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2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America [Hardcover]

Albert Brooks
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 21 2011

Is this what's in store?

June 12, 2030 started out like any other day in memory—and by then, memories were long. Since cancer had been cured fifteen years before, America's population was aging rapidly. That sounds like good news, but consider this: millions of baby boomers, with a big natural predator picked off, were sucking dry benefits and resources that were never meant to hold them into their eighties and beyond. Young people around the country simmered with resentment toward "the olds" and anger at the treadmill they could never get off of just to maintain their parents' entitlement programs.

But on that June 12th, everything changed: a massive earthquake devastated Los Angeles, and the government, always teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, was unable to respond.

The fallout from the earthquake sets in motion a sweeping novel of ideas that pits national hope for the future against assurances from the past and is peopled by a memorable cast of refugees and billionaires, presidents and revolutionaries, all struggling to find their way. In 2030, Albert Brooks' all-too-believable, dystopian imagining of where today's challenges could lead us tomorrow makes gripping and thought-provoking reading.


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Review

“With 2030 Mr. Brooks has made the nervy move of transposing his worrywart sensibility from film to book. Two things are immediately apparent about his debut novel: that it’s as purposeful as it is funny, and that Mr. Brooks has immersed himself deeply in its creation.”--New York Times

"The novel is a revelation, painting a caustic, unsettling and only occasionally comic portrait of a country plumb down on its luck."--Los Angeles Times

"Albert Brooks is a keen and critical social observer...His first novel is an inspired work of social science fiction, thoughtful and ambitiously conceived, both serious and seriously funny."--Boston Globe

“Comedian and filmmaker Brooks welcomes the reader to the year 2030 in his smart and surprisingly serious debut....Brooks's mordant vision encompasses the future of politics, medicine, entertainment, and daily living, resulting in a novel as entertaining as it is thought provoking, like something from the imagination of a borscht belt H.G. Wells.”--Publishers Weekly

"An intriguing vision of America’s future."--Library Journal

"Required reading!"--New York Post

“As a comedian and filmmaker, the very gifted Albert Brooks has specialized for more than 30 years in cooking up quandaries with no ready solution except humiliation. His often ingenious first novel is no exception.”--New York Times Book Review

"Brooks's vision of the future is credible and compelling."--Booklist

About the Author

Albert Brooks is a writer, actor, and director.  He has written and directed several classic American comedies that are considered prescient and incisive commentaries on contemporary life, including Lost In America, Modern Romance and Defending Your Life. Brooks has also acted in over twenty motion pictures for other directors, including Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight, Pixar’s Finding Nemo, and James L. Brooks’ Broadcast News, for which he received an Academy Award nomination.

 

 


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Most helpful customer reviews
By PT Cruiser TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Wow! I was intrigued by the description of the book, "2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America" by Albert Brooks, but it was even better than I imagined it was going to be. This was one of those books that I stayed up reading til the early morning hours and then got up a few hours later to continue. It was engaging from the first pages right through to the end. It's a book that's described as science fiction but it's not one of those "woo-woo" types of stories with a flying saucer in every garage, but rather a world that is easy to imagine 19 years from now, based on the way things are today.

I'm not going to include any spoilers beyond the description by the publisher because it's just too good of a book and you have to let it unfold page by page. A big part of it is about today's baby boomers which are now a major part of the population and growing rapidly after the cure for cancer and many other life enhancing discoveries. That leaves the younger generation responsible for a country deeply in debt and seemingly no way of having the quality of life that previous generations had. A huge 9.1 earthquake in L.A. threatens to destroy the economy. A little over a month ago, an earthquake that large might have seemed like way-out-there fiction but it's certainly believable now.

The characters which include the president and other politicians, young adults, people in their eighties and nineties who are still leading productive lives and millionaires and billionaires, are all colorful characters. Brooks tells the story from all of their points of view, switching from one to the other throughout the book. It's about a lot more than just the aging population and will undoubtedly get you thinking. There are a lot of pages, but there is so much going on, the pages just fly by.
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4.0 out of 5 stars 2030 Aug. 17 2011
Format:Hardcover
Interesting premise. Could actually turn out this way. Good writer, holds your attention. Ending a bit weak.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  436 reviews
138 of 162 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly engaging from the first page to the last March 30 2011
By PT Cruiser - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Wow! I was intrigued by the description of the book, "2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America" by Albert Brooks, but it was even better than I imagined it was going to be. This was one of those books that I stayed up reading til the early morning hours and then got up a few hours later to continue. It was engaging from the first pages right through to the end. It's a book that's described as science fiction but it's not one of those "woo-woo" types of stories with a flying saucer in every garage, but rather a world that is easy to imagine 19 years from now, based on the way things are today.

I'm not going to include any spoilers beyond the description by the publisher because it's just too good of a book and you have to let it unfold page by page. A big part of it is about today's baby boomers which are now a major part of the population and growing rapidly after the cure for cancer and many other life enhancing discoveries. That leaves the younger generation responsible for a country deeply in debt and seemingly no way of having the quality of life that previous generations had. A huge 9.1 earthquake in L.A. threatens to destroy the economy. A little over a month ago, an earthquake that large might have seemed like way-out-there fiction but it's certainly believable now.

The characters which include the president and other politicians, young adults, people in their eighties and nineties who are still leading productive lives and millionaires and billionaires, are all colorful characters. Brooks tells the story from all of their points of view, switching from one to the other throughout the book. It's about a lot more than just the aging population and will undoubtedly get you thinking. There are a lot of pages, but there is so much going on, the pages just fly by. I was sad to see this story end. I hope Albert Brooks intends to write a sequel, maybe "2035" because I'm so intrigued by these characters now and would love to know where they and the country are a few years later. Two thumbs up for this mind-blowing book!
64 of 74 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Terrifying: Brooks envisions a nearly Orwellian America April 25 2011
By D. A. Ross - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Nineteen Eighty-Four may have come and gone, but Orwell's chilling vision of the future made a lasting impact for decades. And the argument could be made that many of Orwell's visions came true: we have virtually no privacy these days, we are all slaves to our TVs, and Big Brother is most definitely watching.

In the same vein, Albert Brooks takes a look into the future of America, and produces a somber, yet highly plausible, outlook. The year is 2030, the first Jew has been elected to the U.S. presidency, the national debt has spiraled to insurmountable depths, and because cancer has been cured, the elderly are living longer, draining tax dollars and straining the health care system, which has created a civil war, of sorts, between the young and the "olds." And just when things could not possibly look more grim, a devastating earthquake rocks Los Angeles, reducing the city of angels to mere ash and dust. Oh, crap.

Not knowing which fire to put out first, Matthew Bernstein's presidency begins in the face of crisis -- a position in which no president wants to find themselves. Kathy Bernard, a young 20-something, and her father, Stewart, are faced with financial hardships, as Stewart has been forced to take low-paying jobs, after losing his job with GM. Dr. Sam Mueller is world famous for having cured cancer, but faces growing enemies in the younger generation, being vilified for extending life, the repercussions of which has caused the youth to shoulder the growing financial burden of the elderly. Brad Miller's condo is destroyed in the quake of Los Angeles, forcing him to live in a make-shift triage tent, not knowing if he'll be able to recoup the insurance money owed to him on the condo. And the Chinese, the only government with the resources to bail out the United States and help rebuild L.A., seem unwilling to loan even another dime to the U.S., as the U.S. is already indebted to the Chinese for trillions of dollars.

2030 starts off a little slow, as Brooks establishes the central characters, each of whom comprise a separate storyline. At first I thought, oh no, Brooks is pandering to a more base reading audience, writing in the Dan Brown "short chapter, multiple-narrative thriller" style. But it soon becomes evident Brooks knows how to tell a story -- and to great effect. The multiple story lines were each well-defined and engrossing, with just enough character development to make me care about what was going to happen to each.

Brooks' decades of experience in film and television are notably present in his use of dialog, which is smooth and natural. The dialog, in fact, is really what moves the story, rather than the story being driven by narrative exposition. Brooks also peppers in some of his trademark humor, to help offset the overtly tragic overtones of the story. This was a breath of fresh air.

In the end, the panache with which the story moved, wanes a little, not finishing quite as energetically as it could have, but the story does resolve naturally, without feeling forced.

2030 is a grand freshman effort by Albert Brooks, and should be read with careful consideration, as the picture Brooks paints is not so farfetched. I found myself engrossed in the vivid details of the chaos, not wanting the book to end. Sadly, if politicians do not take heed of Mr. Brooks' warnings, the events portrayed in the story may be realized, making 2030 this generation's 1984.
51 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing mix of fiction and political commentary April 5 2011
By J. Prather - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I chose 2030 because I have a certain fondness for dystopian tales, and at first blush, this one seemed to fit squarely in that genre. It didn't take long before I realized that the author was after something more with this book. Noted actor Albert Brooks spins a tale unlike any I've read in quite a while. There are no alien invaders, no massive planet shattering diasters, and no hideously corrupt government officials. The interesting thing is, it's the absence of these things that makes this novel more compelling. Sure, he takes some really huge leaps, but they're not really out of this world leaps. It's how the author skirts on the edge of believability that makes this such a compelling read.

I don't think I'm giving too much away when I say that while there aren't any planet busting disasters,there is a major earthquake involved. It serves as a catalyst to get some things moving and the author does a great job of moving the story along at a brisk pace. The actor's trademark humor is all over this book. I could often hear his voice telling me this story. Even the darkest moments were infused with humor and sardonic wit. He envelops the story with a level of cynicism that is sometimes at odds with events, but is always entertaining.

There are quite a few characters here, and some were more successful than others. They are a varied assortment, and the author does just enough character development to keep the reader invested in what's happening. He does a great job of juggling all their stories and bringing them all together to a resolution that while it doesn't tie everything up, did manage to leave me feeling pretty good about where things were going.

To those who would complain about the author's political agenda, I would just say that this is entertainment. It's a fanciful look at what might happen in the future given the current state of the world and it's economy. Sure, what happens here would probably be Rush's worst nightmare, but no matter what side of the fence your leaning on, you will likely find a few things to think about. For me, the action did not drive this tale. What kept me reading were the characters and the ideas.

Intelligent writing, intriguing ideas, memorable characters, and it's surprising dark humor all combine to make this an enthusiastic recommend.
58 of 70 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars If this were "2030 by Joe Smith," it never would have been published May 28 2011
By DS from LA - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
First off, I am a great fan of the films of Albert Brooks, and his "Defending Your Life" ranks among my all-time favorites. His movie dialogue is snappy and realistic; his characters are believable, flesh-and-blood people; and his screenplays show not only tremendous wit, but also insight and revelation. I eagerly awaited publication of "2030," and now find it hard to express just how tremendously disappointed I am. Clearly, a great screenwriter does not necessarily make a great novelist.

The book is sloppily written (and edited), with such sentences as "The first thing the Chinese needed to do was supply housing for its citizens" ("its" should be "their," the subject being "the Chinese" and not "China"). Brooks makes painfully repetitive and distracting overuse of the "but" sentence structure (as in, "This could have been a good book, but it was terribly written"): flip to any page and you'll see several sentences of this sort, with an occasional "however" thrown in for good measure. (When I'm reading something by Albert Brooks and I'm going to my Kindle search function to count the number of "buts" in the book, that's a bad sign.) The characters are utterly cardboard and one-dimensional, the dialogue flat and uninspired (the characters all speak with the same voice and say precisely what the plot requires them to say, no more, no less), and the exposition heavy-handed and amateurish. Worst of all for a Brooks fan, the book is simply not funny. Not at all. Ever.

I stayed with this till the end because I refused to let myself believe that Brooks wouldn't give me some kind of payoff, but there was none: it just ended. Truly, the book reads like a first attempt at a novel by a not-particularly-creative high-school student. I have no doubt that there are far more worthy efforts being rejected daily by publishers and that this one would have ended up quickly tossed in the "Reject" pile had it not had Albert Brooks' name attached. Now you'll have to excuse me, I'm going to put on my DVD of "Modern Romance" or "Lost in America" to remind myself why I ever liked this guy in the first place - and just how brilliant he can be.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Tragi-Comic Dystopian Vision April 5 2011
By T. I. Farmer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
With only rare whiffs of the neurotic whimsy that laces his movies, Albert Brooks' new novel is far more tragic than comic. But it's also an astonishment. Fans of the Brooks canon may be wholly unprepared: this is a full-on, mordant, fatalistic portrait of our near future, bursting with ideas and heavy with pessimism, touching and wholly plausible. And it's no vanity project from a Hollywood wannabe. It's a dead serious contribution to modern dystopian literature, up there with Brave New World and A Canticle for Leibowitz.

Brooks' 2030 America is bristling with gadgetry and gee-whiz conveniences, but dispirited, frightening, and crippled by debt. The main ongoing conflict is between the final baby boomers, who thanks to medical miracles live ever longer on the public dime, and the resentful younger generation whose labors subsidize the "olds." The government, unable then as now to control its spending or curb public benefits, is now anemic and powerless. The story kicks into gear when a 9.1-level earthquake flattens Los Angeles -- Brooks' description is eerily close to the recent real-life calamity in Japan -- and the United States cannot muster the resources to care for L.A.'s refugees, let alone rebuild. The scenes amid the wreckage in which privileged Angelenos slowly realize no help is coming, ever, are chilling. (A Kevorkian-esque euthanasia advocate is beseiged by pragmatists who prefer death to whatever lies ahead for America.)

In its hour of need the U.S. turns to China to borrow additional trillions; China finally puts its foot down and shuts off the money tap; and the nation is forced down a path that some will call collapse, others rebirth. It's surprising how conservative a vision Brooks serves up. His America is an empire in its death throes, palsied by self-indulgence -- the natural result of a citizenry absolutely demanding a level of benefits it absolutely refuses to pay for, with no adult leadership to force reason.

Brooks' patented tone of voice, his mournful, hangdog peevishness with a wry edge, comes through so clearly here, you'd swear big swaths of 2030 were dictated out loud. But he's never applied it to such dark material. There is some pro forma soap opera plot involving the President and his marriage that falls curiously flat -- though it's fresh evidence of Brooks' long preoccupation with mother issues -- but on the whole the result is compulsively readable and fully intriguing. I predict that 2030, like 1984, will be read and remarked upon long after the year in the title has passed.
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