2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America by Albert Brooks
Read by Dick Hill
Genre: Future History
Quick Thoughts: While 2030 has its flaws, I found it to be a compelling read, full of interesting characters living in a very flawed potential America. Dick Hill’s narration, while a little slow in the beginning, picks up as the story progresses and adds a lot to the overall listening experience.
I think one of the toughest things for an author to do is to write a fictional tale dealing with real life political issues without being called out by people of every political slant as overly dogmatic towards their hated political group. I think it’s impossible if the very same author is better known as an actor or comedian. There seems an almost universal negative reaction to celebrities expressing political opinions, unless that said celebrity matches a person’s political belief exactly. Actor/Comedian Albert Brooks must be truly masochistic, because he seems to take on every modern polarizing political issue in his horribly named novel, 2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America. Do not fear, despite the title, this isn’t some horrible textbook for psychic historians, 2030 is a look at America, 20 years in the future, altered by runaway debt, life extending pharmaceuticals, and a poorly managed health care system. These issues create a huge divide between the young and the old, leading to youth gangs and militant organizations who desire financial equality yet become more and more disenfranchisee while trying to take on the immovable forces of government bureaucracy and senor lobbying organizations like AARP. Adding to the tension, a devastating earthquake destroys Los Angeles, and the debt ridden nation cannot afford to repair it. Despite some reviews I checked out, screaming that this was liberal propaganda, I decided not to go into the novel looking for an agenda. I always find future histories to be interesting, and that is what I decided to focus on. Despite political elements, 2030 is a novel, meant for entertainment, and so the main question for me was, did it entertain me.
While 2030 has its flaws, I found it to be a compelling read, full of interesting characters living in a very flawed potential America. Brooks did a good job developing his main characters, particularly the President, a young girl stuck with a huge medical bill after her father’s death and an older man transplanted from his home by the government after the LA earthquake. Yet, at times I found some of the other characters development a bit off balances. Some characters are developed fully in the beginning of the novel, yet sort of fall off the map, while others are given the slow reveal, barely appearing early on, but becoming major players late in the game. The novel also had some pacing issues. Brooks would seem to be moving a storyline towards a major denouement, but it would then just sort of fall flat. Yet, despite all these problems, I actually had a good time listening to 2030. I found some of his political and scientific predictions and there affects on social change almost too realistic, while others far fetched enough to remind me that this was fiction. And despite my decision not to look for an agenda, I found Brooks portrayal of his world to be quite even handed. Sure there were some crazy liberal, as well as conservative theories being espoused by characters, but Brooks seemed to be just presenting the debate, not pushing the reader to agree with any particular philosophy. Sure, at times, Brooks’ political leanings become obvious, but these were only small moments in an otherwise level book. So, despite my little complaints, Brooks achieved my agenda by presenting us with an entertaining, yet often frightening look at the potential future America faces.
Dick Hill narrated this book, and was a decent choice. I have listened to a lot of Dick Hill audiobooks, and usually find him a competent narrator with an excellent ability to voice multiple characters in a single novel. I thought the beginning of the novel was a bit rough for him, Hill has recently picked up a few vocal affectations that can be distracting, and his pacing was on the slow side, yet, as the novel progresses Hill’s narration picks up, and begins to remind me of why I used to love listening to him. Hill can tell a story, in an almost effortless manner, and when he does it, in his purest form, there are few that can match him. Also, like always, his characterizations were spot on. Hill’s narration helped smooth out some of the rough moments in the story, and is a definitive factor in my overall enjoyment of the novel.