Book Review – Cocoon by David Saperstein

First published, 1985

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The story follows a small group of older men, and later their wives, in an old folks’ apartment complex in Florida. Feeling the full effects of retirement, disease, and age, the old boys can’t believe their luck when they happen upon what appears to be a health club in the unfinished building next-door.

Having sneaked in, and with no idea what the equipment actually does, the men can’t help but notice how, after using the unusual pod-like cubicles, and basking in the strange lights, they find their diseases healed, their sex drives returned, and their hair growing back.

But this technology is not of this world and those who created it need it to revive their dormant compatriots. But if the Antarean army can’t be woken, will the old people be able to take their place on a trip across the galaxy? And will they be able to recruit enough old people… in Florida?

I’m not much for sci-fi (much of the tech talk goes over my head and I fail to distinguish between what is real/possible and what is imagined), but I liked this book. The characters are well-drawn, with intriguing back stories and relationships. The dialogue is snappy and the ending satisfying.

I did get quite annoyed with the old chaps – once they realised what effect the machines were having on them, I wanted them to tell their wives immediately. That probably sounds very ‘hausfrau’ of me to say. Let me qualify then: the fellas weren’t backwards in coming forwards when they rediscovered their libidos and it might have been more thoughtful if they’d mentioned that they were feeling healthy and why, rather than intruding on their women, some of whom were horrified, especially when one of the wives’ sisters had had a stroke. For this reader, if you’ve discovered a miracle cure for everything, get your hands off the underwear and call your sister-in-law. All that aside, it’s worth bearing in mind the chaps are fictional, and only human, so you have to let them off. A bit.

The attention to detail impressed me:

“… Bess Perlman turned her blue Olds on to the One hundred sixty-third Street causeway. She drove slowly and ignored the horns and shouts of other drivers. No one could accuse her of reckless driving. No one could accuse her of reckless anything.
“Her life had been careful and quiet. Before Arthur Perlman there was the good life in Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn. Her father was a judge of the State Court of Appeals. He was an honourable man with political connections. He was also second generation and totally Americanized and assimilated. Her mother was a gentile and considerably younger than Judge Bernstein. Bess had her mother’s looks and her father’s intelligence. She was a beautiful girl. She met Arthur Perlman at a New Year’s Eve Party at a friend’s house. The Bernstein sisters, Bess and Betty, were the talk of Manhattan Beach and extremely popular girls.
“After Art had revealed his business to her, Bess understood why her father had avoided them after their marriage.”
p137, Chapter 27, Cocoon by David Saperstein