/ Cory Doctorow / 4 am Thu, Sep 28 2017
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  • Landscape With Invisible Hand: Late Stage Capitalism, by way of a YA alien invasion novel

    Landscape With Invisible Hand: Late Stage Capitalism, by way of a YA alien invasion novel

    In 2002, MT Anderson blew up the YA dystopia world with Feed, his zeitgeisty, prescient novel about "identity crises, consumerism, and star-crossed teenage love in a futuristic society where people connect to the Internet via feeds implanted in their brains" -- in his latest, Landscape with Invisible Hand, Anderson takes us to a world where neoliberal aliens have sold Earth's plutocrats the technologies to make work obsolete and with it, nearly human being on earth.

    Now we all have to live with that reality: former superstar luxury car salesmen, bank tellers, teachers, programmers -- everyone except for a tiny elite of financial engineers, really -- have been replaced by technology sold by the vuuv (that's the alien race) to the world's 1 percenters when they inducted the human race into the galactic prosperity sphere.

    Landscape is told as a series of acerbic, short vignettes -- latter-day Douglas Coupland riffs -- in the voice of Adam, a teenager living in a rotting suburban home amidst the remains of his rotting suburban life, scrounging for rice and beans and painting, painting, painting, the only escape he has. Each chapterlette opens with Adam describing a painting that sets the scene, part of the blasted, wasted dystopia that 99% of the human race lives in while sneering aliens and financial executives tell them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, get jobs, and stop looking for handouts.

    Adam's got a lot of headwinds: he's got "Merrick's Disease," from drinking tainted water (the collapse of the taxbase has led to an end to municipal water purification -- if you want clean drinking water, you should buy it in the efficient marketplace, not demand that Big Government provide it to you!) so he shits himself constantly. He's also involved in a dubious enterprise in which he straps sensors all over his body and romances the daughter of his mom's downstairs tenants and sells the resulting feed to the vuuv, who really like this kind of thing, but only when the young lovers talk like they're living in a 1950s romance movie like the ones the vuuv intercepted from the Earth's leaky electromagnetosphere. This sounds great, but now the two of them hate each other and if they break up, they might get sued by the entertainment network.

    Anderson's down-and-out in the post-scarcity world is a scorching, arch, hilarious and ultimately very moving little parable about the cult of markets and the elevation of corporatism over human kindness. It's as zeitgeisty as Feed ever was, and such a compact little gem of a book that you very well might read it in one sitting, as I did.

    Landscape with Invisible Hand [MT Anderson/Candlewick]

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