The Measure by Nikki Erlick

Speculative fiction is often defined as including the genres science fiction, fantasy, and horror. I am a fan and reader of all three genres. In the past, I have thought of my favorite was science fiction. More recently I’ve come to see that a specific type of speculative fiction is my favorite. Speculative fiction can generally be described as the literature of “What if?” The author extrapolates on that question, puts their characters in that world, and explores answers to the question raised. That is my favorite type of fiction, no matter the genre.

The Measure, the debut novel by Nikki Erlick, is just such a novel. It asks the question, “What if everyone could know exactly how long they would live?” In the book every adult wakes up one morning with a box at their front door. In it is a string. On the box is a message that states, “Inside is the measure of your life”. The length of the string corresponds to the length of your life. This event changes the world forever.

The book explores why people might choose to look or not to look in their box to see the length of their string. It explores how such knowledge affects personal relationships, politics, who has what jobs, and even fundamental questions of identity. Many times while reading it I was reminded of one my favorite movies, Gattaca. In that movie a person’s place in the world is determined by their genetics instead of a string, but many of the same ideas are explored.

Perhaps what I like most about this book is that is doesn’t provide easy answers to such a deep question. Instead, it explores the question in the context of the vastness of the human experience. In today’s world where everyone thinks they have the answers to every question and is willing to argue about them with anyone and tell them they are wrong, it is refreshing to read a story that has no simple answers and instead explores why different, loving, caring, genuine people might make different decisions given the same question. And ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer. Just different ones.

My rating: 5/5

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