Matador Review

A Quarterly Missive of Alternative Concern

everything belongs to the future by laurie penny

reviewed by jim hepplewhite


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"We were never really friends, were we?" 

Thus opens Everything Belongs To The Future, a work of nearish future science fiction that feels strangely like something much older than its publication date. The author, Laurie Penny, is a well regarded leftist critic and political columnist for The Guardian and New Statesman. Everything Belongs To The Future is Ms. Penny's first fiction work that I'm aware of.

First things first: It's good.

Second: It's also brutally short. Maybe a bit too short, but that's when you know you've done something right. Everything Belongs To The Future is an ideal pocketbook at one hundred pages long. In 2016, however, it'll get put on a Kindle backlog and hopefully read. Everything Belongs To The Future can go into the SF/F sections of used bookstores proudly, a weird compliment, but I mean it's vivid and gets out quick.

"The fix. Free to those who could afford it, courtesy of our generous sponsors."

Where the book moves beyond "can hang" and into "worth your investigation" is the pivot, or attention to the effect of increased lifespan on women's bodies and also the prejudices that accompany the male gaze projected onto women's bodies. Case in point, a ninety-sigh year old inventor of the pill, Daisy Craver, chooses to look like a fourteen year old girl. Ms. Penny's got the rub, though:

"Plenty of people might like the idea of an eternal fourteen-year-old, but they changed their tune when they met her, all gangly limbs and acne scars and flashes of anger"

Regarding the plot: Dial House (not The Dial House, but a nameless, unremarkable squat in its image) vs. Oxford University (the Oxford University) regarding the manufacture of lifespan increasing prescription drugs. Aside from an immersion breaking use of a trans man that evokes professional shitposter Milo Yiannopoulos, Ms. Penny's story is frictionless in the manner that a thriller ought to be. I had to know what happened next, and paused to stop reading only when I realized I needed to grab dinner, which I ate standing up because I needed to get right back to the end of the novella.

"What do we want, Daisy? What did we ever want?
More time.
Of course, we never needed chemical intervention for that. We just need permission to live.
Most of us never get to simply pass time. Instead we're made to spend it. We spend time, and the value of our seconds, minutes and moments depreciates with every week and month and year that passes. Time broken up into billable units and never enough of them."

Perhaps this exposes my limited reading, but 30 pages in I thought of Lauren Beukes' Moxyland. Both authors worked in journalism, and their first novels are dystopias featuring impregnable corporations with a new drug and the women who resist them. But also? I like Moxyland and both Ms. Beukes and Ms. Penny know when to deploy a stark sentence or a vicious rhetorical question.

I finished Everything Belongs To The Future and immediately wanted my friends to read it. SF/F (and fiction generally) is lousy with works that are About Some Shit, and Everything Belongs To The Future is another strong entry in that tradition. I think you'll like it.