Landscape with Invisible Hand

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 Jun 2018

Member Reviews

Wonderful. I really enjoy Mr. Anderson's voice, as well as the parallels he makes in his stories. His books are raw and immersive, throwing you in without preamble, trusting you to figure out the world.
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This was an interesting idea but I was suuuuper bored. Practically no character development left me with no connection to the characters.
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M.T. Anderson wrote Feed, which is not to be confused with Mira Grant's Feed, but which is widely admired and which appears to have predicted the world of social media, though it was published in 2002.  I still haven't read it, but all those recommendations were what pointed me at his new novella, Landscape with Invisible Hand.

I got an ARC from Netgalley a while ago, but the format wasn't cooperating with my Kindle, so I ended up reading it when it came out, especially after I saw Librarian Sam reading it she told me how great it was.  I checked it out and started reading, and it is great--incredibly well written and perfectly portrayed. But my GOD, what a downer.

In Feed, Anderson anticipated the overwhelming role of social media in society; Landscape is about poverty, economics, and social stratification.  Basically, an alien race called the vuvv have introduced themselves to Earth, offered cultural and economic exchange, and some have come to live here. Their advanced technology changes everything.

In fact, it almost eliminates the need for a workforce.  Adam is a high school student and aspiring artist; his parents can't find work and everyone in his town is living hand to mouth.  Adam and his girlfriend sign up to be a vuvv reality show, where their dates are televised and translated. Of course, the vuvv's understanding of human culture is based mostly on old TV, so the only way to "authentically" date is to go bowling or for moonlit walks.  And if, at some point, they decide to break up, they might be in breach of contract.

This is a dark story, and it's very much about helplessness, and what you're left with when you not only have nothing, but see avenues closed off to you one by one.  When your health and your finances and your relationships are all collapsing, and there are no resources, and, and, and.  It reminds me of another recent read, Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America, by Linda Tirado, which is basically an account of being working-class poor in the US. There are specific points I would argue with that author, but her clear explanations of the logic of poverty just makes me outraged at everyone who fails to see that virtually every person is trying their hardest, and many of them are being screwed by the system.

Capitalism is rough, and a lousy social system. The vuvv treatment of humanity is exactly--precisely--how we treat the poor. The dystopia is that we're all living in the world that we've built for each other, but when we emerge from behind the veil of ignorance, we discover that we've all drawn the short straw that we expected someone else to get.

Well written and engrossing, I can't say it was a pleasure to read.  But it was worth it, and I actually liked the ending.  I couldn't have imagined an ending, happy or sad, that would satisfy me while I was reading it, but in the end it was what I needed. I definitely need to read more MT Anderson, though maybe not all at once.
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Solid satire that really draws you in. The parallels are clear and intense.
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It's generally acknowledged that Anderson is never gonna top FEED, and that most things aren't gonna top FEED, but he does a pretty spectacular job. I'm a sucker for pre-dystopians, things that aren't dystopian but are set in a society that's falling apart. LANDSPACE WITH INVISIBLE HAND is a pretty short book, but that's because it's a tight story. There's no excess, nothing that doesn't need to be here, and everything that's here is amazing. The worldbuilding is just enough to get you into it, leaving so much to your nervous imagination- the scope of this world isn't something I can easily fathom, but I know enough to be glad I do not live there. A lot of the time, an unreliable scene or narrator can put a damper on a big moment, but not here. It's a lot of chaos and pain and headaches and it just hurts. It's good and it hurts. I love it, if we're being real. Strained romance, families, that moment that I'm not sure everyone's experienced when you realize that there is literally nothing else you can do and that everything is always gonna suck.And some fun art, for people who like art, or who understand art at all as a part of oppression and society. Very, very good overall. Hell, I'd read the sequel that goes more into the underwater house, but that'd be overkill. It ends where it ends and I thank Anderson for that, for not ruining it.
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Unfortunately, I couldn't read this novel because of the formatting of it on my kindle. For some reason it was messed up and impossible to read after downloading from Netgalley.
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I did not like this book.  Perhaps other people will.  I won't post a negative review online.  Thank you and good luck with it.
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An edgy YA dystopia set in the near future where aliens have colonized and monopolized Earth's culture through financial manipulation. Although this is a very short science fiction novel, the world building is well developed. With sardonic narration, this is a horrific vision of a corrupt economic power structure that has much to say about poverty, health care, and art.
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If a more bleak view of the future is you bag, Anderson is the author for you. There is no need to wrap up the book neatly with the promise of a better future. The humans in this book live in a generally desperate situation. Yet their desperation doesn't cause them to band together and start a rebellion. If anything they become more isolated and self-serving. And all of the issues that plague societies - uneven distribution of wealth, the collapse of the nuclear family, etc - are magnified. The plot is not entirely linear, framed instead around paintings, so it's a little strange and isn't likely to have a broad mainstream following. But if you're cool with something a little different this may be the book for you.
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Adam's life is pretty terrible.

His mom is out of work. His father's left. Their house is underwater (figuratively, not literally). He has a terrible gastrointestinal disease. Life since the vuuv invasion has been terrible.

Then Adam falls in love, and Chloe comes up with an idea. They'll broadcast their love story 1950s style to the vuuv. The vuuv are obsessed with the 50s and it'll bring some money in. It's an amazing idea! Until it's not. When one thing starts to spiral, everything starts to go out of control and it's up to Adam to figure out a way to save his family and himself.

Well, it's not Feed.

When I love a book, really love a book, I get really high expectations for the author. I want that again! I want to be as in love and enraged as I was over Violet! I just don't feel that for Adam, and I want to get that out of the way. Landscape With Invisible Hand is not Feed. But that's okay - because it's still pretty good. It's great to read some science-fiction by M.T. Anderson again. He still manages to lace it with that dystopian cynicism that made Feed amazing, but it's really difficult not to compare the books. It's the future. Technology has changed. As a result, human life is actually pretty terrible. But in Landscape, the MC is all too aware of exactly how terrible it is.

And you keep waiting for things to get better! ...

You can't help but to feel bad for Adam.

He's not quite likable enough that you want to root for him, but you don't hate him enough to feel like he deserves this lot in life. It's an interesting balance, and I don't think I've run into a character that I've felt like this about before. Anderson is great at building worlds that make you cringe in their relatability and bleakness. He's great at annoying characters that are really interesting. This book was just so depressing though. In a necessary, "let's talk about how our social classes are a facade" sort of way.

This was a really easy read, but it was anything but light. I've already recommended it to a few friends because of the way it sucks you in. It's like a car crash, where something terrible has happened and you know you don't want to see it, but you have to see it because it reminds you that you are mortal and to be wary. It makes you see the truth in things you want to ignore.

I didn't like it, but it is a needed book.

It's difficult to say I liked a book that was so gosh darn grim. I liked the ending though. I'm on the fence as to whether or not I will purchase a hard copy of this book for my personal library. But I will keep recommending it to people, because it was so interesting. And I will definitely keep reading any science fiction M.T. Anderson puts out.
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I don't think this book was for me. Though it was only 150 pages, it was a bit slow, and not as engaging as I would have hoped.
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Wry and clear-eyed, Anderson imagines a future where an alien civilization has invaded and controls our society. Since their first contact was in the 1950's and they have no idea that humans have moved on at all from that era, there is plenty of room for misunderstanding and misinterpretation. Then again, how much HAVE we moved on? Inequalities abound, health care is inaccessible, unemployment and underemployment are epidemic. It feels uncannily like the present. Except there are these aliens....

I enjoyed this book as much for what it says about art as for what it says about humanity . Art and real artists come out on top. At least, that's my interpretation. A great, quick, funny read.
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I am in love with this book. It is a wicked and shrewd look at the world we live in and what it might become. Adam is a teenager when an alien race, the vuvv, land and offer the people of Earth a gift, their advanced technology. We Earthlings always want more, so we accept, which leads to disastrous results for many, including Adam's family. This science fiction/satire has some sly, timely, and bleak (but not totally bleak!) things to say about our world. Adam is an artist, and I really liked that the chapters are organized around his pieces. It is a nice reminder, that for all of our issues, we humans are beautiful, messy creators. I highly recommend Landscape with Invisible Hand!
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A thought provoking novel seen through the eyes of Adam who attends high school. 
The story begins after aliens (VUVV) have landed on Earth which later causes the collapse of human economy and only the wealthiest of humans can compete.
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This was my first time reading M.T. Anderson (I know, I know...) and I really enjoyed it. It was a quick and enjoyable read. I pretty much immediately felt drawn into this world and sped through the book. The vuvv land on earth and humanity essentially allows them to remain because of the promise of new technology and medical advances that will cure all diseases. Little do they realize that this technology will leave millions out of a job, and the life-changing medicine promised comes at a steep price. It was interesting to see a non-hostile takeover of planet earth and the repercussions of it.   I appreciated Anderson's ability to balance the hardships faced by the human characters after the vuvv invasion with Adam's sense of humor. Really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend to YA audiences.
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This science fiction story takes a dark satirical look at a future in which an ostensibly benevolent alien race,the vuvv, has come to earth as colonizers (literally living up in the sky above the rest of the people), promising advanced technology and lives free of work.  There are a small percentage of those on Earth who, investing in vuvv technology, manage to become rich, but most humans are in a permanent state of poverty and despair; the human economy could not stand up against what was provided by the vuvv.

Possibly a dark look at communism, or colonialism, or even capitalism (there is a lot of discussion of “the invisible hand” of the market determining worth and value), or at a world divided between the 1% of the vastly wealthy and the rest of us, there is much to contemplate in this book.  The colonizers see only what they want to see, and ignore the suffering in their wake.  They impose the culture they prefer (the U.S. in the 1950’s)  on the populace and aren’t willing to accept anything else or examine the effects of their colonization.  The 1% think only of their own pleasure and superiority.  The rest of the world becomes so desperate they will contemplate just about anything to rise above the sinkhole of their lives.  

We learn about all of this through the main character, Adam, a high school student who is an aspiring artist.  Each chapter is headed by the title of a painting he is doing of the action he describes.

Adam is quite sick from a gastrointestinal disease resulting from untreated tap water;  as part of the vuvv’s austerity measures, municipal water is no longer purified.  Possibly this is a metaphor for the way everyones lives have turned to shit.  Nevertheless, and while growing increasingly septic, he enters a vuvv-sponsored art contest in a last-ditch attempt to make money for his family.  

The outcome of the contest suggests to Adam the real way to survive in vuvv society, taking yet another jab at our current social, political, and cultural milieu.

Evaluation:   I love this author and I appreciate the points he was trying to make.  But ultimately this story fell flat for me.  While it raises a lot of interesting issues, the overtly allegorical quality of the story kept it too “unreal” and prevented me from engaging much with the characters.
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A fast paced YA dystopian novella. Satire. Commentary. 

Thought-provoking. Definitely worth a read and then thinking about, discussing.
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"Feed" was the last M.T. Anderson book I read, and that was probably over a decade ago.  Needless to say, I was beyond thrilled when I saw that he had some new material coming out in the fall.  That said, it can also be a bit nerve racking when an author has been out of your life for so long.  I mean, I loved "Feed" and Anderson's writing style is one of my favorites, but what if after so long, it just didn't have the same effect?  I mean I've changed, he's probably changed, so many variables!  Well, I shouldn't have worried, because "Landscape with Invisible Hand" definitely reminded my why I love Anderson's work so much.  This is a slim book, just cresting over a 100 pages, but my goodness does it pack a powerful punch.  The desolation and deterioration of not only Adam and Chloe's relationship but Earth as a whole and its inhabitants is heartbreaking and, quite honestly, an interesting commentary on our country's current state.  Additionally, with such sparse language, Anderson does an exceptional job of not only captivating his reader but he's also able to do so in a weirdly brutal and beautiful way.  I think my favorite aspect of this book, though, is just how much discussion power it has for teens.  I can seriously picture them talking for hours over this book and for that as well as all of the other reasons I mentioned, this is an absolute necessity in all YA library collections.  Seriously. I'm probably going to re-read it right now  . . . and maybe again after that . . .
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YA Books Central review link: http://www.yabookscentral.com/yafiction/21772-landscape-with-invisible-hand

Aliens have invaded Earth and promise to share their technology. Of course most people are very excited about the idea that Earth will have advanced technology, but they don't realize the cost. Adam watches as his parents lose their jobs to this technology. Then his father leaves the family. His mother rents the house out to another displaced family. Adam hooks up with Chloe, the daughter of the family and together they put together a pay by the minute recording of their romance. They do this to survive. Only their loves fizzles in the process. Adam needs to find another way to help his family survive the alien's colonization.

What worked: This is a sharp, funny at times, satire on what would happen if an advance race invaded Earth. Only in this case it's colonizing our planet. There's a huge cost to receiving the so-called advanced technology. A cost that leaves people out of work and money almost useless. I thought it was very intriguing how Andersen shows how an alien race can take over a world and at the same time show their disdain for the inhabitants of the world. **Show kind of familiar?

Adam witnesses the after effect of the invasion and wants to help his mother and younger sister out. The whole idea of recording a romance using old 1950s culture and slang(aliens first encounter Earth in the 1940s), is creative, but what at first was an easy way to get money, grows old fast. We see this world through Adam's eyes. I wanted to see more of Chloe and how she really felt about all of this. At times she seemed almost too unlikable on how she viewed Adam. He has Merrick's disease, a terrible stomach disease based on having to drink unpurified water(the aliens don't need that). Her comments about this felt almost too petty.

I loved the glimpses into the Vuvv. There's lots of rich details-the condos in the sky; snobbery against the Earth inhabitants; and their love of anything in the 50s. Also I felt there was so much parallelism of this world with our own history of occupying countries and imposing our will on those people. 

I also loved the humor woven throughout the novel. Adam's final realization on how he can beat the aliens seems almost genius. Let's just say he does take lemons and make them into lemonade. 

Dark at times, humorous tale of life under the colonization of aliens. Biting humor that gives readers a new hero to cheer for.
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On another note, I was very surprised when I saw the starred reviews (from Booklist, Horn Book, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal) that LANDSCAPE WITH INVISIBLE HAND by M. T. Anderson had received. I would agree that it is very well-written by National Book Award winner Anderson, but his vision of a dystopian future was depressing to read, especially given all of the all too real recent news about hurricanes, a major earthquake, identity theft, and immigration restrictions for refugees and dreamers.  Anderson's work involves a future Earth controlled by an alien species, the vuvv.  Humans such as the main character, Adam, struggle to provide for their families due to a scarcity of jobs.  Healthcare, too, is an issue with high costs and limited availability, plus a polluted environment contributing to disease like Adam's frequent bouts of diarrhea and gastro-discomfort. Also, social media is used for entertainment with sometimes little regard for factual presentations.  Yes, I guess one should acknowledge Anderson's satirical points, but even though LANDSCAPE WITH INVISIBLE HAND is more of a novella (about 150 pages), it is still quite a sad, bleak, and disturbing read.
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