Landscape with invisible hand by M. T. Anderson
Candlewick, 2017. ISBN 9780763699505
(Age: Middle secondary - Adult) This small novel captures perhaps some of the less-voiced anxieties about what exists in deep space that might threaten us. Not the simple man-in-the-moon idea, but something deeper and far more catastrophic for earth. Anderson places us in a recognizable world except for the fact of our unseen and obviously unrecognizable 'overlords' being from 'other' places, not human and not just machines, but intelligent, demanding and frightening "Vuvvs" that demand obedience, recognition and submission.
In this novel the characters are placed in a world from which they can instantaneously visit other planets or modules that hover in space. Earth appears to be somewhat ragged, down-at-heel and much lesser than we might think of ourselves. Poor, abandoned by their father and husband, the families of Adam and his girlfriend, Chloe, struggle to survive financially and fear what might happen if they fail all together.
This is a book without a sense of great hope or change, yet it deals with human beings struggling to survive mentally and physically in a world that appears to be disadvantaged by its being an underling of a greater spatial world empire, and by its down-at heel state. Human beings are lesser and the characters try to reach the standards of behaviour and work expected by the 'others', the overlords. Human characteristics valuable and appropriate to us seem lesser, and the characters in this short novel are good people and offer us some hope, but not a lot, in this imagined world.
This is a strong and brave modern novel that addresses the idea of our perhaps not being alone, nor being in fact superior, or protected by any higher beings, living on the edge and in tension, on this planet in the universe that we inhabit. It is coldly challenging, blunt and suitable for middle secondary to higher secondary, and adult, reading.