Albert Brooks, 2030
The comedian and filmmaker goes for broke in his dystopian literary debut
Writing a novel, Albert Brooks has said in interviews, was a freeing experience, one unhindered by the usual practical limitations. The guy’s been a mostly successful filmmaker for going on three decades, but never had the sort of budget that would allow him to, say, destroy Los Angeles on the big screen. The blank page, essentially, is a blank check, and it’s actually pretty refreshing to see what he does with it in 2030.
Indeed, L.A. gets leveled by a mega-earthquake in the early passages of Brooks’ dystopian literary debut, and in the prose-projected big screen of the mind, it’s impressive and horrific. But he doesn’t linger there, because the year 2030 is a tumultuous time in America on all fronts, especially when it comes to health and debt issues: Cancer, obesity and bone depletion are a thing of the past, and people are routinely living past the century mark. Yay! But the young and youngish now have to pay for this new elderly but undying generation, so everybody’s going broke. Boo! Things can get funny and schticky, and there’s a healthy dose of satire, as you might expect (for instance, the AARP is the most powerful lobby in Washington, and wait till you see how the U.S. finances the rebuilding of the West Coast), but Brooks doesn’t shy away from tough, gut-twisting human drama, either.
Told from a number of diverse and likeable perspectives — a lapsed idealist president with a mom on life support (bad for approval ratings), a sad old dad living on a cramped retirement cruise ship, a millionaire self-styled freedom fighter leading an uprising against the elderly, and so on — 2030 is surprising and classically stylish. Brooks seems to have created a perfectly unworkable version of the future that’s just ridiculous enough to laugh at, just brutal enough to make you worry.