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Pills and Starships by Lydia Millet

Pills and Starships

by Lydia Millet

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3.5 stars

Nat and Sam are siblings and their parents have paid for a contract to take their own lives. The Coporations have packages one can choose and, although there are different settings to choose from, there is a set plan for that last week of their lives. The family is heading to Hawaii. As the week goes on, more “pharms” are given to all of them to make things easier on everyone. It’s sometime in the future, and Nat and Sam’s parents are in their 80s and 90s (it’s not uncommon for humans to live longer and longer now) and can remember when life was as we know it now: before things had to change as most species went extinct and nonrenewable resources are no longer available for human use/consumption.

I quite liked this. It’s a fast YA read, and seemingly/possibly not that far off once we run out of oil and such. It is told in diary form from Nat’s point of view. She writes as if she is writing to “you”, the reader, as a space person of some sort, which I thought was a bit odd. The “you” part didn’t bother me, but I’m not sure where exactly space fit in. Overall, I thought it was good. ( )
  LibraryCin | Jul 5, 2018 |
I really enjoyed this ‘glimpse into the future’, because while this is indeed a dystopian novel, it sure seemed like I was reading a real journal (that of the main character, Nat, who writes it in the week leading up to her parent’s planned death). I chose this book for a group read on Litsy, where we send a book, marked up with our notes, along to the next person, and the other three do the same with their picks, so that we have a book mailing circle.
This first caught my eye in my local indie bookstore, where it had a recommendation tag (and an awesome cover), and the premise is this: teen siblings named Nat and Sam, accompany their parents to Hawaii who together have decided to spend their ‘Final Week’ before the contract for their deaths is carried out. Nat and Sam are long to say their goodbyes. That’s right, in this imagined future, where global warming has finally made the world so unbearable and everyone gets through their days by taking moodpharms (ie happy pills because the world is so depressing), you can take out a contract for your death when you get old enough, and you can pay for assisted suicide on the Big Island (it’s not illegal anymore and quite encouraged, and rather embraced).
The world that is in this dystopian future is so sadly believable that I read it as if I had some sort of special peek into what was going to happen if we continued with what we are already doing to this planet, and I have a feeling author Lydia Millet has distinct opinions on what’s to blame for the ruin to come (I tended to agree!); it’s not hard to imagine much of our wildlife gone, whole states like Florida under water, a whole garbage vortex in the ocean....
I can’t say too much about the plot but this was a great, thought-provoking, interesting story, and I will say there was some hope at the end. It’s not a long book but it packs in a lot to think about. I hope for everyone reading it, that it makes them think a little bit more about their carbon footprint and about how we really are lucky to have this Earth.
*And I don’t care too much about a future without pet cats. That will be a sad day. ( )
  kamoorephoto | Mar 23, 2018 |
Pills and Starships is a realistic story set in a dystopian future. Corporations have brought about major climate change, yet the corporations are in control more than ever, feeding the population pills to control emotions and even their time of death. Owning actual food or pets is illegal. Everything is supplied by the corporations. This book is written in the first person in the form of a young woman’s diary, a story of generations of resistance and endurance set in Hawaii. We find in these pages both despair and the possibility of a better future, one where power is held by communities rather than corporations. I recommend this book for those who care about the future of our living planet. May it inspire more people to resist. ( )
  SonoranDreamer | Jan 6, 2017 |
A provocative, absorbing, richly imagined story set in a near dystopic future brought about by global warming. There are echoes of other classic dystopian stories in this novel but Millet's prose is more elegant and storytelling nuanced compared to the many other YA novels in this genre. ( )
  Sullywriter | May 22, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Pills and Starships has a strong concept, and though in places the execution is lacking, I can picture certain members of its target demographic reading it over and over.

Millet writes it in a first person style using the conceit of a diary, to which our narrator Nat is recording her thoughts. Furthermore, this diary is addressed to an imaginary "Space Friend," which is the only part of the story that contributes the "Starships" of the title.

Nat is bland and uninteresting in a way one often finds in young adult fiction, and even some adult fiction. She is a vessel into which the reader is expected to pour his or her own self. She does not truly develop as a character, except insofar as she discovers more about the world in which she lives. That is, she changes in the same way that the author expects the reader to change. It is a didactic story first and above all.

After the long expository pages at the beginning of the book, my interest did pick up significantly. Millet is quite adept at painting her world, and once we are allowed to see the narrator interacting with that world, the pacing and power of the language increase to match.

The ending is one of hope, unlike many dystopian novels I have read, and the thought-provoking nature of this world should last long after the final page has been turned. Recommended for younger readers, but those with an interest in "saving the planet" and the darker aspects of human nature. ( )
  shabacus | May 18, 2015 |
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There was a time, not long ago, when it was illegal to kill people. I almost remember normal life back then.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Haiku summary
Pills to control them
Corporations run the world
Planned deaths resisted


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Seventeen-year-old Nat and her hacker brother Sam have come to Hawaii for their parents' Final Week. Global warming has devastated the planet, and the disintegrating society that remains is run by "corporates" who keep the population complacent through a constant diet of "pharma." The few Americans who stil live well also live long -- so long that older adults, like Nat's parents, blow out not by natural means but by buying death contracts. While Nat grapples with the bizarre ritual of her parents' slickly engineered last days, Sam begins to uncover a secret, wilder Hawaii hidden beneath the high-gloss corporate veneer. Their family's Final Week races toward its climax in the face of a looming hurricane as Nat struggles to protect herself and the people she loves -- Along the way forging her own surprising path to hope.… (more)

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