40+ Shows An Interesting World
40+ is a novella with a powerful hook but is hampered by a few things, including how short it is. It would be easy to imagine it expanded into a larger novel, detailing both the world as it was and how the change affected it. Similar dystopian novels have done so in the past.
Nevertheless, the story does a good deal with its worldbuilding for about one hundred pages. My favorite is how the series treats age and language. Because this is a world where people die at age forty, down to the second, who’s called “old,” differs from our reality. Thirty-plus is a senior, and the timeline of life milestones is way faster. Little details like this make for a fascinating snapshot that feels realistic.
But while 40+ is infinitely interesting in its alternative reality aspects, it falls apart on a moment-to-moment level. Stuff just happens, and they happen with little buildup. I didn’t notice it as much during my reading, but for every logical through-line paid off, another less logical complication/solution arises. I won’t spoil it, but I was actively laughing at where the plot swerved by the end. It goes from a slightly comical take on aging and death to an almost absurdist series of “twists.”
The other issue is one snarling throughout the plot. We get implied worldbuilding that people are much more willing to have things like random sexual interactions or eat unhealthily because death-time is certain. That would’ve been interesting to explore in a longer book, but it mainly manifests in the strange treatment of the main female character. The author makes her likable, but she’s also mostly a plot point, disappearing and reappearing as the story needs her to. That, and how the book talks about aging by the necessity of its story, might make readers unwilling to engage with it.
If you still want to read it, though, 40+ is a clever sci-fi concept creatively explored. It’s got solid prose, a breezy pace, and a likable enough cast to carry things along. And, appropriately, it takes little time to enjoy it.
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