By Sean Malone, editorial intern with Orange Hat Publishing | Ten16 Press
“Your son is ready for you to take home … he is one of our best subjects… The genes are still intact and passed on. Hair color, eye color, propensity to be thin or obese, face expressions, skeletal structure. These still develop outside of nanotechnology. Unfortunately, we are still all very unique.”
What’s in a setting? A good setting enhances any book or piece of media. A setting that cannot conform to its established logic or that lacks interesting features rapidly dissuades readers from continuing. The argument can be further advanced that the setting itself is one of the key characters of good science fiction and is most important in this genre. Chris Ramos’s Time to Expire (Ten16 Press, 2021) demonstrates an engrossing and chromatic presentation of sci-fi vocabulary and concepts. Ramos’s universe is well-imagined, containing dynamic characters and familiar near-future elements alongside a fantastic prominence of nanotechnology. The book involves themes of mortality, humanity, disease, and even climate. What elevates the setting of Time to Expire is its level of detail; descriptions abound of the various nanobots going about their functions, from washing the dishes and cleaning the floors to insemination and controlling the processes of life and death.
Time to Expire has an identifiable “cool factor,” essential for good sci-fi. Of course, there’s the disturbingly familiar fixation over digiscreen devices, as well as an all-important clock that informs the owner exactly when the hour of their death will come, their ‘time to expire.’ These devices are “corporate issue” of course, courtesy of the supranational Lifespan corporation that runs society in a commercial and philosophical union, providing the answers to all of life’s questions. Looming environmental control towers, sprawling corporate research facilities, and Matrix-esque hatchet-men called Collectors haunt the story. These secretive Collectors are ever-present, performing a seemingly non-threatening task of collecting the deceased, the expired. Yet the Collectors, like many aspects of Lifespan’s culture, brim with menace and the promise of a darker purpose.
This book should prove a good choice for YA readers and offers an interesting world to explore. The content is appropriate for the intended audience; the most traumatic scenes involve detached disquiet of synthetic creation of babies alongside a sterilization of emotion and passion. The book provocatively raises questions about the merits of a perfectly “safe” world, and if such a thing is achievable beyond deception or outright betrayal. The story is timely for the issues grappling our society at the time of this review, but its themes are both timeless and cyclical.
For my journey reading of Time to Expire, it evoked recollections from superb science fiction stories (and even some obscure ones) such as Dune, The Giver, and Equilibrium. These connections were non-derivative, but rather celebratory, being incorporated into Ramos’s creation that is Time to Expire. This is a smart ride to catch, and it’s time to read it.
About the Book
Time to Expire:
In the distant future, due to medical and technological advances, the human race has all but eradicated the threat of disease. Poverty, pestilence, murders and war are fading from memory. The human body is completely repairable with extensive breakthroughs of nanotechnology. Building projects, new developments and scientific innovations are completed with unequaled precision. By all accounts, the global civilization has never been in better shape. The world is perfect, planned and thriving. This is all due to one company-LifeSpan. Saviors to mankind, they have quelled everyone’s most elusive fear: When am I going to die? Thanks to LifeSpan technology, everyone knows exactly how long they will live, and are given a precise expiration date at birth. The Collectors arrive to escort you away at the time of expiration. Family members say farewell, accepting your expiration as scientific evolution.
Article originally Published in the June / July 2021 Issue: Futuristic