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Summary and book reviews of The Resisters by Gish Jen

The Resisters

by Gish Jen

The Resisters by Gish Jen X
The Resisters by Gish Jen
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  • Published:
    Feb 2020, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Cook
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About this Book

Book Summary

The time: not so long from now. The place: AutoAmerica. The land: half under water. The Internet: one part artificial intelligence, one part surveillance technology, and oddly human--even funny. The people: Divided.

The angel-fair "Netted" have jobs, and literally occupy the high ground. The "Surplus" live on swampland if they're lucky, on water if they're not.

The story: To a Surplus couple--he once a professor, she still a lawyer--is born a Blasian girl with a golden arm. At two, Gwen is hurling her stuffed animals from the crib; by ten, she can hit whatever target she likes. Her teens find her happily playing in an underground baseball league.

When AutoAmerica rejoins the Olympics, though--with a special eye on beating ChinRussia--Gwen attracts interest. Soon she finds herself playing ball with the Netted even as her mother challenges the very foundations of this divided society.

A moving and important story of an America that seems ever more possible, The Resisters is also the story of one family struggling to maintain its humanity and normalcy in circumstances that threaten their every value--as well as their very existence.

Extraordinary and ordinary, charming and electrifying, this is Gish Jen at her most irresistible.

Part I
A Girl with a Golden Arm

As her parents, Eleanor and I should have known earlier. But Gwen was a preemie, to begin with. That meant oxygen at first and, after that, special checkups. And her early months were bumpy. She had jaundice; she had roseola; she had colic. She had a heart murmur. Things that I can now see distracted us—especially with the One Chance Policy, we were focused on her health to the exclusion of all else. For the Netted, it was different, of course, but for us Surplus, the limit was one pregnancy per couple, and Eleanor was just out of jail. Outside the house, she had a DroneMinder tracking her every move; the message was clear. She was not getting away with anything.

And in any case, we loved Gwen and would never have wanted to replace her, worried though we were that she was delicate—that she might never consume the way she needed to, the way we all needed to. Not that charges of underconsumption couldn't be fought in the courts. This was ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Jen effectively blends nostalgia for a mythical American past with the anxiety of a consumerist country forever reaching for the future, creating a society with new quirks that nevertheless doesn't feel that dissimilar from our own. At times, the book's world-building gets in the way of its plot development. Much more than a cautionary tale, The Resisters feels like a generous space to sit with the sadder truths of our consumption-driven society...continued

Full Review Members Only (783 words).

(Reviewed by Elisabeth Cook).

Media Reviews

NPR
The Resisters, like a lot of dystopian fiction, is primarily plot-driven and its appeal rests on its ingenuity, which is unflagging...[W]ith her characteristic generosity and restrained optimism, Jen doesn't scold or despair. In The Resisters, she offers hope that, after a long, misbegotten seventh-inning stretch, Americans of the near future will be eager to once again play ball and take up the hard work of participatory democracy.

New York Times
The Resisters is a book that grows directly out of the soil of our current political moment, and much of the book’s unsettling pleasure lies in Jen’s ingenious extrapolation (or, in some cases, redescription) of contemporary problems...Jen has such a gifted ear for the manipulative languages of tech, marketing and government that at times the sheer abundance of clever details threatens to overwhelm the stories of her characters.

Washington Post
Written in Jen’s clear, assured style and delivered from Grant’s slyly ironic perspective, The Resisters will captivate readers. Rippling with action, suspense and lovingly detailed baseball play-by-plays, there’s a sense throughout the book of both celebration and danger. There are a few plot point workarounds to maintain Grant’s first-person perspective — including an overly convenient listening device. But the story retains its intimacy and human generosity, even as it’s told against a backdrop of dreadful things to come.

Entertainment Weekly
[Gish Jen] has long had a feel for sweeping, subversive explorations of American life...As Jen reveals how America became AutoAmerica, one seemingly tiny but cumulatively fatal development at a time, she finds in baseball a compelling metaphor for a country that will always have something to prove.

Publishers Weekly
While some of Jen's fans might miss the overt humor of her previous work, her intelligence and control shine through in a chilling portrait of the casual acceptance of totalitarianism.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
The juxtaposition of America's pastime and the AI-enabled surveillance state Jen presents here is brilliant...Beautifully crafted and slyly unsettling.

Booklist (starred review)
In this astutely realized and unnervingly possible depiction of a near-future world, Jen masterfully entwines shrewd mischief, knowing compassion, and profound social critique in a suspenseful tale encompassing baseball ardor, family love, newly insidious forms of racism and tyranny, and a wily and righteous resistance movement that declares 'RIGHT MAKES MIGHT.'

Library Journal (starred review)
Though her talent and aplomb win out in a satisfying conclusion, Gwen struggles with the inequality and oppression of AutoAmerica, and readers will be left wondering whether we are living in such a culture today. Highly recommended for discerning readers.

Author Blurb Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House
The Resisters is palpably loving, smart, funny and desperately unsettling. The novel should be required reading for the country, both as a cautionary tale and because it is a stone-cold masterpiece. This is Gish Jen's moment. She has pitched a perfect game.

Author Blurb Stephen King, author of The Institute
An absolute joy...I finished The Resisters with a tear in my eye and a smile on my face...Gish Jen has written a one-of-a-kind book with great characters—especially Eleanor, who is the heart of the story—and a warm heart.

Author Blurb Allegra Goodman, author of The Chalk Artist
Inventive, funny, and tender, The Resisters is about family, baseball, and the future—but more than anything, it is about freedom, and it is about us—here, now.

Author Blurb Jean Kwok, author of Searching for Sylvie Lee
Brilliant...A heartbreaking novel with the sensitivity, emotional range, and prophetic power of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Smart Homes and the Internet of Things

Hand holding a cellphone outside of a houseIn Gish Jen's The Resisters, people live in AutoHouses, internet-linked homes that are capable of performing certain automated tasks for their inhabitants, such as cleaning up dropped objects and regulating temperature, but that are also used for government surveillance. While the homes in Jen's novel operate at a much more advanced level than current technology, smart homes, or houses in which devices are connected to a digital network, are already very much a reality. These homes, along with smart appliances and other everyday objects that are linked through wireless systems, are sometimes referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT).

Non-wireless home automation can be traced back to 1975, when a Scottish company, Pico Electronics, ...

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