In the week running up to Iceland Writers Retreat, I really dove into Icelandic fiction. It turns out that Icelandic novelists can be pretty challenging, even when their books are fun. By the time I read Andri Snær Magnason’s dystopic novel LoveStar, my head was reeling – which is a shame, because LoveStar was right up my alley, and I wish I could do it justice. In all likelihood, I won’t be able to summarize all the ideas that LoveStar stirred up in my head, so let me just start by saying, “Read it.”
LoveStar is a science fiction dystopia in the classic tradition of Brave New World and 1984 (as opposed to the more recent Hunger Games style). Strangely, it also has a lot in common with utopian novel Eco-topia as well. A lot of Andri’s dystopic future is actually much nicer than the real world. Technology has given the world clean energy; a genuinely comforting way of dealing with death; and a scientific guarantee for finding your one true love. Of course, it is all driven by consumerism and people can still find a way to fuck up a perfect system.
Elements of LoveStar reminded me of Gattaca, The Island, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe, but the overall mood was most like The Fountain. That is, despite the corporate-controlled tech-heavy future he describes, and despite a streak of absurdist humor, the dominant mood is one of surreal, poetic melancholy. At least, it is if your focus is on the story of the calculation-crossed lovers, rather than the tech, which is shockingly prescient. Although LoveStar was only translated into English in 2012, Andri wrote the book in 2002. He basically predicted GoogleGlass, Klout, and a few other things that made me say “Wow!” which I have already lost in the mental soup. But going back to influences/related works, even though there were lots of familiar elements in LoveStar, the overall effect was quite unique.
The story itself was quite engaging; the characters were all either quite flawed or overwhelmingly sappy, but I still found myself genuinely interested in all of them. I have a tendency to take stories at face value, but it’s impossible to completely ignore Andri’s social commentary, which is even more relevant today than it was when the book was written.
I’m still too awash in new books and writing retreat information to properly describe LoveStar, so I’ll just let the author do it himself. Here is a link to an interview he gave with the English-language paper in Reykjavík when the book was first translated by Victoria Cribb for Seven Stories Press: http://www.grapevine.is/Home/ReadArticle/The-First-Capitalist-Realist-Poet