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Brilliant. I very much enjoyed Steyngart's Absurdistan, which satirized the former Soviet Union, but his writing reaches a whole new level here. This is a book about the near future America seems to be headed for, a country that's become a bankrupt, corporate-controlled police state on the verge of collapse, while mainstream Americans lead lives of vapid indifference, aggressively obsessed with youth, beauty, media profiles, and their rankings on a facebook-like service that publicly rates citizens on everything from their credit score to their "f***ability" (this is not a book for the prudish). It's very pointed satire, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, but often depressing because it's just close enough to reality.
Steyngart does a marvelous job with his two main characters: there's Lennie, a shlumpy, trod-upon 39 year old who works as a salesman at a life extension company, has a set of hilariously-rendered Russian immigrant parents who spend their day watching "Fox Liberty Ultra", hangs out with self-righteous hipster friends, and clings to his antiquated hobby of collecting old books in a post-literate era. He falls obsessively in love with Eunice Park, a young Korean-American woman who personifies much about Generation iPhone, with her short attention span, text message vocabulary, constant online shopping (for brands with names like "Juicy P***y"), and lifelong immersion in a culture of looks and casual sex, and who struggles with her own old-country parents (including a mom whose advice-filled, English-challenged emails are quite funny). Their relationship captures, in a rich way, so much about the America we're living in. Steyngart doesn't take the easy path of simply mocking his self-absorbed characters (flawed though they are), but gives them them earnest voices, making them people we empathize with as the artificial bubbles of their worlds burst. Perhaps, in part, because it could soon happen to us.
Funny, depressing, sweet, and frightening all at once.
23 of 24 people found this review helpful
Wonderful, entertaining, smart, provocative book that is very well directed and perfectly read by two characters. This book lends itself very well to audio because it's essentially two narrators describing the world. I have recommended this book to everyone I know but be forewarned, the "near-future" described is slightly raunchy and not for the grandmothers of the world.
14 of 15 people found this review helpful