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Mirkat Always Reading

I'm always reading something, usually multiple books at a time.

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Mike Chamberlain, Laurie Halse Anderson

Dystopian With a Plausible Premise

The Subprimes - Karl Taro Greenfeld, Adam Verner


Yes, you heard me right--this is a dystopian novel with an actual plausible premise.  This was a case where the book's "blurb" description made me want to read the book.  I don't usually include blurbs in my reviews, but I'll reproduce this one, since it's what pulled me in:


In a future America that feels increasingly familiar, you are your credit score. Extreme wealth inequality has created a class of have-nothings: Subprimes. Their bad credit ratings make them unemployable. Jobless and without assets, they’ve walked out on mortgages, been foreclosed upon, or can no longer afford a fixed address. Fugitives who must keep moving to avoid arrest, they wander the globally warmed American wasteland searching for day labor and a place to park their battered SUVs for the night.

Karl Taro Greenfeld’s trenchant satire follows the fortunes of two families whose lives reflect this new dog-eat-dog, survival-of-the-financially-fittest America. Desperate for work and food, a Subprime family has been forced to migrate east, hoping for a better life. They are soon joined in their odyssey by a writer and his family—slightly better off, yet falling fast. Eventually, they discover a small settlement of Subprimes who have begun an agrarian utopia built on a foreclosed exurb. Soon, though, the little stability they have is threatened when their land is targeted by job creators for shale oil extraction.

But all is not lost. A hero emerges, a woman on a motorcycle—suspiciously lacking a credit score—who just may save the world.

In The Subprimes, Karl Taro Greenfeld turns his keen and unflinching eye to our country today—and where we may be headed. The result is a novel for the 99 percent: a darkly funny comedy about paradise lost and found, the value of credit, economic policy, and the meaning of family.


In the tradition of Orwell, Greenfeld cannily assesses the current conditions in the U.S. economic situation and extrapolates a highly likely not-too-distant future.  There is dark humor here, but it's the kind of laugh where you feel uncomfortable at the same time that you are laughing, because it's "funny 'cause it's true," and it's a truth that hurts.  There is a painful recognition over the practice of naming laws for the opposite of what they actually do.  Like the "National Energy Independence Act" abolishing renewable-energy technology, the "National Right to Work" act removing the minimum wage, the "National Internet Freedom Act" outlawing free wireless, and so on.  Unfettered capitalism has increased the disparity between the 1% and everyone else, and privatization has helped make life untenable for most.  Even calling 911 entails a choice between premium service and standard.


Often while listening to this book, I caught myself thinking that it felt like something that T.C. Boyle might write if someone slipped him a pill that gives him hope and assures him that not every single person in the world is a hypocrite.  But on the other hand, I don't think even TCB would end a book in just the way Greenfeld ends this one.  I have some mixed feelings at the end,

as it turns into a bit of a religious allegory.  Though the narrative at least offers an alternate, secular reading of what happens, and not in that Life of Pi "the religious version is the better story, and you suck if you choose the non-miraculous narrative" way.  But I am enormously gratified to read a contemporary novel where the good guys actually prevail, so I won't quibble.  Go 99%!

(show spoiler)

In case you can't tell, I recommend this heartily.  I even recommended it to my husband, a finance geek who almost never reads fiction.  I hope he actually reads it!