It took me a while to get used to his clipped perfunctory sentences. I kept thinking to myself, Brooks is a screen writer and not used to full sentences, or paragraphs.
The style didn’t change (really Patrick? Duh.), so I had to adjust my expectations a little.
Brooks pokes and jokes in a subtle way. No set up… just a zinger here and there to remind the reader he is a humorist.
At the heart of the novel is a simple and unavoidable demographic truth: Given a declining birthrate and ever-increasing lifespan, America's young people will find themselves facing a bleaker future where their own opportunities are mortgaged to support the "olds." Brooks does a wonderful job of describing what life is like when the younger generations face a standard of living that is markedly worse than the one their parents enjoyed: "They were the first ones riding the pendulum back, and they hated it." Most of the plot revolves around the growing tensions between generations, a tension that is exacerbated when the long-predicted major earthquake devastates Los Angeles, and the government realizes it simply "could no longer borrow its way out of trouble."
Brooks' novel follows the story lines of several characters with different stakes in this dilemma: The President of the U.S. himself, who longs to tackle the problem of increasing life spans but wilts in the political power of the senior citizen lobby; a young woman whose future is put seemingly permanently on hold because she must pay for her father's medical bills; a rebel who frighteningly sees terrorism as the logical response to the widening gap between the olds and young adults; a rising star in China who sees opportunity in the fading West and grasps it; and one of the olds who hates to find himself relying on his son for financial support but sees no other way out. These narratives come together and are resolved, but it is a book that will definitely leave you feeling unsettled.
Did I mention: lots of zingers?