Summary and book reviews of Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson

Landscape with Invisible Hand

by M.T. Anderson

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson X
Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2017, 160 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 9, 2019, 160 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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About this Book

Book Summary

National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson returns to future Earth in a sharply wrought satire of art and truth in the midst of colonization.

When the vuvv first landed, it came as a surprise to aspiring artist Adam and the rest of planet Earth - but not necessarily an unwelcome one. Can it really be called an invasion when the vuvv generously offered free advanced technology and cures for every illness imaginable? As it turns out, yes. With his parents' jobs replaced by alien tech and no money for food, clean water, or the vuvv's miraculous medicine, Adam and his girlfriend, Chloe, have to get creative to survive. And since the vuvv crave anything they deem "classic" Earth culture (doo-wop music, still-life paintings of fruit, true love), recording 1950s-style dates for the vuvv to watch in a pay-per-minute format seems like a brilliant idea. But it's hard for Adam and Chloe to sell true love when they hate each other more with every passing episode. Soon enough, Adam must decide how far he's willing to go - and what he's willing to sacrifice - to give the vuvv what they want.

A Small Town
Under the Stars

Under the stars, a small town prepares for night. It is almost eleven o'clock. Down in the boxy houses, people are settling in for bed. Car headlights crawl through the tiny streets. The bright streetlamps on the town's main drag illuminate empty parking. The businesses are closed for the day. The hills are dark.

All of this is seen by two teens up on some ledge, on a road called Lovers' Lane.

They're parked in a fifties fin car and "necking." She's in a tight sweater; he's in a Varsity jacket. The view over their town, the place they grew up, makes them sentimental, and they grind together over the gearshift. "Gee, Brenda," says the boy.

All of this is seen by the creature in the bushes.

Stems of some kind of terrestrial growth block his goggle-eyed vision. He sweeps the branches away with a claw. He observes the two hairy snacks writhing in their metal box and wonders what their mashing together could mean. His breath is loud. ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The vuvv are unlike depictions of alien life in other books and popular media. How do their characteristics and impact on Earth highlight current concerns over the future of our planet and species?
  2. What makes the 1950s such an interesting period for the vuvv to be obsessed with? Why do you think M. T. Anderson chose that era?
  3. What does Adam's plight suggest to you about art in the face of hopelessness? Adam's art is a commentary on the state of humanity in his time, the poverty he's surrounded by, and the apathy of the vuvv. If only one or two others appreciate what he's trying to achieve, are his efforts still worthwhile?
  4. Why are the chapters titled as if they were paintings? How did that affect your reading of ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Certainly Anderson’s novel is a work of speculative fiction, but that’s because it prompts readers to ask their own questions about economic disparities, enforced inequality, ethnocentrism, and (just maybe) art’s ability to shed a clearer light on all of these troubling issues, both in Adam’s world and in our own. Thanks in large part to its slender size, Landscape with Invisible Hand is a novel that lends itself to repeated readings, study, and discussion, as readers contemplate parallels between Adam’s near-future and our own present time, asking themselves what can be done differently and what should be preserved at all costs.   (Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

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Media Reviews

The New York Times
I don’t read J.K. Rowling — or M.T. Anderson, or Ursula K. Leguin — because of what their books have to tell me about life. I read them because these writers have mastered the ancient magic of storytelling, and because they remind me of what it’s like to be young, living in a world that seems both simple and incomprehensible.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Anderson takes issues of colonialism, ethnocentrism, inequality, and poverty and explodes them on a global, even galactic, scale. A remarkable exploration of economic and power structures in which virtually all of humanity winds up the losers. Ages 14–up.

Booklist
Starred Review. [An] elegant, biting, and hilarious social satire that will appeal to dissatisfied, worried readers of all ages.

School Library Journal
Starred Review. This sharp, compelling, slim volume packs a punch ... An engrossing, speculative look at life in the margins, this is a first purchase for libraries serving teens.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Resplendent with Anderson's trademark dry, sarcastic wit, this brief, complicated read serves as a scathing social commentary and, as the title indicates, an interrogation of free market economics.

The Horn Book
Starred Review. Anderson’s prose is almost hyper-lucid here—appropriately so, as the story is structured around Adam’s descriptions of his paintings. Practically every word reflects a prescient, bitingly precise critique of contemporary human folly, of economic and environmental inequities and absurdities.

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Beyond the Book

Adam Smith and his Wealth of Nations

Adam SmithThe title of M.T. Anderson's Landscape With Invisible Hand, (and perhaps its protagonist's name), contains a reference to the theories of the Scottish economist Adam Smith, whose landmark 1776 work The Wealth of Nations laid the groundwork for modern free-market economic theory. To laypeople, Smith may be best known for his concepts of the division of labor and its concomitant increase in productivity, as well as his contention that self-interest and competition result in the greater good for society.

This last point is part of what's implied in Smith's famous usage of the term "invisible hand," a metaphor meant to suggest that, in the absence of regulation, human economic self-interest will lead people to act in ...

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Readalikes

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