Gary Shteyngart’s new novel presents a Huxleyan vision: everybody is a consumer, exhausting themselves and their credit; everyone is obsessed with sex (and does it constantly). Where Shteyngart differs from Huxley is in the addition of violence: America, no longer a dominant power, is attacking Venezuela, and is itself at risk from internecine strife. Meanwhile China hoards the world’s gold. Concepts familiar to us are taken to extremes: everyone owns an ‘äppärät’, a super-smart phone that projects holographs, while Facebook becomes ‘GlobalTeens’, a sinister network which holds all available data about its members (your sexual preferences, your taste in clothes, even your childhood memories). Everybody is ranked in terms of Fuckability. Nobody seems to mind very much. This is a vile, vapid world.
A bewildered, old-fashioned (he actually reads, rather than ‘scans’) observer of all this is 39-year-old Larry Abramov, usually ranked last in the room on GlobalTeens. He works for a company with many tendrils, one arm of which deals with the search for immortality. Abramov’s job is to find