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Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Last Exit by Michael Kaufman review

Crooked Lane Books (January 12, 2021); 

Official Author Website

Order The Last Exit 

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Michael Kaufman, PhD, is a writer of both fiction and non-fiction books. As an advisor, activist, and keynote speaker, he has developed innovative approaches to engage men and boys in promoting gender equality and positively transforming men's lives. Over the past four decades his work with the United Nations, governments, non-governmental organizations, corporations, trade unions, and universities has taken him to fifty countries.


OVERVIEW: With The Last Exit, Kaufman opens a new series I plan to follow. With its great pacing and inventive worldbuilding, it offers plenty of thrills for fans of thrillers and near-future (2030s) sci-fi.

Climate change has hit hard, unemployment rates skyrocketed and the smoke from burning forests chokes Washington DC and its inhabitants. LSD is legal and men can give birth. Cool. Miami Beach no longer exists. Uncool. The rich can afford a special treatment and become Timeless - prolong their lives for decades and keep great shape. 

Meanwhile, a virus is killing off large numbers of middle-aged people. 

The government responds to it with breathtaking cynicism: anyone can use a preventative treatment as long as their parents voluntarily “exit” (euthanasia) when they reach 65. The plot revolves around this policy and themes of social justice (and injustice) but it doesn’t feel preachy. 

Detective Jennifer Lu has an organic AI implant, Chandler, that links her to the Internet and police records. It also chats with her and accompanies her on service as a constant voice inside her head. Chandler is also one of POV’s and his first-person narration of the events was my favorite part of the book (his sense of humor and efforts to understand humans won me over). In theory, the duo should focus on investigating kids forcing their aging parents to “exit”. Instead, they discover a conspiracy. The epidemic might’ve been deliberately engineered to sell a counterfeit treatment. 

The Last Exit tackles themes of social stratification (ultra-rich live by a different set of rules; some children are more than happy to see their parents die just to prolong their own lives), but it also entertains. The plotting is fast and deft, the voices of protagonists are varied and convincing, and while Jen feels familiar, her dedication to truth resonates throughout the book. She risks everything to solve the case, but ultimately she has friends ready to help her. Her banter and relationship with Chandler are great. Her traumatic past (involving an abusive mother now suffering from dementia) and everyday struggles make her relatable. 

All things said, I had great fun reading it. The story works as a standalone, but it’s marked as the opening of the series. I hope I’ll see Jen and Chandler in action soon. 

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