Adam, the main character in M.T. Anderson’s young adult novel Landscape with Invisible Hand, is a misunderstood artist. Much of the misunderstanding comes from the vuvv, the aliens who have taken over earth and forced most people, Adam and his family included, into poverty. If this sounds like some sort of depressing science fiction, it definitely is not. Landscape with Invisible Hand can best be described as a whacky, humorous sci-fi novel.
The future in this book is so bleak that Adam’s mother has difficulty getting a job serving chicken broth at a food cart. Adam’s mother eventually takes in another family, the Marshes, to help earn some money, and Adam quickly becomes infatuated with Chloe, their daughter. The vuvv love anything to do with the fifties, as this is the era they saw when they were scouting out earth. Adam and Chloe start earning money by broadcasting fifties-inspired dates to the vuvv. They quickly grow tired of each other, although it’s more Chloe growing tired of Adam than the other way around. In addition to the strain of performing for the vuvv as if they are attending an eternal sock hop, Adam suffers from a digestive problem called Merrick’s disease that Chloe finds disgusting. Chloe ends up dumping Adam for a chainsaw artist named Buddy Gui.
Along with all the wackiness, like a lot of quality science fiction Landscape with Invisible Hand makes some good points about how poor people are treated as well as some good points about our healthcare system. But it never gets heavy handed and is consistently funny. This is a truly unique book. Readers should not shy away from it just because they are not big fans of science fiction.