Book: LANDSCAPE WITH INVISIBLE HAND
Author: M.T. Anderson
Publisher: Candlewick Press
ARC?: Yes, provided by NETGALLEY in exchange for an honest review.
TW/CW: Serious physical sickness, extreme poverty.
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.
When I saw the cover of this book, I knew I wanted to read it. There’s just something about aliens and the (most terrifying) thought of an invasion that makes me get all “grabby hands” about a book.
I’ll start by saying this is a strange book. There’s not a whole lot of world building and it’s mostly character driven. We don’t see the invasion, just what has become of Earth and it’s inhabitants after several years of the vuvv hovering in the atmosphere. Nothing much has changed for the wealthy, but the middle class were thrust into sudden poverty and everything is controlled by the vuvv.
Adam and Chloe’s relationship doesn’t play as big of a part in the story as I thought it would. They fall apart fairly quickly after turning their relationship into a money-making scheme and while that does have an impact on Adam’s families survival, the story is mostly about Adam trying to win an art contest while dealing with a curable illness.
That’s the part of the story that struck me hard. Adam had a disease caused by unclean drinking water and it’s something that was very easily cured at any clinic… if you had the money for treatment. But for a family barely affording oatmeal, that cure was far out of reach. It’s stated several times that for the vuvv and the wealthy families, the price of that cure would be pocket change and at his sickest, Adam asks one of the vuvv for help. They snub him saying “I hate when they beg” even though Adam is clearly on the verge of death.
The book isn’t happy but it does have a happyish ending. This is definitely a good commentary on wealth, poverty, and privilege. A short but enjoyable read, I would recommend this to fans of alien books.