Entertainment » Vol. 42

Book to the future: Martin Shapiro takes you to 2039

By Kimberly Dunbar

2039Every now and then, I look at the news and think, “Wow, George Orwell totally called that in 1984.” I just hope I don’t have a similar reaction to the things in Martin Shapiro’s 2039, the recently released “sequel” to Orwell’s masterpiece.

Imagine living in an America where life as we now know it is completely changed ~ and not for the better. In Shapiro’s 2039, the retirement age is 75 (but health care coverage ends at 70 to ease the burden of elderly health care in the U.S.); you have to apply for a special visitation permit to leave the country; and many of the liberties and freedoms we currently enjoy (and things like bottled water) no longer exist. CNN is the only news channel, owned by the government, and Americans are injected with a chip loaded with details about their lives.

Shapiro decided to write this book in 2011, when issues like pollution, conflicts in the Middle East and Israel, China’s ascension and Russia’s resurgence as world powers, political gridlock in America and an increasing number of undocumented immigrants entering the country plagued not only America, but the world. Knowing these issues wouldn’t disappear without having a lasting impact, he wrote 2039.

Shapiro doesn’t invent flying cars in his future (although there are some high-end vehicles that can be programmed to drive themselves). Instead, many of his predictions seem like they could happen. In his America, drugs such as marijuana, crack, cocaine and heroin are all legal in order for the government to better regulate them (and make some money). Half of Alaska is owned by Canada, which paid the U.S.’s debt to China in exchange for half of the territory. The U.S. military charges for its protective services, and Canada has built a border to keep unhappy Americans at bay.

Shapiro weaves his futuristic predictions in with the story of Jonathan and Ida Kadish, an elderly couple attempting to escape to Canada in hopes of a brighter future. But they soon learn that even the best laid plans don’t always work out as anticipated. What ensues is a clever and interesting tale ultimately rooted in patriotism. As the main character says during the eighth day of his adventure, “I never thought our plan was so naive and that we would encounter so many new people and opportunities to challenge us, our intellects and our relationship.”

Though sometimes the storyline can seem just a tad unrealistic, Shapiro does an excellent job addressing how the U.S. got to its current state in 2039. It is an entertaining and fast-moving read worth the investment, even if just to see one man’s vision of the future.

Martin Shapiro’s 2039 is available on Amazon in both a print and ebook version.

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