“This sunroof is where I have greeted the day for a year. I’m an ocean away from the job I have dutifully served since college in Taipei, Taiwan, providing logistical support to Chinese separatists, part of California’s covert Cary Grant Brigade. Life has been different for some since China succeeded and the U.S. lost the scramble for the world’s last oil supplies – but not for me. I’m still broke.”
It’s 2046, and struggling LaLaLander journalist Richard “Dick” White is living a bohemian existence on the edges of a Venice, CA, not much different from our own. Except that California and the Western States seceded after the government didn’t provide relief after the great Earthquake of 2026, and the region is now more prosperous than the rest of the country.
“Out of the rubble of the 2026 Coastal Earthquake, California has fared better in many ways than either its China or U.S. rivals, with cities like Los Angeles emerging as a true hope for the future. L.A. is supposedly transforming into an urban paradise where the chaotic and exploitative economic relationships of the past are being overhauled by a political movement based on environmental and economic justice. Or so our leaders claim.”
But into this utopia, a darkness has crept: an addictive drug called Euphoria that promises to keep its users young and beautiful for longer than a normal lifespan. Coveted by many, available to few, it is a drug that has just claimed the wife of a prominent District Attorney.
And while White is only looking for his next story, his next party, the next partner, he finds himself enlisted in a mission: find a cure for the Euphoria addiction and expose the biggest lie of all… its true purpose.
Author Ryan Hyatt has done a pretty nifty sleight-of-hand with this book. Initially setting it up as a sci-fi thriller with ecological undertones, he swiftly shifts into a hard-boiled detective story while still maintaining his razor-sharp eye for political conditions only a few steps removed from our current ones. His deft world building sets up a reality not that much different from our own [the current world, pushed just a few degrees to the extreme (“The Sovereign State of California,” The Eco-Socialist New Democratic Party are both particularly apt…)].
It’s always been a by-product of good sci-fi to comment on the current world, and Hyatt takes that task and runs hard with it, commenting on politics, human nature, greed, eco-socialism, sociology and sexuality, all the while keeping the story brisk and interesting.
I can’t help but thinking of William Gibson’s cyberpunk novels when reading this. Both have that same sense of a world not too far from our own, but Hyatt also infuses his novel with the sensibilities of a Chuck Palahniuk fever dream, then twists it back into something pulpy and period. You can imagine Raymond Chandler writing this book after a viewing of The Matrix and a hit of Mescaline.
If you’re comfortable with such unique genre-meshing, you’d do well to pick up Stay Younger Longer. It’s both a great summer read and a potentially chilling version of the future we face every day.
VERDICT: FIVE Gravity-Resistant Surfboards out of FIVE