Landscape with Invisible Hand by M. T. Anderson (review)
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Reviewed by
Anderson, M. T. Landscape with Invisible Hand. Candlewick, 2017 [160p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-7636-8789-2 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-7636-9723-5 $16.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 9-12

The aliens have landed, and they seem friendly. The vuvv have brought with them technologies that eliminate menial work and cure diseases, but unfortunately, their automation results in widespread economic collapse, so that only the wealthiest people can afford to invest in their technologies, live in the floating cities they create, and access the health care they need. The rest, like Adam and his family, are destitute. The vuvv have a weakness for nostalgic human culture, though, and Adam and his girlfriend, Chloe, sign a contract that turns their crush into a sort of reality-TV Pleasantville full of retro mid-twentieth century turns of phrase. When their love goes sour, however, the vuvv sue for breach of contract, and Adam’s only hope is to win an art competition that may force him to compromise his truth for what the vuvvs consider beauty. Like Feed (BCCB 11/02), this is trenchant satire on consumer culture in an age of social media, but this work is even more melancholic in tone. Adam is plagued by a digestive disorder caused by dirty water that just might kill him, which makes an apt if gross metaphor for a life that is spiraling down the sh-, er, drain. Each chapter features the title, description and commentary on an art piece that Adam creates to highlight the destitution of his circumstances while trying to salvage some beauty in the midst of them and thus create himself as his own brand, marking a shift in theme from what people are being sold through social media to what we are selling. Secondary characters voice and embody wry, hyperbolic stereotypes that one might wish weren’t so close to the truths they parody. Fans of Feed will be intrigued to follow the development of Anderson’s dystopic imagination into this similarly themed futuristic critique of the present.

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