever be. If the initial therapy doesn't work, the child can be sent back for replacement. The children sent away become dyscards. Dyscards are sent to live in the New York subway system, to survive or die. The conglomerates true hope was that they would just die and go away, but things don't go as planned.
This is the world that the Salter family lives in. The grand parents have been sent to Arizona so that their daughter can reap the benefits of their lives. She also dyscards one of her daughters so that she can start a new life. Her other daughter, works for the conglomerates in the gene therapy clinic. While one doctor tries to restore nature; an aging chairman of the conglomerates fears the end of his life and wants rejuvenation. As their stories intertwine, their world will change forever.
Although Age of Conglomerates hits on the themes of the stories it emulates, it never quite reaches the same level. This doesn't mean that it is a bad story. In fact it is entertaining. The author mixes some of our current concerns with an outcome that is achievable by unadulterated capitalism. The outcome is not a world we would want to live in. The conglomerations have started by removing the oldest, but one can easily see a time when the age would be reduced and any person who did not fit into society would then be shipped to Arizona or dyscarded.
In truth, this world scares me a little as I can see how a few seemingly logical measures leads to a youthful eugenic world. It can serve as a warning to our own society. One, don't try to do too much. Two, don't just throw away something when it doesn't do exactly what you want. Three, be careful what you wish for, it may come back to bite you.