Friday, September 22, 2017

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson, 2017

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on Goodreads 
When the vuvv first landed, it came as a surprise to aspiring artist Adam and the rest of planet Earth — but not necessarily an unwelcome one. Can it really be called an invasion when the vuvv generously offered free advanced technology and cures for every illness imaginable? As it turns out, yes. With his parents’ jobs replaced by alien tech and no money for food, clean water, or the vuvv’s miraculous medicine, Adam and his girlfriend, Chloe, have to get creative to survive. And since the vuvv crave anything they deem classic Earth culture (doo-wop music, still life paintings of fruit, true love), recording 1950s-style dates for the vuvv to watch in a pay-per-minute format seems like a brilliant idea. But it’s hard for Adam and Chloe to sell true love when they hate each other more with every passing episode. Soon enough, Adam must decide how far he’s willing to go — and what he’s willing to sacrifice — to give the vuvv what they want.
(160 pages)

Okay . . . what?

This book is pretty awful. And kind of pointless. Why is everyone giving it such high ratings on Goodreads? I must be missing something big here.

I mean, if I switch on my AP English brain and squint a little, I guess I can see Landscape with Invisible Hand as some sort of social commentary–almost. Or maybe it's just supposed to be artistic or something, and everyone likes that. I don't know. I'm not a particularly artistic person–at least not when it comes to stories about human teens in an alien-dominated future Earth society who swear like sailers (I'm talking the f-word multiple times on every page!) and decide to turn their romance into a reality TV show even though one of them struggles with explosive diarrhea.

You read that right. Explosive. Diarrhea. For some strange reason that makes zero sense to me, the vuvv decided to quit purifying city tap water and so Adam has developed a fake illness called "Merrick's Disease" (pronounced, bizarrely enough, like a real-life chicken disease). I don't remember the explanation, but basically he has bad bacteria messing up his gut and giving him gas and sudden attacks of diarrhea. It's really disgusting. Chloe's awful about it, but I have to be honest: I probably wouldn't want to make out with a boyfriend who had Merrick's, either.

The story is oddly short, focusing mainly on the build-up and destruction of Adam's and Chloe's relationship and Adam's struggles to help his family survive (despite being abandoned by his father) while keeping his artistic integrity intact. There are a surprising amount of details included in the story for its short length, but I thought it needed to be longer to really capture more of the creative sci-fi world Anderson invented. Also, I don't like how sudden the ending is. Or at least, I wouldn't if I'd been enjoying the book. By page 160, I didn't really care how it ended anymore.

But can we just go back to the explosive diarrhea? I found that detail incredibly unecessary. And why on earth did the vuvv do away with clean water?! That makes no sense, they're supposed to be health geniuses. Water purification is pretty basic. But even with the dirty tap water, this is supposed to be in the future. Why do characters have fancy 3D technology at their fingertips but no simple water filtration devices? Why is there not a whole market of bottled water available? Adam mumbles something mildly economics-sounding once or two to explain the way things are, but I just don't buy it. There are still humans on the earth, aren't there? So what happened to the government regulations about sanitation? And why does the fact that human money doesn't work with the vuvv mean that our societies basically collapse? It all goes back to the basic rule of supply and demand: if the vuvv services are too expensive, why are there no human alternatives that are cheap enough for people to afford? An influx of new market options should not wipe out all of our previous inventions and accomplishments.

Gah, but this is me approaching a fictional novel as a future economics major. I think I'll just give up now, because I am clearly missing whatever the point of Landscape with Invisible Hand was. If anyone else feels differently about it, please do comment below explaining to me what it is that I'm missing.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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