Senescence by Denver Scott (Book Review)
A novel with so much potential of being the next big sci — fi series, muddled by an overload of factual information, confusing character perspectives and a story that didn’t seem to have a beginning, middle or end. I admit, I’m perhaps not the foremost expert when it comes to biology, chemistry, space travel or the like. However, what I am is a reader who wants to be entertained by what I’m reading. On one hand, ‘Senescence’ managed to do that through its compelling, detailed and obviously well researched scientific exposition. Whether it was exploring the theories and concepts of immortality, the vastness and mysteries of space, or the morals and spiritual debates that follow every futuristic advancement, which need to be answered with certainty, it was genuinely an intriguing thrill to delve into Denver Scott’s mind as she grapples, wonders and answers these questions herself.
Unfortunately, there comes a point where there is too much wondering and not enough story telling. Ultimately, this is where the novel fails to distinguish itself — whether it is a fiction novel , a non-fiction novel or something that blends the two together. Although the attempt here is made to blend fact and fiction, it’s done so in a way that’s not subtle or weaved into the overall narrative at all, one which leaves this reader confused, flustered and pretty bored with the novel by the time you to the end.
A science orgy
The key pillar of this novel is the strength of its scientific convictions. Whether it’s exploring possible post-apocalyptic future for Earth, based on events, weather patterns or geopolitical issues happening in this day and age, or colonies on Mars and how life would look like there, or the possibility of immortality within our selfish grasps in the next few years, Denver Scott is clearly passionate about the topics that interest her, and unashamedly so. For that, she should be commended — you can tell that she is not only incredibly knowledgeable about the topics that are discussed in the novel but also eager to share it with the world, so much so that she wrote a book about it.
Paragraphs upon paragraphs of her knowledge are spilled out on the pages for the world to read and ponder. There is much to be said about one’s tolerance for all this information being crammed into your head at the same time (a point which I will continue to talk about later) but if I were to praise this novel for anything, it would be the scientific facts it seeks to educate its audience with, the philosophical questions it challenges its readers to think about and the conclusion derived from multiple point of views, in the form of her fictional characters, that lead the reader down the path of Denver Scott’s own answers to the questions she poses.
Fact, fiction or something in between?
Sadly, that is probably where all the good stops. There are many issues that assail this novel, none more so than the following question — is this a novel? Admittedly, maybe I’m too used to the realm of pure fiction, where words on every page come from the very depths of the author’s mind, rather than an amalgamation of all the scientific research they have read in their life time. That, however, is how reading ‘Senescence’ feels like to me — the longest scientific research paper ever written by human hands.
Fictional areas are few and far in between. Whether it’s following the perspective of Jenna Morton, or the crew from Mars, there’s little in terms of story that sometimes it feels like a small lake in the middle of a vast ocean of factual science facts. All well and good if you have so much scientific knowledge to impart, but if it’s done so in a way that overwhelms the reader, it leaves them without any motivation to continue forward. There’s no story to hold onto — so much so that I tended to look for parts where there were fictional characters explaining or thinking about non-fictional science, which made the experience so much better.
Too much fact, not enough fiction.
Show slowly, don’t tell quickly
Where this novel falls way short, in my opinion, is what makes novel so great for those who just loves to dive into futuristic contemplations and argue about science theories. It’s the fact that it’s chock full of paragraphs upon paragraphs of words, years and years of scientific progress and future predictions that the author just dumps on the readers lap with no warning.
Every page had a new scientific fact to discover, ponder and digest. Every page had a credible, real world theory that backed up that scientific fact, whether it’s anti-aging, space travel or creating cyborgs. Every paragraph detailed a new idea, every sentence hailed humanity’s progress throughout the years. After awhile, this can become too overwhelming for the reader, too much for them to digest all at one go. Exposition without any reason for said exposition is wasted. There was no point in any part of the novel where a huge chunk of scientific exposition was ever used to explain any character motivation, no arcs were influenced by paragraphs worth of scientific information, no beginning or ending was initiated, in terms of the story or character relationships, that felt connected in any way to all the science being vomited on my lap.
A better method (in my humble opinion) would be to tease all of this scientific information, to slowly build the world you wish to reveal to the reader, through either a much larger book or a series of books, that can ponder and explore each scientific discovery that the author wishes the reader to know about. In that way, the scientific fact is appreciated, the exposition may be tied to something much larger and the overall experience of reading the book may be less ponderous and more curiosity on the reader side of things.
Clearly, not my cup of tea. For those that love reading scientific research papers, however, this is the book you’ve been waiting for.