This futuristic novel was written in 1981, with the author presenting the United States as a country that has become the healthiest on earth. Sickness is rare, the poverty level is down, people have good health care, and everyone seems to be middle class and happy. So how did they accomplish this? By enforcing strict life control.
Each couple is allowed only one child. During pregnancy, tests are done to check for genetic defects or physical disabilities. If any problem is found in the baby, the law mandates an immediate abortion. But if the baby appears normal during the testing and is born, but develops serious health problems that their country doesn’t want to treat, the child is sent to an organ farm, to be kept alive but unconscious while part after part of their body is harvested for important people. No one unhealthy is allowed in this society.
On the other end of the spectrum, life is only 75 years at the max. If you make it to your 75th birthday, the government assigns you a date at which time you must turn yourself in to a designated euthanasia center (which they call a thanotel).
This is the society that Jon and Grace Stanton live in. They have a young son, Stephen, who is a hemophiliac. They delivered him at home and have been hiding the truth from the doctors for years, but it’s getting harder now. Jon’s father George has just turned 75, and has received his letter that it’s almost time to go to the thanotel.
The story read like a bad nightmare to me. I expected the family to fight back in any way they could, hide in a friend’s home, relocate with some fake IDs, or make a run for another country. But all the characters in the book seem to just take whatever order the government gives them, saying that the Bible instructs them to obey the authorities. What is the matter with these people? I asked myself as I read the book. No parent in their right mind would act this way!
Maybe the intent of the author was to point out that the less we value life from the moment of conception to the time of natural death, the more callous we become. We can start to rationalize just about anything to an unbelievable degree. Let’s hope and pray that we never sink to the level of going along with infanticide, organ harvesting of sick or disabled people, and the forced euthanasia that is portrayed in this book.
Apparently a lot of folks who read this book (which is categorized as inspirational Christian fiction) were horrified by the book. The author offers a two-page response to their reactions at the end of the reprinted book. This was definitely not an easy book to read. But every so often, we should read a book that makes us uncomfortable and squirmy.