Tuesday, May 03, 2011

2030, by Albert Brooks

I'm a fan of filmmaker Albert Brooks (his movie Lost in America is still one of my all-time favorite comedies). He's a writer, director, actor, and has done voice work for The Simpsons. So when I saw that he had written a novel--and I had the opportunity to get an advance reading copy from the Amazon Vine program--I jumped on it.

2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America takes a look at the problems America is facing now, and moves them forward nineteen years. Of course, most things are worse in the not-too-distant future. The country is deeper in debt, young people are more disillusioned, and a 9.0 earthquake has leveled L.A., for which America has to borrow money from China to rebuild. Even the seemingly good stuff--like the long awaited cure for cancer--has bad elements (old people are now living much longer, and draining the health care system).

From his filmmaking, I expected this novel to be a comedy. It's not, though Brooks's trademark humor is evident throughout, especially in some of the dialogue which, not surprisingly for a scriptwriter, is sharp and realistic.

Brooks does an excellent job of weaving the disparate story lines of his various main characters together. There is eighty year-old Brad Miller who loses everything in the earthquake; twenty year-old Kathy Bernard who is saddled with her father's exorbitant medical bills; and U.S. President Bernstein, who is frantically trying to plug all the holes that are appearing in the dam that is America--not to mention his personal life, and his looming re-election campaign.

Brooks keeps the action moving, and the chapters short. Each individual story line pushes the whole plot forward, but not predictably, so even though the reader has an idea of where it might be heading, Brooks still keeps you guessing, and takes some chances so as not to make the whole story feel pat.

This is a strong first novel by Albert Brooks; I hope there will be many more!

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