Books Magazine

Book Review: 2030

By Storycarnivores @storycarnivores

Albert Brooks 2030Title: 2030
Written by: Albert Brooks
Series: N/A
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publish Date: May 10, 2011
Genre: Adult Literary
Pages: 384
Source: Bought at Indie Bookstore
Buy the Book: 2030

Synopsis: Is this what the future holds?

June 12, 2030 started out like any other day in memory—and by then, memories were long.  Since cancer had been cured fifteen years earlier, America’s population was aging rapidly.  That sounds like good news, but consider this: millions of baby boomers, with a big natural predator picked off, were sucking dry benefits and resources that were never meant to hold them into their eighties and beyond.  Young people around the country simmered with resentment toward “the olds” and anger at the treadmill they could never get off of just to maintain their parents’ entitlement programs.

But on that June 12th, everything changed: a massive earthquake devastated Los Angeles, and the government, always teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, was unable to respond.

The fallout from the earthquake sets in motion a sweeping novel of ideas that pits national hope for the future against assurances from the past and is peopled by a memorable cast of refugees and billionaires, presidents and revolutionaries, all struggling to find their way. (Via Amazon)

Brian’s Review: Defending Your Life, the 1991 film written and directed by, and starring, Albert Brooks, is my favorite comedy of all time. Co-starring Meryl Streep, the film tells of a man who dies in a tragic bus accident, then wakes up in a new afterlife where for four days his life on Earth is examined and it’s decided whether he’ll continue on to “the next stage” or go back to Earth to try again. It’s a very funny movie, and a sweet romance, but it’s also the only glimpse into what happens after we die that actually makes sense. It’s a film I’ve watched over and over and over again, and it’s one that’s made me seek out every known Albert Brooks project ever made. It’s not that hard, actually, since his output is disappointingly limited. He’s only made a handful of films, most of which are great, including Modern Romance, Lost in America, Mother, and The Muse. And in 2011, much to my surprise and joy, his first work of fiction was published. I’ve just finished 2030, and let me tell you, this is an eye-opening, fascinating glimpse into a scarily real future, one that reminded me of a slightly less gruesome version of Stephen King’s The Stand.

2030 weaves together at least half a dozen major storylines, and dozens of characters, as they come to grips with hardships in the year 2030. While Defending Your Life is funny in its depiction of the afterlife, there’s surprisingly few laughs in this book, mostly because, as a young person, I’m mortified by the idea of the older generation living longer and longer and we in our twenties and thirties having to pay for them. I’m mortified by interest rates skyrocketing, and climate change becoming a worldwide detonator. The event that sets off the rest of the novel is a 9.1 earthquake in Los Angeles that kills thousands and leaves the city in utter ruins, and even the President is unsure where he’s going to get the money to pay for all the rescue efforts. Brooks does include some more clever, less traumatizing futuristic predictions, like a cure for cancer finally being discovered, and all movies being projected in 3D. But at the heart of the story is total chaos, and not the kind of comedy we’ve come to expect from Brooks.

If I had a criticism of the book, it’s that there’s not the kind of thrust to the narrative that can be found in, say, the apocalyptic works of Stephen King. At 384 pages, 2030 felt a tad long, while 1,100+ pages of The Stand fly by in a breeze. The characters are all interesting, especially The President, who has unimaginable burdens in this near future, and Kathy, a young 20-something, who’s suddenly faced with hundreds of thousand of dollars in debt after her father gets treated at the hospital (and then dies soon after). And I loved all the tiny details Brooks scatters throughout. Ultimately, this book is worth reading sooner rather than later (published in 2012, the book already has predictions of things to come for 2013!). While it doesn’t reach the powers of his film masterpiece, one I’m already thinking of revisiting again, Defending Your Life, it’s an honest, fascinating look at where we might be in seventeen years. I hope it’s the first of many (or at least two or three!) literary endeavors from one of my favorite writers in the universe, Mr. Albert Brooks.

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