M T Anderson, Landscape with Invisible Hand, Walker Books Australia, 1 Nov 2017, 160pp., $16.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9780763699505
M T Anderson is the award-winning author of Feed, a dystopian novel set in the near future and of The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, both titles remarkable for a refusal to talk down to his teenage audience, challenging ideas and a complex and sophisticated writing style. In Landscape with Invisible Hand he has created a biting satire of contemporary American society thinly disguised as a space invaders romp.
17-year-old Adam inhabits a world where the Vuvv, an alien race, has arrived offering advanced technology, superior medicine and world peace. They are welcomed with open arms as people do not foresee that the technology will put almost everyone out of work, prices of food and necessities will rise, that the superior medicine will only be available to the very rich, the human economy will collapse and that the number of poor people will increase.
Adam, a teenage boy living with his sister and his mother is one of these newly poor. They share their house with Chloe’s family to get some income and Adam soon falls in love with Chloe. Together they create and star in their own romantic reality show paid for by the Vuvv who adore watching sentimental human interactions. This is fine when they are in love but when they drift apart they have to fake their emotions and the Vuvv find out and want their money back.
Adam is a painter. He paints landscapes of what he sees around him and it is not pretty. His art teacher enters his work in an interplanetary art competition and Adam is anxious to win to get money to pay off his Vuvv debt and to get some effective medical help for a disease he contracted through drinking bad water. Anderson, through Adam’s paintings, presents vignettes of a bleak world where normal acceptable social interactions are beginning to break down as people struggle to survive. He does this with a satirical eye and biting humour that is almost painful at times.
The book is very short but intense. Each chapter is a brief description of one of Adam’s paintings that extends and develops characters and deepens our view of this depressing world. Adam’s voice is compelling, full of teenage angst and anger, insecurity and inspiration, written in deceptively simple language. This is social satire at its best. Those expecting a simple space romp will find that they are enjoying instead a thought provoking commentary on what is happening in too many parts of the world today. Recommended.
Reviewed by Mia Macrossan