The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe by D. G. Compton, intro by Jeff VanderMeer / ISBN 9781590179710 / 253-page paperback from NYRB Classics / remainder dot but otherwise in excellent condition
A prescient 1970s sci-fi novel about death, celebrity, and the ubiquity of reality television, and the basis for the movie Death Watch.
Katherine Mortenhoe lives in a near future very similar to the present day. Only in her time, dying from anything but old age is unheard of; death has been cured. So when Katherine is diagnosed with a terminal brain disease brought on by an inability to process an ever increasing volume of sensory input, she immediately becomes a celebrity to the “pain-starved public.” But Katherine rejects her tragic role: She will not agree to be the star of a Human Destiny TV show, her last days will not be documented or broadcast. What she doesn’t realize is that from the moment of diagnosis she’s been watched, not only by television producers but by a new kind of program host, a man with a camera behind his unsleeping eyes.
Like Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, and the television series Black Mirror, The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe is a thrilling psychological drama that is as wise about human nature as it is about the nature of technology.
David Guy Compton is a speculative fiction writer. His 1970 novel, The Steel Crocodile, was nominated for the Nebula Award, and in 1980 Bertrand Tavernier adapted The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe for the screen under the title Death Watch. Compton lives in Maine.