In the not-too-distant future of 2029, the US economy collapses and life as most Americans know it changes drastically. Investments are wiped out. The government seizes all gold and creates a new currency as the dollar tanks. Inflation skyrockets. The hardest hit are the wealthy, since their investment funds dissolved overnight, gone in the blink of an eye (or the pronouncement of a ruthless president). The lower class was barely getting by before the economic and political upheaval that resulted in the crash, but they're the best equipped to deal with the new world order. Chaos reigns, and the world seems to be spiraling into a dystopian nightmare. Fast forward twenty years, the economy is rebounding and society is clawing its way back. New challenges emerge, most centrally an entire generation that has no professional training and little urge to work or do much more than just subsist. And through it all, the book follows an extended family's struggle, with all the family politics, resentment, and stumbling blocks you'd expect when four generations who share few similarities aside from their name must band together to survive.
Lionel Shriver's satirical and at times scathing piece The Mandibles could be this generation's 1984 — a cautionary tale that's just futuristic enough to seem implausible, but close enough to give readers a good what-if scare. At times the economic ramblings get a little dense, but the family saga that weaves through the book keeps the story moving forward. The broad cast of characters can lead to some confusion, but everything relates back to core family relationships that will resonate with a lot of readers. Readers who enjoy Ayn Rand or George Orwell will likely find this book hard to put down.
Reviewed by ba, 10/16. Other reviews by ba.