Friday, April 27, 2012

Review: 2030

Albert Brooks manages to hit just about every nerve in 2030.  There are no hovering cars, much to the dismay of sci-fi fans everywhere — but there are plenty of familiar things, and they've all gone awry.

Matthew Bernstein is the first Jewish president of the United States of America.  He is faced with a nation in dire straits: the number of "retirees" is growing unabated, now that many of the diseases that used to kill people are things of the past.  The cost of doing business continues to skyrocket, but the number of people contributing is decreasing.

The "American dream" of having a better, more successful life is a distant memory.  Brooks introduces us to a few of the players in 2030, including the President, his wife — and a surprising new relationship the President never saw coming.  We meet members of every generation — which, now that people have sufficient health to permit them to live comfortably into the triple digits.

What is a little scary is the way these characters are living our future.  Brad is healthy and financially solvent into his 80s, though the same can't be said of all of his friends.  Kathy will never attend college because the financial burdens on her family are too great.  Shen Li has created a modern, efficient and amazing medical future for people in even the most remote areas — and something that will prove to be profitable in this country.

Brooks' strength is envisioning a future that does not include hovercraft and jumpsuits.  He doesn't go too far, just far enough.  The questions he answers are ones that are hot topics today: aging, federal entitlement programs, the cost of college, the power of the AARP, health care and health insurance, whether the U.S. Constitution should be updated to reflect the mores of the here-and-now, national debt and borrowing from other countries — and whether California will slip into the ocean when "the big one" comes.

Find this book, read it and see where we very well could wind up — and what Los Angeles will smell like in 2030.

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