Guest Post by Kevin Brown
The Future, Naomi Alderman’s latest novel, is set in a near-future America that’s dominated by three tech companies: Fantail, Anvil, and Medlar. Those companies are a clear combination of social media sites (ranging from Facebook to TikTok), Apple, and Amazon, and their three leaders echo attributes of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Steve Jobs.
I would like to say that the fictional companies are doing far more damage to Alderman’s world than their real-life inspiration, but I could only say that for certain because Alderman lets readers know what her CEOs are actually up to. They’re preparing for the end of the world, as was Martha Einkorn — who was raised in a cult that focused on preparing for the end of the world, but who has become the assistant for the CEO of Fantail — and Lai Zhen, a survivalist who’s become famous thanks to her online presence.
They meet and begin a relationship that is complicated by the billionaires’ seeming desire to bring about the end of the world as they know it. Alderman’s satire of our technology-obsessed world and the egos that run it is spot on, but she also creates characters worth caring about.
Readers won’t just want the world to continue because they want to see the tech leaders lose, but because they want Martha and Lai Zhen to live on.
The Future by Naomi Alderman. Simon and Schuster, November 2023.
Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels.