Super Sad True Love Story

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I can't quite remember how this book got into my things-to-read list. It might have been this mention from Gene Healy at Reason, where it's billed as a "near-future comic dystopia". (And claimed to be a more likely future than, say, The Hunger Games books.) And, the library at the University Near Here owned a copy, so the only thing it would take is time. So…

It's the story of Lenny Abramov (middle-aged son of Russian immigrants) and Eunice Park (daughter of Korean immigrants). The tale is told in alternating chapters: excerpts from Lenny's diary and Eunice's "Globalteens account", the dominant social media site of this particular future.

Lenny and Eunice meet in Rome. She's on vacation, and Lenny has been sent by his employer, a life-extension company, to scout out HNWI ("High Net Worth Individual") customers. Lenny is immediately smitten with Eunice. This seems unlikely, because (even in his own telling) he is a desperate schlump, on the verge of professional failure, and way too old for the lovely young Eunice. But, unlikely as it sounds, they have a physical encounter; Lenny sees this as life-changing.

Eunice's side of the story reveal that, instead of the saint Lenny imagines, she's shallow, frivolous, foul-mouthed, and promiscuous. In contrast to Lenny, she views their brief sexual rendezvous as a one-off, something that she did because she could think of nothing better to do.

Unlikely as it seems, a relationship blooms between them when they return to America. Unfortunately, the US is in decline. It is broke, corrupt, dominated by international corporate interests, and reeling from disastrous foreign military ventures. "Anti-terrorism" measures have been cranked up, ubiquitous militarized checkpoints that are less about keeping the country safe, and more about keeping the rabble in line. But everyone's plugged in via their "äppäräts", supersmart devices that will (for example) instantly tell you (and everyone around you) your sexual and financial worth.

Eunice (it turns out) is very much a product of the crass and postliterate culture that surrounds her. She, like everyone, is bemused by the fact that Lenny actually owns and reads physical books. It's not illegal; it doesn't have to be.

So the country is going down the toilet. Eunice and Lenny are semi-aware of this, but they're also trying to make their relationship work, explain themselves to their respective families, etc. But (sorry for the spoiler, but see the title) there's no happy-ever-after ending.

Last Modified 2024-01-27 5:43 AM EDT