Combining the most depressing aspects of Orwell's 1984
and Huxley's Brave New World
, Ted Rall's 2024
shows us where turn-of-the-century corporate America is heading if we don't collectively wake up. Yet, like most of Rall's work, it's not a downer. Even when the reader sees a not-so-twisted reflection of his or her own life in Winston and Julia's horrifying misadventures in neopostmodern "Canamexicusa," it's usually more of a belly laugh than a gut punch. Tearing away at the shrouds of irony that keep us from experiencing our lives more directly for all their faults, Rall captures the essence of our reactions to soft oppression by having his characters repeat the mantra "Yes. No. Whatever." If the best criticism is satire, then 2024
is as good as it gets. --Rob Lightner
From Publishers Weekly
Executed in his familiar black and white blockish graphics, Rall's latest (Search and Destroy; My War with Brian) takes place in a future where blind consumerism has rendered history and human consciousness irrelevant. 2024 is meant to be a sly, 1984-inflected commentary on the shallowness of our times, but it never quite manages to measure up to its formidable literary model. In Rall's vision of the future, Web TV is omnipresent, and the economy is run by megacorporations that exploit ethnic tensions in trade wars. As in 1984, the protagonists are named Winston and Julia, and share a fickle dissatisfaction with the corporate system that dictates and monitors their lives. They live in a world where news and history are easily revised digitally, and shopping and pornography substitute for social interaction and passion. It's a "future where the past doesn't matter and no one cares" and where the key to life, says Winston, is to "keep yourself entertained, stave off boredom... hope for a way out before you come up for euthanasia." Rall's view of the future's social contract is a razor-sharp, irony-saturated parody of today's pop culture/consumerist consciousness. But his bleak lampoon of the mindless consumer state requires a lot of exposition, and, at times, his bold-faced text boxes threaten to visually overwhelm the exploits of his characters. Indeed, the characters sometimes function more as talking points than as protagonists. Even his updates of Orwellian doublespeak ("Assumptions Permit Imagination," etc.) are used to poor effect, with frequent, text-laden shifts of events undercutting the work's narrative logic. Undeniably smart and witty, the book can also be a bit awkward and disjointed.
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