three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
54-Sept-Oct-2011
user_rating: 
0

The Real Story of What Happens to America

A-2030Actor and director Albert Brooks is known for films like Lost in America and Judging Your Life. This is his first novel.

The Story: Twenty years into the future, the national debt of the United States is greater than its gross national product. A cure for cancer has been discovered, but the elderly population has grown so numerous that the young, burdened by their debt, rally together in violent "resentment gangs." And it falls on the shoulders of America's first Jewish (rather, half-Jewish) president to manage the crisis. The novel's storyline may sound like a dreary, dystopian scenario, but in the hands of actor and director Albert Brooks, 2030 turns out to be a wry comic commentary that is just as much about 2011 as it is about the future.
St. Martin's Press. 384 pages. $25.99. ISBN: 9780312583729

Boston Globe 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Brooks assembles a large cast of characters, juggling multiple points of view and story lines, and laces the narrative with his particular peevish humor. Brooks knows how to tell a story, writes lively and convincing dialogue, and develops his characters enough to make them interesting." Diane White

Cleveland Plain Dealer 3.5 of 5 Stars
"What's provocative and depressing about 2030 is that everything Brooks writes about could actually happen--no fanciful hovercrafts and trips to Mars here, although the cellulite machine that really works and cars that drive themselves are pretty sweet. ... Sharp dialogue and terrific one-liners save the tome from becoming too dark and preachy." Andrea Simakis

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"That story alone is satirical and sad, and could fill a novel about the implications of a ballooning national debt and America's slippage as a nation able to take care of its own. But Brooks is trying to write a page-turner here, with a disaster-movie-sized cast of characters. ... In 2030, chapters are short, big things happen, and history's march is conveyed in neat summations (the two Koreas mate in the span of a paragraph)." Paul Brownfield

New York Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Unlike the fantasy writer who foresees a gee-whiz future full of alluring gimmicks, Mr. Brooks has dreamed up escapism about problems we cannot escape. ‘I don't want to be the one to break it to you, but the future ain't that funny,' he said in an interview in The New York Times last year. Funny thing: in 2030 it mostly is." Janet Maslin

Globe and Mail (Canada) 3 of 5 Stars
"As a novelist, Brooks is eventually undone by his very profession and--much like a Brooks movie--2030 falls apart in its second half. An experienced author knows how to put characters through the requisite literary growth curve; Albert Brooks is a comedian and screenwriter by trade. Ergo, once his characters exist, all he knows how to do is make them say funny lines." Andrew Ryan

NY Times Book Review 3 of 5 Stars
"If you mourn Kurt Vonnegut's passing--and what sane reader doesn't?--Brooks's synthetic equivalent isn't half bad. ... Despite his evident care in working out the novel's converging story lines, however, narrative momentum isn't his strong suit." Tom Carson

Critical Summary

Whether they were fans of his cinematic work or not, critics seemed to agree that there were plenty of laughs in Albert Brooks's 2030. Every reviewer shared several knee-slappers and scenarios from the book. However, a common criticism was that 2030 read more like an extended stand-up routine than a novel. While the book is funny throughout, the characters never become much more than vehicles for delivering Brooks's one-liners. The book has fine satirical moments, but it never coalesces into a true novel.