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Landscape with Invisible Hand by M. T.…

Landscape with Invisible Hand

by M. T. Anderson

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Find more reviews like this at The Literary Phoenix.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley and Candlewick Press for this opportunity!

Adam's life is pretty terrible.

His mom is out of work. His father's left. Their house is underwater (figuratively, not literally). He has a terrible gastrointestinal disease. Life since the vuuv invasion has been terrible.

Then Adam falls in love, and Chloe comes up with an idea. They'll broadcast their love story 1950s style to the vuuv. The vuuv are obsessed with the 50s and it'll bring some money in. It's an amazing idea! Until it's not. When one thing starts to spiral, everything starts to go out of control and it's up to Adam to figure out a way to save his family and himself.

Well, it's not Feed.

When I love a book, really love a book, I get really high expectations for the author. I want that again! I want to be as in love and enraged as I was over Violet! I just don't feel that for Adam, and I want to get that out of the way. Landscape With Invisible Hand is not Feed. But that's okay - because it's still pretty good. It's great to read some science-fiction by M.T. Anderson again. He still manages to lace it with that dystopian cynicism that made Feed amazing, but it's really difficult not to compare the books. It's the future. Technology has changed. As a result, human life is actually pretty terrible. But in Landscape, the MC is all too aware of exactly how terrible it is.

And you keep waiting for things to get better! ...

You can't help but to feel bad for Adam.

He's not quite likable enough that you want to root for him, but you don't hate him enough to feel like he deserves this lot in life. It's an interesting balance, and I don't think I've run into a character that I've felt like this about before. Anderson is great at building worlds that make you cringe in their relatability and bleakness. He's great at annoying characters that are really interesting. This book was just so depressing though. In a necessary, "let's talk about how our social classes are a facade" sort of way.

This was a really easy read, but it was anything but light. I've already recommended it to a few friends because of the way it sucks you in. It's like a car crash, where something terrible has happened and you know you don't want to see it, but you have to see it because it reminds you that you are mortal and to be wary. It makes you see the truth in things you want to ignore.

I didn't like it, but it is a needed book.

It's difficult to say I liked a book that was so gosh darn grim. I liked the ending though. I'm on the fence as to whether or not I will purchase a hard copy of this book for my personal library. But I will keep recommending it to people, because it was so interesting. And I will definitely keep reading any science fiction M.T. Anderson puts out. ( )
  Morteana | Oct 14, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Landscape With Invisible Hand is set some time after extraterrestrials - the vuvv - have made contact. Not only have they made contact, but they made contracts too. Lots of contracts. They will sell technology and medicine and buy (some specific kinds of) human art and culture. The result is extreme economic disparity between the wealthy few who can trade with the vuvv and the poor many who are losing their jobs to vuvv technology.

I wanted to like this. I feel like the author was trying to say something about the state of the world (or at least the United States) today. I just don’t think it worked. It didn’t help that the vuvv didn’t really make sense. And the message was especially muddled by the sudden turn of events at the end, when the chronically ill main character was cured for no apparent reason, then found a new girlfriend, and had a brilliant idea that helped his family magically get out of poverty. Not a particularly believable or relatable ending.

Overall, I found the book neither compelling nor satisfying. ( )
  bluesalamanders | Oct 3, 2017 |
Set in the future, this teen novel tells a gloomy story of Earth after an alien invasion. The Vuvv's advanced technology has destroyed the Earth's economy and most humans scrape out a miserable existence on Earth while the Vuvv, and a few super-rich people, live in luxury condos floating above the Earth. One of the few ways that people can make money is to live-stream their romantic relationships for the Vuvv to watch. Adam and his girlfriend decide that this is the only way to make ends meet but it strains their relationship to the breaking point.
This book presents an interesting view of how an alien invasion may occur and the consequences of adopting advanced technology. It could be seen as an allegory of colonisation but the bleakness and weak characterisation make this a less than satisfying read. ( )
  RefPenny | Oct 1, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
M. T. Anderson is a master of many genres: satire, romance, historical fiction. Here he returns to science fiction, the genre of his most popular novel, Feed, with Landscape with Invisible Hand. The bookmark that came with my review copy of Landscape with Invisible Hand includes this quotation from Anderson himself linking the two: "If Feed was about constantly being sold to, Landscape with Invisible Hand is about how we now have to constantly have to sell ourselves." An alien race called the vuvv has come to Earth, bringing their advanced technology-- which has completely wrecked the human economy. The 1% get richer through their investment in vuvv technology and manufacturing, but many humans are quickly put out of work by automation, and then things spiral out of control-- as people can't afford things, other jobs progressively collapse, leaving the majority of humanity unemployed.

The main character is Adam, who as Anderson's quote indicates, himself becomes a commodity: he and his girlfriend Chloe (whose family rents from Adam's because they can't afford their own home) livestream their relationship to vuvv observers, who fund them in a sort of Patreon- or Kickstarter-esque way because they find human coupling really fascinating. The vuvv especially like 1950s culture because that's when they first came to Earth, so Adam and Chloe try to emulate the period in their relationship. Even though they make good money, this lack of authenticity soon begins to wear on their relationship, but the worse it gets the more they need it.

The other quote Landscape with Invisible Hand brought to mind was this passage from the first chapter of The War of the Worlds: "And before we judge of them [the Martians] too harshly we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished bison and the dodo, but upon its inferior races. The Tasmanians, in spite of their human likeness, were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space of fifty years. Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?" In its way, Landscape with Invisible Hand is much more of a The War of the Worlds update for the twenty-first century than the Steven Spielberg film or Independence Day. Like Wells's novel, it mirrors what our civilization does to other ones with aliens coming to ours. The way the vuvv economic needs cause the human economy to collapse, and the vuvv "help" humanity by doing occasional medical missionary work, or claim to enjoy human art, but have an out-of-date, ossified, condescending way of perceiving it, mirror the way America can treat countries outside of "the First World." Just as the Martians were us all along, so are the vuvv.

It's not a fun read; it's probably one of Anderson's darkest (not that he's consistently lighthearted or something). Even the jokes are typically dark and depressing, such as the ongoing development of how Chloe's brother is reacting to the vuvv invasion. It's very potent though, and well put together in the way that every M. T. Anderson novel is. Probably it's biggest crime is that it's short, with just 149 pages that aren't exactly packed with text. This prevents the characters from achieving the kind of depth necessary to really fell their tragedy, like you do in Feed even though the characters in that book are almost universally awful. On the other hand, its length makes it a compelling, quick read-- I zipped through the whole thing in two evenings and felt satisfied. I suspect Landscape with Invisible Hand will be a minor work from a major talent.
  Stevil2001 | Sep 8, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I really didn't like this book. I thought it was depressing, including the parts that I think weren't supposed to be. I kept waiting for something good, at least a little bit good, to happen, but in my opinion, nothing did. How much more can one teenager go through? ( )
  mtlkch | Aug 29, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0763687898, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 14 Mar 2017 04:59:00 -0400)

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