Bioethics News

One of America’s finest novelists tackles life extension

“We are born without choosing to be. Should we have to die in the same manner? Isn’t it a human glory to refuse to accept a certain fate?” — Zero K 

Immortality through cryonics is the central plot device in the latest novel by Don De Lillo, one of America’s best writers. Zero K takes the reader to a remote secret compound called “the Convergence” where bodies are frozen until a technology is developed to awaken them.

A billionaire takes his dying wife there to be frozen and has to decide whether he will join her, even though he is healthy, or whether he will live on, battling against existential doubt and a loveless life. The story is narrated by his son who is sceptical of the promises of the cult of frozen immortality and returns to New York in the second half of the novel.

The Convergence is a elaborate pastiche of the real-life  Alcor Life Extension Foundation, a facility in Scottsdale, Arizona, where 144 heads and bodies along with a few dozen pets are currently stored in liquid nitrogen awaiting resurrection.

The setting of his 16th novel gives De Lillo abundant opportunity for his signature reflections on life, death, commercialism, branding, marriage and the loneliness and alienation of post-modern living. As most reviewers have pointed out, the 79-year-old author is reflecting on his own mortality as well. 

This article is published by Michael Cook and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.