M.T. Anderson's futuristic vision - is it a brave new world?

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Thank you to Walker Books Australia for sending me copies of these books in exchange for an honest review

What makes reading M.T. Anderson's work so refreshing in YA is that his books take a sharp-witted, satirical slant when gazing into just what our future may look like. Landscape with Invisible Hand may come in at less than 150 pages, but its darkly funny plot about an alien invasion is thought-provoking and uniquely envisioned. 'True love' as it was 'back in the day' during the 1950's is the ideal for the vuvv, who transform it into a marketable commodity. However, as Adam and Chloe soon discover, there are some emotions which can't be faked forever. You can't help wondering, is this a subtle dig at what could be seen as the technology-driven, narcissistic dating scene of today? What I like about Anderson's writing is that it can be interpreted in so many ways, from a straightforward narrative of survival in a new age of civilisation, to a scathing analysis of how we are living right now.

But when I glance at my fantasy paintings, they no longer look like any place I want to be. Or they are what I want, but I am already here in this word, wrapped up in the blighted towns and the peeling paint and the glow of the rendering sails at night and in the looted Stop & Shop at first light. That is where I really am. That is where my family is stuck. And that's what I have to deal with. Without flinching.

The contrast to all these facades the characters wear is the focus on art as a means of expression and escape. It was interesting to read about how Adam was torn between painting what was real, the 'classic' still-lifes the vuvv wanted, or the utopia he wished for. It just went to show that art, like literature, transcends time. It was a clever point for the author to include, and even for a short book, Landscape with Invisible Hand tackles some considerable issues about the impact of colonisation and class divisions, what characterises a true relationship, and creativity as a human trait that can never be stifled.

Forget trying to look for 'flowery' prose in Anderson's work - both this novel and Feed are dialogue driven, where the creation of his own lexicon takes some getting used to as a reader. In the end, it all adds to the world-building, which in Feed depicts a chilling society where consumerism rules and teens are constantly being bombarded with marketing messages through a brain implant.

Violet lay back down in the dark, her legs starting to sting. She called out loud after her dad. She was sobbing.
   Maybe, Violet, if we check out some of the great bargains available to you through the feednet over the next six months, we might be able to create a consumer portrait of you that would interest out investment team. How 'bout it, Violet Durn? Just us, you and me - girls together! Shop till you stop and drop!

When Violet comes along to challenge Titus and his friends' mindless hedonism with attempts to rebel against the feed, the story really begins to take shape. I can see where Landscape with Invisible Hand has taken on some similar ideas to this previous novel, but here there is some more raw emotion and terrifying insights into what happens to humanity when we no longer choose to think for ourselves. School and even the clouds are trademarked, and suddenly getting cosmetic lesions all over your body is the on-trend thing to do. It begs the question - at one point has it all gone too far? Honestly I went into this book not knowing how much I would like it, but the sheer depth of imagination Anderson has injected into the story made it one of my top reads of this year so far.


Overall, Feed and Landscape with Invisible Hand are must-reads for fans of speculative fiction, blending the lines between satire and tragedy. Nobody can know for certain what the future holds, but one thing's for sure - you wouldn't want it to look like this.

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson
Released: 12th September 2017
Published by: Walker Books (Candlewick Press)
Genre: YA Dystopian/Speculative Fiction
Source: Publisher
Pages: 149
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson returns to future Earth in a sharply wrought satire of art and truth in the midst of colonization.

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.
Feed by M.T. Anderson
Released: 7th July 2012 (First released in 2002)
Published by: Walker Books (Candlewick Press)
Genre: YA Dystopian
Source: Publisher
Pages: 300
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck. So says Titus, whose ability to read, write, and even think for himself has been almost completely obliterated by his feed, a transmitter implanted directly into his brain. Feeds are a crucial part of life for Titus and his friends. After all, how else would they know where to party on the moon, how to get bargains at Weatherbee & Crotch, or how to accessorize the mysterious lesions everyone s been getting? But then Titus meets Violet, a girl who cares about what's happening to the world and challenges everything Titus and his friends hold dear. A girl who decides to fight the feed.

Following in the footsteps of Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, and Kurt Vonnegut, M. T. Anderson has created a not-so-brave new world and a smart, savage satire about the nature of consumerism and what it means to be a teenager in America."

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