By: David T. Morgan
Reviewed by: David Wyman
$12.98, Paperback; $3.75, Download
When is a long-form work of prose fiction not a novel? When it’s a Socratic dialogue, and its title is About Euthanasia and the Religious Right. I can’t remember the last time I encountered a fictional book so un-“novelish,” and yet so useful and necessary. I’ve never read a book so good—with such a lousy title.
David Morgan’s latest work examines the issue of physician-assisted suicide in the science fiction sub-genre of “predictive fiction”: if current trends continue, euthanasia will be a legislated reality by the year 2022.
How might such a “right-to-die” law come to be introduced and passed by both houses of Congress? How might a sitting American president, fulfilling his dying mother’s last request, shepherd such a controversial bill through all three branches of government over the objections of 51% of the electorate (“plus-or-minus three-to-five per cent”) under the watchful eye of politically-organized, media-driven, right-wing Bible-thumping lunatics with automatic weapons?
These ramifications, and many more, are explored fully and thoughtfully in the “talking heads” environment of About Euthanasia and the Religious Right. And therein lies the problem: This is a book about ideas, and very important ones, but the form—and especially the title—do not lend themselves well to the cause of popular persuasion. The dialogue crackles, but the lack of novelistic action, and the lack of description, leaves us with no more feeling for who these characters are (or why we should care) than do the words of Glaucon, Thrasymakos, or even Socrates himself in The Republic.
This is an unfortunate state of affairs. Dr. Morgan is the rare example of a PhD-level expert who knows that publication in scholarly journals alone will never lead to societal change; only popular discourse will do that. Otherwise, it’s just preaching to the choir.
I advise you to read the book, but to ignore the title. Socrates would be proud.
David Wyman is an actor, author, and historian in Shelby County.
Editor’s note: Since this review first ran, the author and publisher have revised the book’s title to read: The Righteous and the Mighty.