Tuesday, September 11, 2012

2030 book review: The future looks a lot like today, but older

2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America by Albert Brooks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the fourth book I've read recently which depicts a world which seems entirely plausible when you look at today's trends in society and technology.

That means you don't get flying cars, jetpacks, or colonization of Mars. Instead, in Halting State and Rule 34 you get the evolution of the internet to encompass virtual reality and 3D printers. In The Windup Girl you have climate change, energy collapse, and bio-engineering. And in 2030, you get a piece of future history about an America with an aging population and declining economy -- much like the one we see today.

Brooks tells several interconnected stories in 2030. We meet the first Jewish president of the United States, an 80 year old retiree, the man who cured cancer, a 19 year old girl struggling to pay her father's medical bills, and a Chinese entrepreneur itching to reform America's healthcare system.

Through their tales, Brooks tells the story of an America where young people see little future for themselves as the government's resources are used disproportionately to support elder citizens... who keep getting older and older due to advances in medical science.

Meanwhile, the nation continues to crawl further and further into debt so that when a natural disaster hits that makes Hurricane Katrina look tame, there aren't many options available.

This is the first novel from filmmaker and actor Albert Brooks. It's not particularly funny, but despite the heavy subject matter it's not all that dark either. It doesn't paint a pretty picture of the future, but it's not exactly pessimistic either... just realistic.

It's a fast-paced, quick read that feels like it ends a little too soon. There's not really much of a resolution. Some parts of the plot are tied up, others left to go... but that's how history works. Maybe Brooks will be back one day with 2031, or 2050... or maybe not. As a first novel it holds up pretty well. But that's not surprising from someone who's been telling complex, human stories for as long as Brooks has.

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