Review Blog

Oct 11 2017

Landscape with invisible hand by M. T. Anderson

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Candlewick Press, 2017. ISBN 9780763699505
(Age: 13+) Highly recommended. Wealth and power. Commerce. Art. Invasion. Science fiction. When the vuvv hover above earth, telling people that they have been watching since the 1940's, they promise sharing their technologies which means freedom from disease and less work.
But as with all invaders the promises are hollow. Humans lose their jobs to the technology, food is prepared elsewhere and sold to people whose farms are now derelict, so can no longer afford to buy it, medicine is costly, healthcare a thing of the past and humans must learn to communicate with the vuvv through translators attached to their bodies. Not being part of the world of those who became wealthy when the vuvv arrived, Adam and his family reflect the growing desperation of humankind.
When dad loses his job he abandons them, mum keeps going in the hope that she will find something to do, but with long sometimes aggressive queues at every job opportunity, she begins to despair. They sell their possessions eventually taking in another family whose rent buys their food for a while.
Told in chapters which reflect paintings that Adam creates, Adam and his girlfriend, Chloe, sell their intimate moments to the vuvv. Saddled with recording equipment and translators, they learn the idioms of the post WW2 America to give the vuvv what they want to see. But this breaks down when Adam and Chloe part, Chloe pairing with someone else to cash in from the vuvv and Adam left with litigation.
Adam's unabashed look at the new world is startling. Through his eyes we see the invasion of his society by another force and their degradation through being seen as an indigenous culture whose mores and traits, music, art and language are studied as a curiosity.
Anderson makes some pithy comments about how our society is proceeding, with a huge divide developing between rich and poor, a reliance on technology that is stultifying; factories, shopping centres, suburbs and cities left derelict, a school system where teachers are volunteers, while Adam has Merick's Disease, an everpresent bowel and stomach condition which has come from drinking unpurified water, a service the government no longer provides.
Submitting several of his landscapes to the vuvv for a competition, Adam goes to the celebration in the sky gallery and finds that his voice is lost in the crowd, he has become a non person, so he decides to act.
This is a powerful look at our society. Set in New England, it could be any western country, where technology is seen as the great nirvana but means loss and dislocation for many, where government decisions are made for the rich, where services are abandoned and where the aim to be wealthy over rides all common sense. The distance between - the space, is never going to be spanned, but Adam and his family hope for a future where the invisible hand reclaims what is lost.
This is one story that begs discussion and debate as it exposes the nastiness in our society, one that has gone off the rails in its adherence to commerce, technology and wealth.
It is fascinating that it was written probably several years ago to be published in 2017, but could have been written about Trump's America.
Fran Knight

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