If you’re a boomer and this book doesn’t send a chill up your spine, you’d better check your pulse. I don’t want to give too much away but it’s no spoiler to say that Claude Nougat’s Forever Young series takes place about 200 years from now. Unlike so many stories set in the future, Ms. Nougat creates a very plausible future. Too plausible. Scarily plausible.
The changes that have taken place on the globe sound eerily prophetic. It’s hard to single out a protagonist. Forever Young is comprised of an ensemble cast, each with conflicting interests. They are all faced with the choice of whether to remain forever young for a hundred or more years or receive a billion dollars.
Thrown into the mix is a quest for true love, family bonds, greed, sculduggery, duplicity, and humans basically behaving at their worst. In other words, some things never change despite all the glittering marvels science can bestow upon us. Ms. Nougat creates characters that jump off the page at you. Her dialogue is so razor sharp you find yourself sometimes saying “Ouch!” The climax is as hair raising as an old west shoot out. Is there humor? Oh yes, and it’s dark as molasses and just as tasty. You’ll be tempted to lick it right off the page.
As a reader, when I pick up a new book, I want to feel like a mail sack on a railway platform waiting for a speeding train to snatch me away to a new destination. That’s just what Claude Nougat does with this first book in her Forever Young series, Gateway To Forever.
It’s always comforting to be in the hands of a real pro. Ms. Nougat certainly is that. Highly recommended read.
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I interviewed the lovely Claude this week, and she was also kind enough to send me a gift coupon, so I could read and review her omnibus, Forever Young, ahead of her UK promotion.
Forever Young immediately put me in mind of J.K. Accinni's Species Intervention series, albeit without the alien intervention. Featuring a world very much like our own, Forever Young has the added dilemma of a rapidly decaying planet. The elite, known as the One Percenters, can become members of the exclusive Age Prevention Program, which not only allows them to live longer, but also to remain young and beautiful until the end.
Only two options are available to escape the inevitable extinction of human life: one, to take the "Immortality Trip" to another planet, reminiscent of Earth before industrialisation. The other option is to retreat to Antarctica, the last place on Earth relatively free from pollution. But with the first option only reserved for One Percenters, and the second in the hands of Gary Trude XIII, a Hiterlian-style autocrat, the human race is running out of possibilities, and time.
A fascinating concept, Nougat provides beautifully-written science fiction, with enough reality to scare the hell out of us.
Interview can be found here: http://www.readwave.com/ask-the-author-claude-nougat_s56145
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Sometimes you arrive at a book where you glance up from the page and look around to check out what your actual reality is. This is such a book. Yes - it is a story of greed, selfishness, love, sex, ambition, goodness et al. It is all the things that we are. What is different is that it is just a little closer to the horizon of future than us right now. But - not so far that we are disconnected. I felt that I was in the back carriage of a speeding train. If I chose I could just walk along the corridor and be there. Why bother, we're all going to the same place? The premise is of a world divided into a fabulously rich elite class of ever beautiful people and the rest - the merely mortal poor majority. Does this sound familiar guys? Yes - this is our train. We are on it. Our world is choking itself with its industrial pollution. Well - what else makes the wealth? The narrative follows a number of characters as the elite seek ways to use their wealth to cheat the reaper's scythe. This story makes a thumping good read as if it were a detective tale or a romance. Beyond this framework of human foible lurks the cold interrogator of reason. What is the morality of wealth? What is the nature of time, individualized consciousness and the universe? The clever thing in this book is that the author offers no didactic guide. She shrugs because this is how it is. You decide. In the story the elite are remarkably shallow. Those beneath them are of little account. In their blisstopian bubble their own desires and ambitions are paramount. They represent a class of man one can only think of as an hereditary meritocracy. Who needs Kant when you have golf? This is a stimulating book that can be addressed on many levels. Once you have read it the digestion begins with the next News bulletin, celebrity sports interview, medical breakthrough, IMF pronouncement and on and on. This is a book from an old style intellectual writer, a painter and poet. She's on the same train and looking up the tracks where we're all headed.
Some time ago I read Nougat’s short story compilation Death on Facebook, Short Stories for the Digital Age and was impressed with the range of stories and the skill with which they were presented. One that caught my imagination was I will not leave you behind, the futuristic story of a 122 year old woman who is part of an elite program that keeps you young until you die. In FOREVER YOUNG Nougat has taken that short story and woven its premise into a four-part series of short novels I enjoyed reading very much. The over-arching theme is the approaching doom of Earth from climate change. The story is set 200 years into the future and what becomes apparent very quickly is that humankind never did learn the lessons of what it would take to save the planet. Everyone, including big business, is still only concerned with the present and what they can get out of it for themselves. People are still divided into the have’s and have not’s, only now the have’s—called the OnePercenters—can afford to have old-age and illness permanently eliminated right up until death, whereas the have not’s—the 99PerCenters—continue to struggle as we struggle in this day and age. The story and struggle is told through three characters who all aspire to be a OnePercenter, highlighting the fact that even in Earth’s extremis we’re still only concerned with what advantages we can garner for ourselves. You can come away from reading this series feeling a great despair for where we’re heading. The alternatives that the author presents, that of leaving Earth to inhabit a new planet and starting again, or remaining and hoping Earth regenerates itself, are stark contrasts. A thought-provoking, confronting read.
If you're a boomer and this book doesn't send a chill up your spine, you'd better check your pulse. I don't want to give too much away because "Gateway To Forever" is filled with surprising twists and turns. It's no spoiler to say that the story takes place about 200 years in the future. Unlike so many stories set in the future, Ms. Nougat creates a very plausible future. Too plausible. Scarily plausible. At first we are envious of Emma, the protagonist, until she is suddenly confronted with her own mortality in much the same way a speeding out of control race car is confronted with a concrete wall. And she takes the reader right along with her. The story moves at a breathtaking pace. As a reader, when I pick up a new book, I want to feel like a mail sack on a railway platform waiting for a speeding train to snatch me away to a new destination. That's just what Claude Nougat does with this first in a series of three "Forever Young" books. Thoroughly enjoyable read. Highly recommended.