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Landscape with Invisible Hand Hardcover – September 12, 2017
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From the Publisher
"As I was writing it, I started to realize it’s about how we all struggle to deﬁne ourselves, especially as teens, and especially when social media has turned our own lives into works of art we have to curate. It’s a very different world from the slick, commercialized world of my other futuristic novel, Feed, but there are some similarities. I guess you could say Feed is about being sold to while Landscape with Invisible Hand is about how we now have to sell ourselves. We’re all constantly painting self-portraits and sketches of the world we live in on Facebook, on Instagram, on Snapchat. But we’re also part of a bigger picture, and we often don’t have a choice how we’re depicted there, in the wider clashes of culture and power.
I hope the book will speak to kids who struggle with how to identify themselves at a time when even the most intimate parts of our lives are public art and all of us are trying to be someone, whoever that may be."
– M.T. Anderson
In short vignettes titled as if they are pieces of fine art, the bleakness of this new reality is expertly rendered...Resplendent with Anderson's trademark dry, sarcastic wit, this brief, complicated read serves as a scathing social commentary and, as the title indicates, an interrogation of free market economics.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Some fear that hyper-capitalist technocrats, under the guise of altruism and progress, are fleecing the world; Anderson (Feed, 2002) stretches this premise to deliriously enjoyable extremes...Throw in a romantic rival, an interplanetary art contest, and plenty of scintillating details about the Lovecraftian horrors of the vuvv, and you’ve got the makings of an elegant, biting, and hilarious social satire that will appeal to dissatisfied, worried readers of all ages.
—Booklist (starred review)
Anderson takes issues of colonialism, ethnocentrism, inequality, and poverty and explodes them on a global, even galactic, scale. A remarkable exploration of economic and power structures in which virtually all of humanity winds up the losers.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
This sharp, compelling, slim volume packs a punch. Anderson’s vivid world could be a mirror for many American communities today...Despite the heavy subject material and pervading sense of doom, the book ends on a hopeful note, making this a solid choice for a variety of readers. An engrossing, speculative look at life in the margins, this is a first purchase for libraries serving teens.
—School Library Journal (starred review)
Parable, satire, dystopic sci-fi—Anderson’s take on a near future in which alien “vuvv” have colonized America’s economy, land, and airspace has so many shiveringly close resemblances to the contemporary world that it might also be termed “realism.”...Anderson’s prose is almost hyper-lucid here—appropriately so, as the story is structured around Adam’s descriptions of his paintings. Practically every word reflects a prescient, bitingly precise critique of contemporary human folly, of economic and environmental inequities and absurdities.
—The Horn Book (starred review)
M.T. Anderson (Feed; Symphony for the City of the Dead) has written a biting satire about the world's haves and have-nots, set in an increasingly stratified near-future where the human race has, for the most part, become expendable. It's a strange and wonderful fantasy about seeking love amid the filth, and keeping hope alive, despite unquestionable odds against it.
—Shelf Awareness for Readers (starred review)
Anderson's down-and-out in the post-scarcity world is a scorching, arch, hilarious and ultimately very moving little parable about the cult of markets and the elevation of corporatism over human kindness. It's as zeitgeisty as Feed ever was, and such a compact little gem of a book that you very well might read it in one sitting, as I did.
Ultimately, though, I don’t read J.K. Rowling — or M.T. Anderson, or Ursula K. Leguin — because of what their books have to tell me about life. I read them because these writers have mastered the ancient magic of storytelling, and because they remind me of what it’s like to be young, living in a world that seems both simple and incomprehensible.
—The New York Times
In the near sci-fi future envisioned by M.T. Anderson in his slim and coruscating young-adult novel ‘Landscape With Invisible Hand,’ human adolescents flirt and banter for the pay-per-view pleasure of earth’s new overlords, a squat species of alien known as the vuvv…In this bitter, witty story for readers ages 14 and older, Adam’s only hope seems to lie in winning a lucrative trans-galactic art prize—until he hits on an even more radical solution.
—The Wall Street Journal
Anderson’s vision of alien invaders is captivating.
In this novella, National Book Award winner M.T. Anderson writes a multilayered and scathing satire...It's a bleak but necessary lesson in trying to find the beauty in the disastrous, all while learning to recognize when it's time to dream a new dream.
A fantastic new satire from M.T. Anderson...equal parts humor and philosophical rumination.
Fans of Feed will be intrigued to follow the development of Anderson’s dystopic imagination into this similarly themed futuristic critique of the present.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
A slim, stark, brilliant cultural commentary...a satirical portrait of the artist as a young man and a resonant portrait of contemporary society.
—Globe and Mail
Short, pointed commentary on art, politics and aliens! Funny and tense.
Reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut on a satirical roll.
—San Francisco Chronicle
About the Author
M. T. Anderson is the author of Feed, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; the National Book Award–winning The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party and its sequel, The Kingdom on the Waves, both New York Times bestsellers and Michael L. Printz Honor Books; Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad; and many other books for children and young adults. He lives near Boston, Massachusetts.
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Anderson has instead given us a look at unrestrained capitalism and its impact on those who are excluded from its benefits. The farcical love story and the narrator's artistic interests are merely part of that study: when everything is a commodity, there's no room for anything else.
As for the "hopeful ending," I rather suspect that it's a false hope. Anderson is perfectly capable of continuing Adam's story in the world of the vuvv as he becomes more and more radicalized against his oppressors — and in fact we've already seen the beginnings of that process.
A disturbing book with profound relevance for our world today. Highly recommended
"We were all surprised when the vuvv landed the first time," Anderson writes. "They'd been watching us since the 1940s, and we'd seen them occasionally, but we had all imagined them differently. They weren't slender and delicate, and they weren't humanoid at all. They looked more like granite coffee tables: squat, wide, and rocky. We were just glad they weren't invading. We couldn't believe our luck when they offered us their tech and invited us to be part of their Interspecies Co-Prosperity Alliance. They announced that they could end all work forever and cure all disease, so of course, the leaders of the world all rushed to sign up."
Big surprise! This was not a good idea. The story of the sad (and sometimes hilarious) consequences of this peculiar alien invasion is told through the voice of Adam Costello, a seventeen-year-old art student. Adam lives in a decaying middle-class home with his out-of-work parents and his younger sister. Because the vuvv give nothing away free of charge, and jobs are extremely scarce, everyone on Earth has essentially gone broke, with the exception of a small number of super-wealthy people who live in palatial homes that float above the land. The dollar and every other human currency is virtually worthless in exchange for the vuvv currency, the ch'ch. ("The lowliest vuvv grunt made more in a week than most humans made in two years.") Adam, his family, and practically everyone he knows are on the verge of starvation. He takes it upon himself to earn money so the family can eat, first with one crazy scheme, then another.
Landscape with Invisible Hand, reflects the same inventiveness and sarcastic humor that so enlivens his popular dystopian young adult novel, Feed. The heading of each short chapter ("A Food Cart in Front of a Strip Mall," "My Parents' Bedroom, with the Covers Askew") represents the title of one of Adam's paintings. The book is full of surprises.
M. T. Anderson (Matthew Tobin Anderson) wrote fourteen previous novels as well as a number of short stories and picture books. He writes primarily for young adults and children. Anderson won the National Book Award for one of his novels, among other awards.