Welcome to the future.  Humanity is divided between the rich, the poor, and the starving, and the world is run by a cartel of eight mega-corporations.  Taco Bell runs at least one mid-western university.  The western US has become an effective dustbowl, Canada has become a grain producer, and Wisconsin gets hundred-degree heat waves in May.  Acts of terrorism go unreported, poverty is rampant but begging is illegal, and the American populace has isolated itself from its anguish by retreating ever more deeply into an illusory world of technology.

At least, this is the world into which Carl Lauer awakens after 35 years of being cryogenically frozen.  The year is 2045, an alarming new novel written by Peter Seidel.

The reader follows Carl on his journey throughout the future as he awakens to find himself a global celebrity.  As he reconnects with his family throughout the American mid-west and California, we learn through his day-to-day interactions about the brave new future that awaits us.  Having seen the way that the USA has deteriorated, Carl is much relieved to accept a job on Bonique (a Caribbean island) with one of the mega-corporations (Shetland) promoting a brand new futuristic soft drink, Popzi (which, during the course of the novel, is made more addictive thanks to a cancer-causing chemical).  On a business trip promoting Popzi, Carl personally observes the horror that the continent of Africa has become, and he devotes his life to fighting the inequities that are destroying the fabric of human existence.  Thus, we enter the harrowing and crushing conclusion of the story–that the circumstances of 2045 are utterly irreversible.

You will learn something from reading this book–mostly about our present day.  Every problemmatic trend and social issue present in modern American society is drawn out to its absurd conclusion.  Many of these are well justified–for instance, universities already function as big businesses, so why wouldn’t it make sense for them to be bought out by a larger corporation, such as Taco Bell?  In today’s society, the media exists less to inform voting citizens and more to keep them entertained and complacent–is it inconceivable that large offshore corporations would buy media outlets and censor the demise of the rest of the world from its viewers?  The middle class has been continuously diminished over the last 10 years–so why should one even exist 35 years from now?  Since politician already are funded by big business, isn’t it logical to think that big business will eventually openly run the country?

And don’t get me started on global climate change–Seidel works this in as well.  Summer days are intolerably hot across the nation; the problem is aggravated by the fact that air-conditioning has become extraordinarily expensive.  Agriculture has collapsed in much of the world due to desertification and a general overuse and abuse of land.  Fossil fuels are limited and expensive.  Based on the science I have been reading, though, this course of events seems relatively gentle. To the best of my knowledge (which is limited due to the media censorship of 2045) no hell has broken lose over dwindling resources, tropical diseases have not spread to the USA, and sea levels have not risen.  All of these situations are likely, and even inevitable, according to current (2009) projections.  And, no violent hurricanes ever hit Bonique in Carl’s two years there. The earth has simply gotten “hotter”, which simplifies the issue a bit in my mind.

That said, I found the book to be well-structured and global in scope.  You can feel 2045 sucking your will to live!  Yet you want to find out what happens next–towards the end I literally couldn’t put the book down.  The only thing I really wished is that the dialogue were more natural and the sense of time flow less vague…but given the passion and importance of this book, I think this can be forgiven.

Dystopic futures do not tend to come true–this book is a speculation based on current trends, just as George Orwell’s 1984 was speculation based on his contemporary circumstances.  All it indicates is that we need to change our ways, or go the way of society in 2045.  I ask the reader: do you want to live in such a world?

At least you know public transportation will have improved.  And the technology is so good!  And now I sound just like one of the characters, convinced the world is getting better even while it is getting worse.  Thank you, future, I am now a crushed soul too.  Thank you, past generations, you have done your part to make this the status quo.  Thank you, people of 2009, for working to make sure this never happens!

*A Blogging Day of Action Blog