Sunday, March 25, 2012
The Forever Formula
The Forever Formula / Frank Bonham
New York: Scholastic, c1979.
I recall reading this book in junior high over and over, and recommending it to my friends who all read it and then thought I was crazy for liking it since it didn't make any sense. But that was part of what I loved about it...I didn't really get it, and knew there was something there that I was missing and if only I read it often enough I might just understand.
Well, I was thinking about it recently so decided to find a copy via the magic of Interlibrary Loan. And so I reread it after many years. There were parts I remembered clearly, and parts that I'd completely forgotten. This time, I feel that I did understand it all, and that I even disagreed with some of its assumptions, but I still really liked it. It held up to a reread -- unlike some of the childhood favourites I've tried rereading.
It opens in the year 2164, as Evan Clark is waking up from a cryogenic sleep of 180 years. He is in a high security hospital, as the governing party wants to pick his brains -- literally. He is the son of a scientist who discovered, in the 1980's, a drug to keep people alive indefinitely. The human lifespan is almost limitless in this new world -- but the aging process doesn't stop. Evan's father discovered a way to turn back aging but destroyed the formula, fearing its social consequences. Now they want to scrape Evan's memories to find out how to synthesize the drug.
The world of the future isn't so rosy, however. The very old, called Guppies due to their physical appearance, own everything -- the nice parts of town, the best air (domes), the best living spaces, food, activities, and so on. Juvies (those under 60 or so) are planning an uprising to get rid of the excess aged population and their iron hand on government. Evan gets caught up in the middle of all this politicking, along with his pretty nurse Eliza (a clone, as are all nurses). He is trying to adjust to the idea that he's been frozen for 180 years, never mind grasping the nuances of the political situation. Adventure, action, treachery, spying, daring escapes, epidemics, and true love all follow. While it is a bit 70's in its gender roles, and ends a bit too quickly and conveniently, it is still an entertaining read, and one that offers a lot of discussion points considering our current environmental and economic situation. Lots of parallels and divergences to talk about in light of where our world is heading, I think. I'd definitely recommend this one as still very readable, and still somehow mysterious.