Book Review: 2030 by Albert Brooks

A lot can happen in 20 years. Just considering the development of computers and the Internet, cellular phones, and eReader devices, we know this, and we can look forward to a whole lot more in the future. A cure for cancer, remote controlled robots that can perform surgery, transit airplanes that can be flown without a pilot on board, 3D movies that don't require special glasses - Albert Brooks's 2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America imagines that each of these medical and technological advances can happen within the next two decades. Along with these life enhancing discoveries and developments, though, can come some tragedy too - and Brooks definitely doesn't leave any of that out.

We already know people are living longer and looking younger while they're at it. Skin creams, plastic surgery, yoga, power bars, protein shakes - on top all of these, Brooks imagines that by 2030, scientists and researchers will have discovered and developed a cure for cancer, a pill that really makes you lose weight and keep it off, and machines that enhance muscles mass. All of these lead to the longevity of human life. While the baby-boomers are inching into their 70s and 80s, though, younger generations are increasingly bearing the financial burden of not only student loan debt, but Social Security and Medicare for the aging generations as well. And they're getting tired of it. And are beginning to act out in protest. It's in this tense climate that the biggest natural disaster to hit America takes place - an earthquake measuring over 9 points on the Richter Scale hits Los Angeles, pretty much leveling it. With national debt that's long since spiraled into mind-boggling depths, the government of the United States struggles to respond.

The novel focuses on the stories of those affected by both situations, including Kathy Bernard, a young adult dealing with an uninsured $350,000 medical bill from her father's shooting; Dr. Sam Mueller, the world famous and wealthy physician who discovered The Cure; Brad Miller, a retired Los Angeles resident who loses everything he owns in the quake; and Matthew Bernstein, the newly elected first "half-Jewish" president who must lead the country out of tragedy. Then enter the Chinese, who, having lent to the United States again and again, refuse to lend any more, but propose a deal unlike any the U.S. government has ever agreed to. Will the President and the leaders of the country agree to this new deal? And how will the people of America, and Los Angeles, respond?

Alan Brooks, first known as an actor, writer, comedian and director, weaves a profound tale about what could happen to America in a not-too-distant future when disaster strikes. The multiple story lines provide a well rounded look at the country 20 years down the road and the impending disaster while keeping the reader interested, not lost. Though I found some of his ideas a little hard to swallow (i.e. transit airplanes that fly themselves, and Brooks did predict the death of Kim Jong-il two years late), others I realized were all too real - the draining of tax dollars, the straining of the health care system and what Brooks calls the Enough Is Enough movement. It definitely makes me wonder how our country would respond today if a quake - or any other disaster of such magnitude - were to strike.