Humans inhabit the bottom echelons in this brief satirical novel of alien invasion that envisions a scenario more whimper than bang.
Adam, a talented artist, lives with his mother and sister after his father abandons the family. When the 1950s-culture–obsessed vuvv landed years before, people were taken in by their promises to supply advanced technology and medicine, not understanding that they’d soon be obsolete, impoverished, and, like Adam, who suffers from a debilitating intestinal illness, without any means to pay for medical care. In short vignettes titled as if they are pieces of fine art, the bleakness of this new reality is expertly rendered—as in an early chapter in which his mother is roughed up by a fellow job seeker who threatens to burn her “motherfucking house down” if she persists in applying for the same part-time position. When they decide to rent out part of their house to another family, Adam and their daughter, Chloe, fall for each other. Monetizing their connection by broadcasting their 1950s-styled romance for the vuvv becomes mightily complicated when the relationship sours. The ethnicities of the main characters are not specified—the only time race is textually indicated is a passage where white people are shown rioting on television and blaming Mexican workers for stealing their jobs—but references to European art and the way Adam and Chloe slide into a clichéd movie vision of the 1950s both imply they are white and add further layers of interpretive complexity to the book.
Resplendent with Anderson’s trademark dry, sarcastic wit, this brief, complicated read serves as a scathing social commentary and, as the title indicates, an interrogation of free market economics. (Science fiction. 14-adult)