Spares by Alec McQuay

In Spares, a virus has caused humanity to gain immortality, no one seems to know why, but at first it was thought that god granted them this. Unfortunately with the world still holding a number of different religious ideologies, it wasn’t long before humanity was at war with each other. Spares is set in a post-apocalyptic dystopia where life is hard for the majority of people. In this novel we follow a gang making their way through their long lives doing what most people do, trying to make ends meet.

It wasn’t until people began fighting each other that they realised the downside to being immortal was that although you couldn’t die your body could be destroyed. This gives us the premise of the book’s title. As each member of the gang is made up of spare parts that have been stitched together or modified to their own specifications. Spares narrator, who doesn’t give his name to either his friends or us, has a number of parts that aren’t his own, including a leg that isn’t the same size as the original.

The gang of people we follow via the nameless narrator are: Anders, who is their leader and a powerhouse of muscle, Mallory, who apparently has the body of a goddess, Deacon, who is the narrator’s main antagonist and Holden who tries to keep everything light-hearted. The narrator has a mysterious past that he won’t discuss with the others. Even though these characters have been alive for a long time, they felt more like young adults playing at life for kicks, this is due to the virus as you never age from the moment the virus struck. The group dynamic is slightly odd as the boys all seem to be in love with the sole female member Mallory.  With their longer life spans you would think that people would have learnt the lessons gained from the past by now.

The story also feels like it is reflecting the political positions of our world’s elite. This is because there are two classes of society after the wars, the touched and the untouched. The untouched are the rich people that sent people to fight their wars but didn’t participate themselves. They do not interact with the touched (those who fought their wars). There are many new rules to reflect the changes in society, such as female sterilisation so that the population no longer grows if there is no death to counterbalance this. Spares is an interesting although not in-depth look into class, religion and how easy it is to ignore what you don’t want to see.

This is a book about body horror, if spare parts are at a premium how do you cope with your body no longer being your own? The surgeons who sew these patchwork humans together still need skills but as long as your brain is intact your body will reject the replacements. How many people were lost in the wars as there was not enough of their basic self to put back together, or before they realised that this could be done? As humanity continues without changing, the world they live in has become more savage and there is no longer a need for selflessness. There is a loss of feeling if you no longer wonder where these parts are coming from.

Although I found Spares to be an enjoyable read with a lot of good ideas, I found that the ending of the book was quite abrupt which felt slightly unsatisfactory. It maybe that McQuay had a different ending in mind, but wasn’t sure if there were to be more books to follow this, or if this was a stand alone book that there was nowhere else to go.

6/10 An enjoyable read with a lot of good ideas.

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