3 out of 4 stars
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John Fitzpatrick, a retired FBI agent, has just buried his wife after she lost her battle with cancer. Little does he know that she will be one of the very last people ever to die of natural causes. Suddenly all around him, the rates of illness and death begin plummeting, ceasing altogether within a few months. In addition, people over the age of 30 suddenly begin aging backward, feeling and looking younger than they have in years. At the same time, everyone on the planet suddenly becomes infertile, meaning that the people alive during what eventually becomes known as The Event will be the same people on the planet forever.
The Event causes mixed emotions among people, as the joy of no longer having to face aging and death clashes with the grief of never having or even seeing children again. Those with jobs in education and healthcare are suddenly unemployed. The world plunges into a period of economic depression and war. John, who has always been a premier investigator, wonders what has caused The Event and is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. Now that he’s aging backward, he can reclaim his old investigative job and try to identify what or who is at fault for this catastrophic change. The investigation will consume him for over 300 years.
Atropos by John Japuntich is a dystopian science-fiction novel that examines what would happen if people suddenly lived forever. Would they turn to science, religion, or war? How would governments work? What would happen to family structures when marriages are now eternal and there is no hope of having children? Rather than leaving an environmental mess for future generations, would people finally work to come into harmony with their planet? What sort of advancements to technology would be possible if the whole planet worked together? The timeline of the book spans over 300 years and gives answers to all of these questions.
I enjoyed the worldbuilding in this novel. The technological advances were interesting and believable, from the Takahashi Industries Cerebral Interface (TICI) implant, connecting human brains directly to the internet, to the space elevator, able to take humans up to a space station at a more economical expense than launching space shuttles. Exploring space and finding other habitable planets moved to the front of the world’s agenda. There was a lot of thought put into the way industries would change after The Event and how human governments and organizations would reform. The geography of the world itself also altered based on the new needs of its citizens, with new areas of the world moving to the forefront and different types of travel making the globe feel smaller than it did before.
The plot moved quickly, and there was always a new challenge to overcome. Many new characters were introduced along the way to portray different effects of The Event on the world. It almost felt like there were several mini-stories within the novel to go along with the overarching mystery of John’s investigation into the source of The Event. Although this kept the book interesting action-wise, I felt that this style was detrimental to character development. Because there were so many characters popping in and out of the book, it was very difficult to get emotionally attached to anyone. Even at the end of the story, I didn’t feel like I really knew any of the characters that well.
Overall, I enjoyed the book. I noticed a few errors, but they did not distract from the plot. I was always wondering what would happen next as the pages turned and the years passed. I rate Atropos 3 out of 4 stars. If I had been able to really connect with some of the characters, I think it would have been a four-star book. I would recommend this book to those who enjoy science-fiction and dystopian themes, particularly if they are interested in the effects of AI on society.
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