In the next 20 years, as the baby-boom generation ages, the numbers of people ages 65 and older will increase from approximately 13 percent to 20 percent. Given the probability that more of us will live longer, perhaps even achieving centenarian status, journalist Greg Critser (Fat Land, Generation Rx) examines the range of scientific possibilities—from legitimate to dubious—of human life extension, the reversal of aging and the dream of immortality in Eternity Soup: Inside the Quest to End Aging.

The prospect of reading about aging and longevity science might, for some, induce ennui. But Critser shoots straight from the hip about the antiaging industry with a grounded knowledge of the current science, informed insight and a soupçon of sharp-edged humor. After he suffered a concussion, which resulted in “an accelerated form of brain aging,” his investigation into the real science and confounding quackery that exist side by side in the antiaging “community” became personally charged. “A jock,” jokes Critser in his introduction, “would say that I’ve got skin in the game.”

Eternity Soup examines the origins and teachings of “longevity science,” its relationship with medical science and the impact it will have on our thinking about our own bodies. Under the microscope are the theory, practice and scientific claims of “caloric restriction” (you might live longer, but with no sex drive); the greed, deceit and legitimate science that surround the manufacture of many antiaging products and treatments (such as hormone therapy); a mind-bending look at cellular engineering; and the push toward new realms of research using a newer animal “bestiary” (beyond flies, mice, yeasts and rats) for modeling and testing.

Critser plots an accessible route through complex material, demystifying both the science and the political and economic implications of the antiaging movement. Especially revealing and entertaining are interviews with the groundbreaking and iconoclastic scientists, such as Aubrey de Grey, that form the cast of characters working toward the Shangri-La of vital later years—and, perhaps, human immortality.

Alison Hood writes from Marin County, California.

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