I am not a book reviewer. However, I did want to write a short piece about this book for my blog. This book is not related to research, it is not based in Australia, and it is a work of science fiction. So for all intents and purposes, this doesn’t look like a book that has any place on my blog – but yet, here it is…
I guess, by way of introduction – I should tell you a bit about what it is about… rather than making up a synopsis – I’ve taken the one from the good people at Random House
“In the near future, America is crushed by a financial crisis and our patient Chinese creditors may just be ready to foreclose on the whole mess. Then Lenny Abramov, son of an Russian immigrant janitor and ardent fan of “printed, bound media artifacts” (aka books), meets Eunice Park, an impossibly cute Korean American woman with a major in Images and a minor in Assertiveness. Could falling in love redeem a planet falling apart?”
But it is so much more than that.
“When you walk into work, a board flashes your mental state to all your peers: “meek but cooperative”. You wear an apparat, a smartphone-like device on social media-overload that broadcasts your ‘HOTNESS’ and ‘F*CKABILITY’ ratings to everyone who owns an apparat (ie, everyone in the country). When shopping, credit poles scan your apparat to broadcast your credit rating to shop owners. Girls wear Onionskin jeans, which, given their name, are pretty much exactly what you’d imagine them to be.
This is the world Gary Shteyngart has created in Super Sad True Love Story – and if you haven’t got my point yet, it’s one crazy dystopian place. Set in the sometime-near-future in the US, when the dollar is pegged to the yuan as the government struggles to repay its international debt, it’s actually not so weird that you can’t imagine any of it happening. Which is really pretty alarming.”
“Gary Shteyngart’s dystopian novel deserves a place on the shelf beside 1984 and Brave New World….The surprising and brilliant third novel from Russian-American satirist Shteyngart is actually two love stories… Shteyngart writes with an obvious affection for America — at its most chilling, Super Sad True Love Story comes across as a cri de coeur from an author scared for his country. The biggest risk for any dystopian novel with a political edge is that it can easily become humorless or didactic; Shteyngart deftly avoids this trap by employing his disarming and absurd sense of humor (much of which is unprintable here). Combined with the near-future setting, the effect is a novel more immediate — and thus more frightening, at least for contemporary readers — than similarly themed books by Orwell, Huxley and Atwood.”
—NPR, Books We Like
It is the comparisons with Orwell and Huxley that are most important. Shteyngart has observed the trends currently existing within society and extrapolated out a world that is so scary in its possibility. He creates a world of constant connection – where everyone is glued to and judged by their “apparat” – a device that is used to broadcast information – the good and the bad. He plays with language and the way it is evolving. He looks at the increasing sexualisation of women in media and what this will look like in the future. He creates a world where nothing is private, where all details are laid bare and out there for judging.
As people who look at trends, try to predict the future and provide guidance to our clients; as people who work for and with technology – I think this is an important read. It really made me look at social media, society, language and my attachment to my iPhone in a whole different light.