Book Review: Twenty-Five to Life by R.W.W Greene

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Genre : Science fiction

Publisher : Angry Robot

Length : 279 pages

Format : eARC

Rating : 4 stars

Publication Date: August 24th 2021 


Life goes on for the billions left behind after the humanity-saving colony mission to Proxima Centauri leaves Earth orbit … but what’s the point?

Julie Riley is two years too young to get out from under her mother’s thumb, and what does it matter? She’s over-educated, under-employed, and kept mostly numb by her pharma emplant. Her best friend, who she’s mostly been interacting with via virtual reality for the past decade, is part of the colony mission to Proxima Centauri. Plus, the world is coming to an end. So, there’s that.

When Julie’s mother decides it’s time to let go of the family home in a failing suburb and move to the city to be closer to work and her new beau, Julie decides to take matters into her own hands. She runs, illegally, hoping to find and hide with the Volksgeist, a loose-knit culture of tramps, hoboes, senior citizens, artists, and never-do-wells who have elected to ride out the end of the world in their campers and converted vans, constantly on the move over the back roads of America.


Julie Riley is twenty-three years old. In our world, she would be an adult and free to work and live the way she wanted to. In her world however, she’s still a minor. In her world, she’s trapped at home, under-employed and monitored with an implant that regularly injects her with drugs until she feels completely numb.

Her best friend is one of the lucky ones, she was chosen to be a member of a ship leaving for Proxima Centauri. But Julie is stuck on a dying Earth and diseases are spreading everywhere. When her mother decides to move to a tiny apartment, it’s the last straw for Julie. She wants out. She wants to explore the world and live among the Volkgeist, a group of people who decided that living in cubicles for the rest of their life wasn’t for them. But when Julie finds them, the Volkgeist are not what she expected and living among them is a lot more challenging than she imagined it would be…

I read and really enjoyed Greene’s debut The Light Years in 2020, so I was very excited for his sophomore novel. Greene has a real talent in writing slice-of-life science fiction stories that are about the everyday people. Twenty-Five to Life is a slow and quiet story about the life of the people who are left behind to deal with the consequences of humanity’s past mistakes.

I don’t doubt that this novel was written during the COVID-19 pandemic. The characters are living in a world devasted by diseases and climate change, the future is looking very bleak and most of the population is stuck in tiny cubicles experiencing life through VR games. However, the novel still manages to be hopeful. It shows people fighting back, trying to find solutions for the planet and for the humans who remain.

Twenty-Five to Life is a coming-of-age story. Julie is twenty-three years old, she’s a young adult who has been sheltered her entire life so, she reacts to new situations like a teenager would. It can be a bit frustrating at times since she makes a lot of totally dumb moves at the beginning of the novel. She completely idolizes the Volkgeist after watching one documentary about them. She sees their lifestyle as exotic and exciting without realizing how dangerous it can be.

I’m 24 years old and, I could definitely recognize parts of myself in Julie. Not that I would like to be a part of the Volkgeist but, I have also set my expectations too high for things I knew virtually nothing about and been sorely disappointed by the less exciting reality. So, if her initial naïve expectations of the Volkgeist was a bit frustrating, I empathized with her a lot when she realized things were not as simple as she imagined them to be. The Volkgeist are divided into a multitude of different groups. Some groups are composed of tourists trying to experience a new lifestyle, some are very dangerous, and others are just trying to get by.

In Twenty-Five to Life, Julie becomes an adult. She learns a lot about herself, about her strengths and her weaknesses. She experiences beautiful moments, heartbreak, and hardships. At the end, she’s not a the same naïve and angsty girl, she knows what she wants and who she is.

Twenty-Five to Life is not your typical action-packed science fiction story but the compelling characters and solid worldbuilding made the book for me. If you enjoyed The Light Years, I would definitely recommend this novel. It even has a few Easter-eggs about The Light Years. A couple of events in the book were a bit too convenient (a certain character saves the day more than a few times!) but I would still recommend it a lot. Especially if you’re still figuring yourself out (and that’s not limited to reader that are in their twenties! 😉)

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. My thanks to Netgalley and Angry Robot for the ARC.

9 thoughts on “Book Review: Twenty-Five to Life by R.W.W Greene

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