Via the Amazon Vine review program, I had the chance to read and review 2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America by Albert Brooks. The story premise definitely had promise... take the direction and problems we currently have in America and play them out for the next twenty years to see what happens. In the beginning, it worked well for me. But by the end, I was solidly in "so what?" mode.
In 2030, the US is facing horrendous financial issues. Nothing new can be done in the country as the debt burden is crushing. America is basically broke, and it's all the government can do to make the interest payments. Much of the burden comes from the drastically increased lifespan of people now that cancer has been cured. These people, referred to as "the olds", are costing the government more in medical and Social Security payments, and the taxes on the working class are astronomical. Coupled with more jobs moving offshore due to cheaper labor costs, young people have no chance of living the same type of life as their parents, and this disparity is causing a major division in society.
All these issues come to a head when a 9.0 earthquake destroys Los Angeles. For the first time in history, the government can't come to the aid of its people in a natural disaster, as they can't afford the costs involved. When they turn to China to borrow money, China turns them down. They already hold the majority of America's debt, and they know that loaning more money is a losing proposition. But they offer up a different kind of aid to Los Angeles, one that offers hope to those in LA while turning the city into a jointly-run entity of two countries.
This story is glued together by the actions of a number of characters who are affected by these actions. You have the rich guy who developed the cure for cancer, and is the savior/villain of the old age issue, depending on which side you happen to be on. There's the financially secure rebel who sees the olds as the reason for all the problems in America, and is willing to get his hands dirty to "solve" the problem. A rich Chinese guy spearheads the rebuilding of Los Angeles while also trying to implement his successful brand of health care in America after it revolutionized medicine in China. And finally, you have the President of the United States, desperately trying to make a difference in the country, but struggling with his own life after he falls in love with his Secretary of the Treasury and his wife decides she's had enough.
So why the "so what" feeling at the end? I think I had problems because the book couldn't decide whether it wanted to focus on the issues or the characters. I was reading more for how debt and borrowing would play out, as well as how much of a crisis it would become with a foreign country having a financial stake in the success of a major US city. Instead, the story just fizzles out with US citizens thinking the LA deal with China is great, the President moving on to a new life after he loses the election, and the promise of a new President running the country based on successes in LA.
Blah, blah, blah... new era... yada, yada, yada...
Perhaps the author meant for that to be the new reality and to have that be the truth of what happened, but it's an unrealistic ending to a complex set of problems. The olds are still there, the debt is still there, and unless America is bought by China, a new President isn't going to fix everything. The story needed a more dramatic conclusion than what was delivered.
Disclosure: Obtained From: Amazon Vine Review Program Payment: Free
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About the reviewer
Thomas Duff (duffbert)
Thomas Duff, aka "Duffbert", is a long-time member of the Lotus community. He's primarily focused on the development side of the Notes/Domino environment, currently working for a large insurance … more
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