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Buyout Paperback – March 31, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
In this neat, high-concept thriller, Irvine (The Narrows) introduces us to L.A. in the year 2040, where global warming and high-tech identity theft are daily facts of life. Martin Kindred, a mid-level insurance executive, works for a company pioneering a radical new prison cost-cutting program. Convicts serving life without parole are offered millions of dollars in exchange for immediately taking the needle, and Martin is tasked with vetting the prisoners for execution and presenting the awards to their beneficiaries. The controversial program immediately revitalizes the pro-life movement and puts increased strains on Martin's already fragile marriage. Then Martin's brother, a cop, is murdered and both the program and his life begin to unravel. This well-written, suspenseful and just slightly absurdist novel will appeal strongly to fans of classic dystopian science fiction with a smooth modern twist. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Painfully honest and not necessarily apt to think things through, Martin Kindred is the only man in his family who isn’t a cop. He has a lot to prove, he thinks, and being hired to be the front man for life-term buyouts seems like the perfect opportunity. “Life-term buyouts?” With ever-rising prison populations, the only solution seems to be privatization. The question then becomes how to make a profit. The answer is simple: offer those serving life without parole early buyouts; that is, give the prisoner millions for any specified beneficiary in exchange for accepting lethal injection. Martin is buyout’s public face, who reaps the benefits of attendant popularity but takes the fall when things go wrong. The political underpinnings of the buyout system start to come clear when Martin lets it get personal. Irvine expertly manages an atmosphere of pressure and political machination to complement the development of a discomfiting imagined future. --Regina Schroeder
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The second half of the book was after a character is killed, the protagonist has to figure out who did it. This was better and more interesting.
The best part of the book was the portrayal of life in 2040. It seemed like a realistic extrapolation of today's technology. However, this had nothing to do with the story, The book was science fiction because of this technology, but could have been set in 2013, in 1940, or even 1740. The basic issue had nothing to do with the technology.
Martin's personality is what drew me into the book. He is not a fearless hero or hyper-intelligent skeptic. Martin is an idealist in heart and forces himself to believe that buyouts are morally justified, even as his friends and family begin to voice their doubts.
Without giving too much away, the book's basic question becomes this: how hard is it to distance yourself from a cause or a belief you've committed yourself to, even when you know that clinging to this belief might ruin you? Additionally, sprinkled through the book are the musings of one Walt Dangerfield, a free-wheeling, off-the-cuff podcaster or sorts who comments on the novel's characters and fleshes out the novel's futuristic world, similar to our own in all the worst ways.
I really recommend this book to any college course or reading group that's interested in exploring issues of morality. Recently, my Ethics class used "Buyout" to examine issues of the sanctity of life and capital punishment.