“Regeneration X” by Ellison Blackburn

“Regeneration X” is a unique sci-fi book. Set in the very near future–2024-2026, to be exact–it is the journal and experiences of Charley, a woman in her fifties (at the start of the novel) who feels trapped, bored, and ordinary in her comfortable middle-class existence. As an attempt to restart her life and start living in an exciting and authentic way, one that will allow her to create lasting memories, she decides to undergo the very new procedure of regeneration, which allows people to make their bodies younger or older. In the space of a few months after the procedure Charley’s body changes from that of a 55-year-old to that of a 17-year-old, and Charley starts applying to colleges, wanting to restart her career from the ground up. Only it turns out it’s not as easy to reinvent yourself as she had hoped…

The concept of gene/cell therapy is not unusual in sci-fi, but what sets Regeneration X apart is its focus on the inner lives of the characters rather than the accoutrements of the future. Things in 2026 are pretty much the same as they are in 2016, other than slightly more advanced medicine and communication possibilities. People, however, are pretty much the same, and Charley’s struggles will probably ring a bell with most readers. She’s always wanted to be unique and different and have exciting adventures, but it turns out that being unique is hard and exciting adventures are not that much fun when they’re actually happening–her recurring dreams of a memory of hiking in the Alps and discovering that it’s mostly about sweating and sore muscles, not glorious uplifting epiphanies, is a wonderful insight into her character and the characters of so, so many people. This is not an adventure novel in the classic sense, and the actual sci-fi aspect is understated: the main focus is always on Charley’s journey and experiences, and as a detailed and in-depth character study it is well worth reading.

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