BOOKS: The Terminator

Exit Broker

I was sitting in a lecture the other day about the population crisis we will be facing in the next few decades. By 2030, we will have over nine BILLION people, and apparently we are completely unprepared in almost every imaginable, and even unimaginable, way to handle the ramifications of this population explosion. It’s horrifying to think about, so it’s probably best to just ignore it, until we are in the midst of this unprecedented crisis. One man who hasn’t allowed himself the comfort of ignorance is Lawrence Cirelli, the author of the darkly comedic novel The Exit Broker. The novel tracks the rise and fall of “population editor,” aka euthanasia broker, Ben Certs who connects terminally ill patients, barely clinging to the last vestiges of a painful life, with a colorful cadre of morally-flexible doctors who give those suffering patients that soft, final push into oblivion. For a meaty fee, of course. Inevitably, Ben’s well-oiled, macabre little business runs into stiff competition, namely a corporate “name-brand” euthanizer, and Ben finds himself fighting not only for the life of his business, but for his family’s life as well. Or at least the lives of the destroyed, fragmented group a delusional man like Ben calls family. “The spectre of out of control population growth has loomed as the biggest problem of our time,” says Cirelli, who spent an abbreviated, but formative, time at Philadelphia’s own LaSalle University. While The Exit Broker, on it’s surface, has the pace and volatility of a typical thriller, Cirelli’s ruminative philosophical digressions lend an added depth to the novel. Ben is basically a good guy, he loves his daughter mightily, and, in general, makes a game effort not to be a piece of shit. He is deeply concerned with the ethics of his business, and grapples constantly with the morality of not just euthanasia, but being in the business of euthanasia. All of this leads to the some of the central questions at the heart of the book. Can a person who is basically good do really horrible things? Is life less valuable or more valuable with so many of us? Does each individual life still have the same weight when there are seven billion beings walking the Earth? Thorny questions to be sure, but they take on an even more twisted and confounding dimension when viewed through the eyes of Ben Certs. The Exit Broker is worth reading for its plot twists and dark humor alone, but its conceptual bones will give the deep-thinking reader something to chew on long after they set it down for the last time. It is available on Amazon, for the bargain price of $2.99. — COLE NOWLIN