Thursday 19 July 2012

Take The Death Trip...

 Marion Stein's Loisaida - A New York Story was one of my favourite novels of last year - The Death Trip is a novella and a very different beast to it's predecessor.

The Death Trip is a more tightly focussed story than the cast-of-thousands Loisaida and unlike that book's unflinching realism and period detail (being set in the 80s Lower East Side) this one introduces a sci-fi, almost metaphoric element - the titular Death Trip. This is a new drug that is used to ease the suffering of terminally ill patients, by taking it they enter an unconscious state that feels like years spent living in their own version of paradise, but in fact takes place in minutes before the person dies.

The central character is investigating the drug and the corporation that manufacturers and administers it, and Stein uses the drugs existence as a starting point to throw lots of ideas into the mix. And this is very much a novel of ideas, and if the thought of characters debating ethics and ideas puts you off a book then this isn't for you (although there's plenty of intrigue, spot on characterisation, and even some romance too). Stein creates a pleasant moral ambiguity around proceedings - the question of whether The Death Trip drug really is a miracle or something sinister is left tantalisingly unclear. As such this is a book that requires some intellectual investment from the reader - I was reading this whilst the Tony Nicklinson right to die debate was in the press, and that very much coloured my response.

Fortunately whilst it might be up in the air about whether The Death Trip drug is good or bad, there's no such debate needed about whether The Death Trip book is good or not - it's another great read. And it's free - what more do you need?

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