If you think times are tough now, just wait until 2029. The good news is that the United States has hung on for another thirteen years. The bad news is everything else. “Dryouts” are commonplace, though it’s not clear whether scarcity of water or the dilapidation of the infrastructure meant to distribute it is to blame. Americans are still reeling from the Stone Age of 2024, when the electric grid crashed, wreaking technological havoc: pileups on unlit roads, airplanes dropping from the skies, pacemakers pumping double-time, looting and riots from sea to shining sea. But those disasters are minor compared with the latest: an economic collapse set in motion by the introduction of the bancor, a new global reserve currency meant to replace the dollar on the international market and backed by a coalition of countries led by Russia’s ruler-for-life, Vladimir Putin. Furious, President Alvarado, America’s first Mexican-born head of state, announces that the U.S. will default on its loans. The Fed goes into overdrive, printing new money to cover its debts. In short order, a greenback is as worthless as a Weimar cigarette rolled with a fifty-billion-mark note. Hard-earned savings go up in smoke. A meager cabbage costs thirty dollars one week, forty the next, and that’s when there’s still cabbage to buy. So long, superpower nation. Hello, hyperinflation.
This is the world according to “The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047,” Lionel Shriver’s new novel, her twelfth.
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