The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe (1973): D.G. Compton


D.G. Compton’s 1974 novel, also known as The Unsleeping Eye, is both eerily prophetic and very dated. It presents a world where medicine has advanced to such a degree that old age and accidents are virtually the only cause of death. When Katherine Mortenhoe, a workaholic editor in her forties, is told by her doctor that she’s one of the rare few to have developed a terminal condition, her imminent death makes her a celebrity. The vulpine TV producer Vincent Ferriman knows that Katherine’s situation will make her perfect for his show Human Destiny, in which the tragedies of the few are played out for the edification (and salivation) of the comfortable masses. Her husband Harry is game to sign the lucrative contract; but Katherine herself won’t so easily be made a victim. Yet she hasn’t reckoned with Vincent’s masterstroke, in the form of very special reporter Roddie Patterson. The high concept, which foreshadows our own age of reality TV shows and constant status updates, is intriguing, but Compton’s novel is dragged down by the fact that his future still looks, and feels, an awful lot like the 1970s.

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