Dystopian Fiction Intersects with the Academy

Gary Shteyngart’s new novel, Super Sad True Love Story, looks to be every bit as good as Absurdistan. It’s a dystopian, futuristic work. In a radio show, Shteyngart was asked how far in the future the novel was set, and (without missing a beat) he replied “next Tuesday.” Consider the following from Michiko Kakutani’s glowing review of the book (and the links to various legal and policy thinkers), and judge for yourself:

It’s a novel that gives us a cutting comic portrait of a futuristic America, nearly ungovernable and perched on the abyss of fiscal collapse. . . .“Super Sad” takes place in the near future, and Mr. Shteyngart has extrapolated every toxic development already at large in America to farcical extremes. . . . Books are regarded as a distasteful, papery-smelling anachronism by young people who know only how to text-scan for data, and privacy has become a relic of the past.

Everyone carries around a device called an äppärät, which can live-stream its owner’s thoughts and conversations, and broadcast their “hotness” quotient to others. People are obsessed with their health — Lenny works as a Life Lovers Outreach Coordinator (Grade G) for a firm that specializes in life extension — and shopping is the favorite pastime of anyone with money. . . .

The United States is at war in Venezuela, and its national debt has soared to the point where the Chinese are threatening to pull the plug. There are National Guard checkpoints around New York, and riots in the city’s parks.

Shteyngart mentioned Ray Kurzweil and Aubrey de Grey in an interview as influences on the book’s futurism. I hope some of the ideas in the links above percolated in as well.

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