(**I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)
In this richly imagined dystopic future brought by global warming, seventeen-year-old Nat and her hacker brother Sam have come by ship to the Big Island of Hawaii for their parents’ Final Week. The few Americans who still live well also live long—so long that older adults bow out not by natural means but by buying death contracts from the corporates who now run the disintegrating society by keeping the people happy through a constant diet of “pharma.” Nat’s family is spending their pharma-guided last week at a luxury resort complex called the Twilight Island Acropolis.
Deeply conflicted about her parents’ decision, Nat spends her time keeping a record of everything her family does in the company-supplied diary that came in the hotel’s care package. While Nat attempts to come to terms with her impending parentless future, Sam begins to discover cracks in the corporates’ agenda and eventually rebels against the company his parents have hired to handle their last days. Nat has to choose a side. Does she let her parents go gently into that good night, or does she turn against the system and try to break them out?
But the deck is stacked against Nat and Sam: in this oppressive environment, water and food are scarce, mass human migrations are constant, and new babies are illegal. As the week nears its end, Nat rushes to protect herself and her younger brother from the corporates while also forging a path toward a future that offers the hope of redemption for humanity. This page-turning first YA novel by critically acclaimed author Lydia Millet is stylish and dark and yet deeply hopeful, bringing Millet’s characteristic humor and style to a new generation of young readers.
Pills and Starships is a fascinating read that constantly keeps you thinking about the world we live in and the future we are headed towards.
Right from the beginning, I was intrigued with Nat’s story. The book begins with Nat’s family starting their final vacation together – the vacation that her parents have chosen to enjoy in Hawaii for their last week of life. Nat is given a journal to use as an outlet; as a result, her whole experience is jotted down for you and I, which I found pretty cool. Throughout the book, Nat acknowledges that she has (or will have) an audience. I’ve read a handful of books that also recognize the reader; here, the author does it in a way that aids the story. Nat tells her story, without always doing the actual telling (if that makes sense).
As a person, I think Nat was alright. She’s nice and caring, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think she has much of a backbone. Even though Nat is sixteen, she is Sam’s older sister. Throughout the book, Sam is the independent character; he is the one who holds his own weight and discovers things for his own. I liked Sam, even though he comes off as obnoxious sometimes. I like Nat also, but she follows Sam too quickly instead of really thinking things out for her own sake.
To continue, the plot of Pills and Starships is very intriguing. Can you imagine a future in which people chose their death dates? It’s depressing and cool at the same time. At first, I thought all of the different pills used in the story would be over done; it’s not. It’s scary to imagine people under the influence of something all of the time instead of experiencing the world through their own senses. I think Millet does a great job at creating a futuristic dystopia that differs from other fiction books out there.
Another thing I liked about this book is that there is little romance. There’s enough that most readers can empathize with Nat, but nowhere enough to drive the plot.
In the end, I enjoyed Pills and Starships. I’m not going to lie, it’s not my favorite book; it is a decent read though, for anyone who enjoys dystopias. Not only that, but it’s a good dystopia published by a lesser known company, Akashic books. I suggest you check it out!