Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Shriver's latest opens in 2029, five years after a large-scale cyberattack called "the Stonage" destabilized the American economy and shifted all its transactions off-line. Now President Alvarado addresses the nation to deliver the news that the U.S. is once again under attack by a coordinated international effort to sink the dollar and replace it with a new global currency called the bancor. America's response is to default on all its loans, including the T-bills held by American citizens. And just like that, the inheritance of the Mandible family, created by an industrialist forebear and stewarded by patriarch Douglas, disappears. With wit and insight, Shriver details the impact of this new era on the Mandible clan, who are forced to come together to weather the crisis. Soon Douglas and his wife, Luella, are kicked out of their retirement community and begin bunking with his "boomerpoop" son, Carter (a journalist back when there were still newspapers), and his emotionally fragile wife, Jayne, in their Brooklyn brownstone. Carter's sister Avery and her economics professor husband, Lowell, and their three children arrive on the doorstep of her do-good sister Florence, whose job working for the homeless is more stable than Lowell's academic career. What's remarkable about the Mandibles is how poorly they adapt to the new normal, perhaps with the exception of Florence's son, Willing, a teenager with prodigious knowledge of macroeconomics and a dismal worldview formed by the Stonage. Shriver's (Big Brother) vision has a few blind spots, and a time shift forces significant plot points to be recounted by characters later. Nevertheless, Shriver's imaginative novel works as a mishmash of literary fiction and dystopian satire. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Shriver, nobody's idea of an optimist about the present day, delivers a dire vision of near-future America. The collapse of the United States arrives in 2029, not via climate change or airborne viruses or zombie hordes, but international monetary policy: foreign governments establish their own currency, the bancor (a concept first proposed by economist John Maynard Keynes), and when the U.S. resists, it's effectively locked out of global trade. America speedily goes into free fall, with rampant shortages and inheritances vaporized by high costs, unemployment, and human longevity. The Mandible family is just barely hanging on: Florence, who has one of the few stable jobs left (working at a homeless shelter), is forced to open her Brooklyn home to desperate family members, including a humiliated economist brother-in-law, a sister whose career as a novelist tanked along with all print media, and her once-wealthy grandfather who has only a silver service left to his name and whose second wife suffers from violent dementia. Almost gleefully, Shriver (Big Brother, 2013, etc.) catalogs how this upper-middle-class clan gets knocked off its perch in ways both small (toilet-paper shortages, overcrowding) and large (rampant theft and violence, starvation, zero health care, general erosion of humanity). Politically, this may be the only novel Mother Jones and breitbart.com can both take an interest in, though it might tire them both, too: the closing chapters, set in a scorched-earth 2047, are overly didactic on themes of individual rights, taxation, and citizenship. "Plots set in the future are about what people fear in the present," as Florence's brother-in-law puts it, and Shriver's biggest fear is that, between numbing technology and nanny-statedom, we've lost our capacity to live by our wits. This novel is a bracing vision of what happens when we're forced to, though the lecturing tone sometimes grates. An imperfect but savvy commingling of apocalyptic and polemic. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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