Landscape with Invisible Hand, by M.T. Anderson

Landscape with Invisible Hand, by M.T. Anderson (Candlewick, Sept. 12, 2017), is a sci fi satirical parable that's both thought provoking and entertaining.  The vuvv, an alien race, have come in "peace" bringing gifts of wondrous technology and parking themselves in low orbit around earth.  In this case, though, peace has not meant plenty for the majority of people on earth, who now have no jobs, no money, and property that's no longer worth much.  The vuvv, however, are happy to consume the best that Earth has to offer them--human culture from the 1950s, the period when we first sent the wavelengths of our ingenuity out into space.

A teenager named Adam and his girlfriend Chloe decide to make money (badly needed) by feeding the vuvvs desire for 1950s human romance, by recording each Tender Moment in a pay-per-view format.  It goes sour pretty quickly, though, when the two of them realize that they aren't in love after all, and though they tough it out as long as possible, it's hellish for them.

Adam's other chance for a better life is winning an art competition the vuvv are running.  But with vuvv taste running to the banal (still lives of fruit), his own more edgy paintings might not succeed....

And then a third chance comes, and Adam must convince his family to take it, and wipe the slate clean.

So it's sort of a parable about colonialism and its concomitant exploitation of indigenous cultures, about human creativity shackled to meaningless consumerism, or maybe about the individual discovering the value of being true to himself when there's no good external yardstick for human worth.  But though it is parablish, Adam's story is an interesting personal journey (I liked reading about his art very much, I appreciated his caustic thoughts on the vuvv, and I sympathized with his embarrassing illness that he could not afford to have treated with the vuvv's technology).  It's not just a moralistic, satirical allegory (although if you are allergic to allegory and/or satire you will not enjoy this).

Here's what I'm wondering, though--what is the Invisible Hand of the title?   I'm thinking something along the lines of the choices people make that they don't consciously realize they are making, although I am finding myself thinking as I write that the wavelengths of cultural transmission are literally invisible puppet masters of humanity.   I'm also thinking that you could use this book, very nicely, in a high school English class....

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher


  1. Sounds along the same lines as The True Meaning of Smekday, which is one of my favouritest books ever (sci-fi satirical allegories being quite possibly my favourite cup of tea; too bad more people don't write them!) So I pretty much have to pick this one up.

  2. Hahahaha, yes, this COULD BE and WILL BE used in HS English classes all over. I think the Invisible Hand is - for me, anyway - answering the question of who makes art that has value? Or, WHAT is art that has value, or what has value, in American society, that we participate in ...creating?

    This book was both deep and short, and ...it's still racketing around in my head. That Tobias. Always the smart one.

    1. I like that interpretation! Pushing it forward, the invisible hand could be the artist whose perspective is erased by convention and the dictates of the consumers....

  3. I hadn't heard of this. Not exactly my cup of tea, but I might take a look at it. Thanks for the post.


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