Top positive review
17 February 2018
This is a novel of ideas. Through the prism of the Mandible family, Shriver invites us to consider the intersect between political and economic systems. She presents a USA of the near future where sure, there are driverless cars and flexible folding computers, but economically and socially, things are going to hell in a hand basket pretty quickly. The country is so Mexicanised that Spanish is almost the Lingua Franca. Even the President - Alvarado - is Mexican.
When Alvarado delivers a state of the nation address, things spiral downwards even more quickly. The new decrees: citizens must turn over all their gold to the government, and they must not trade in bancors (the new international currency that is solidly backed). The result is rapid inflation and a depression worthy of the 1930’s. Americans can only take $100 out of the country. Ergo, they no longer travel. Isolated from world trade, they become everyone’s poor cousin.
Eventually, everyone gets chipped in the back of the neck. Via the chips, the government can track everything about its citizens: where they are, what they spend their money on, their taxes (about 77% of earnings). It’s the ultimate police state. Nevada secedes, becoming a black hole within the US. This is where the remaining Mandibles end up, in a quest for freedom.
There’s a huge amount to chew on here. Many of the ideas are presented in set speeches from the various characters. But it still works as a novel where we want to know what happens next. It’s basically about the trials and tribulations of running a large, complex and fair democracy. There’s a lot we need to re-think. Sobering and fascinating if you’re interested in this sort of thing.