First up, a quick declaration of interest. I am (slowly) working on a novel which looks at the possibilities of life extension.

I almost didn’t read Suicide Club for that reason.

But, I am really glad I did choose to read the novel. Heng can certainly write. Her prose is a thing of beauty and she can really hit the emotional high and low notes when she chooses to.

The narrative carries you along from a 100th birthday party at the outset through the ongoing investigation following a minor road traffic accident, covering off some family history, which is revealed later, with a massive emotional impact, to not be quite what we were led to think it was.

Heng creates a world which is believable, the descriptions of the crowded streets of New York are suitably claustrophobic. But, an area which could have been improved upon is the wider world building. I was not totally clear about the social structures in this near future world. Exactly what difference there is between the lives of those who have longer life and those who do not? At one point the narrative makes reference to the general population “wouldn’t touch a lifer” but it is not really clear why this might be the case. Where would this level of fear come from?

There is reference to the areas outside New York being unpopulated due to low birth rates, but it is unclear why this is the case. While I do believe writers should show rather than tell, I think Heng could have painted the wider world around her narrative in a richer way and this would have enhanced what is already an excellent narrative.

There were also a couple of instances where I was not clear why people with the potential to live forever might not want to. I guess everyone has their own reasons, but if Heng could have made it much more apparent why someone would go to the lengths required in her imagined world of healthcare, I think this would have strengthened the narrative.

Overall, the minor issues I have with the story, do not deter from the narrative enough to make it anything less than a good novel. Heng is a good writer, her style brings you along and the emotional ups and downs are enjoyable.

Her vision of life extension is based in the world of medicine and health care improvements, while my part written novel is very much not in this vein (I was worried this book would be too close to my creation, which is why I was considering not reading Suicide Club).

If you are looking for a novel which is sci-fi light, but depicts a future world with a deep emotional story, Suicide Club could be just what you are looking for.

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In a ground breaking scheme in the UK, robots will dispense medicines for patients.

Full details here.

Feels like I have been saying the robots are coming for an age now (September 2010 was my first blogpost about robots).

And slowly, slowly they are.

In this story, it is keenly stressed 30 human jobs are also being created. Which is an important message when introducing robot labour to the work place.

A recent article in the UK press discusses how robots may steal our jobs and ruin the economy.
This is a topic I have covered before – quite some time ago.
Anyone got any thoughts on this issue?

Anyone interested in their finances (or even in some hardcore economics) should check out this American guy’s blog.

www.garynorth.com/

Sign up to the free weekly update and each week you get a “tip of the week” by email – some of these are genius (a recent one is below) there are also several free bits of the site, but to get to the really indepth stuff you need to climb the pay wall.

Gary also has some of his books available free to download as eBooks, some are pretty useful. Others (to my mind) not so much. A mixed bag.

On occasion he opens up the paid for stuff for sneaky peeks (great marketing move – to let you see what you’re missing by not paying him a monthly fee) and its always been good stuff when he has done that.

Example tip of the week:

GARY NORTH'S TIP OF THE WEEK

Gary North's Tip of the Week - |DATE Used Tools (Cheap)
=====================================================
    I am a great believer in owning tools.  I am also a
procrastinator in learning how to use new tools.  

    One way to reduce your costs of procrastination is to buy
used tools from other procrastinators who finally gave up.  You
buy at 25 cents on the dollar or less.

    This is why I love Craigslist.  It offers so much stuff that
is in good shape, yet the owners are ready to sell cheap.  They
see that they are not using some device, so they figure that
getting something is better than getting nothing and also wasting
storage space.  This is a wise decision.

    I use NotifyWire.  I have recommended it before.  I am doing
it again.  You can find out who is selling what on Craigslist,
and for how long (if you check older listings).  The longer, the
better.  He may be willing to take less.

          http://www.notifywire.com

    If I buy a used tool that is in pretty good shape, and I pay
very little for it, even if I never do use it, I can sell it on
Craigslist for close to what I paid for it.

    The main expense is my time.  So, I don't look for cheap
tools this way.  I look for $1,000 items for $250.  

    I am in the market for a small greenhouse.  

    I have this advantage: my wife is great with tools and can
repair almost anything.  She likes tools, too.

Gary "Tool Shed" North
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