Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Super Satirical Cautionary Tale

Super Sad True Love Story
Gary Shteyngart

Super Satirical Cautionary Tale....no wait, that's not the title, although it might be a better fit than the ill-advised real title.

At it's heart, SSTLS is a social commentary thinly veiled in a superficial love story. Lenny Abramov is a near-40 Russian-American who is obsessed with living forever - a technology that is on the brink of becoming reality. While on a working holiday in Rome, he meets Eunice Park, a young Korean-American who embodies physical perfection and youth. Their lives lead them both back to New York and sets them on the path to a dysfunctional relationship. The "love story" didn't do it for me. In fact, the main characters held absolutely no appeal for me and were the embodiment of the exact behaviors that irritate me most in real life people - superficial, self-centered, indecisive, and inconsiderate.

What made this book so interesting to me was the social commentary aspects. Lenny and Eunice live in a New York City in an undisclosed future year (or is it a dystopian present?) where mega-conglomerates like LandO'LakesGMFord rule the Credit world, real-time ego-centric streaming on apparati (think super-smart iPhone) rule the Media world, and the American economy is extremely destitute and is attached to the Chinese yuan for any kind of value. People no longer interact except through their apparati, the written word is virtually extinct, and the ruling government is the near-dictatorial Bipartisan Party that determines your worth based on monetary value.

There were times when I got very frustrated with the self-absorbed, technology-obsessed characters but then I took a step back and realized that perhaps society isn't as far from that as I would like to think. SSTLS was very slow-moving for me at first but picked up about 100 pages in - I kept slogging through the first bit because there were little gems hidden here and there to make me realize that the ending was going to hold more than meets the eye.

Overall, an intriguing and worthwhile book for every reason except the love story.

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