Had Neal Stephenson written "Snow Crash" as a dystopian love story, I'm not sure whether he could have equaled Gary Shteyngart's latest, greatest, novel; a memorable exploration of romantic love set amidst a dystopian near future United States. "Super Sad True Love Story" crackles with much of the same high powered kinetic energy and swift pace of Stephenson's groundbreaking cyberpunk novel - the very first to offer a memorable comedic strain of cyberpunk science fiction - but it is so much more, a brilliant satire of clashing American immigrant values and a well paced, well conceived, romantic love story between the most unlikely of protagonists; thirty nine year-old Russian-American Lenny Abramov , and his much younger lover, twenty four year-old Korean-American Eunice Park. Shteyngart excels in exploring the inevitable cultural clash between immigrant Korean and Russian cultures, as New York City and the rest of the United States heads relentlessly towards both economic and sociological implosion. Here he relies on crisp, fast-paced dialogue which may remind some readers of David Foster Wallace's, often laced with pathos and sharp satirical wit.
Without question, Shteyngart's new novel is science fiction, even if much of the science fictional aspects of the tale are often pushed aside, as the author gives his readers full, undivided, attention to the romantic twists and turns of Abramov and Park's unlikely romance. Shteyngart's depiction of a New York City in the full brunt of a dystopian collapse, echoes Rick Moody's novella "The Albertine Notes" (from Moody's novella collection, "The Omega Force: Three Novellas") in rendering a similarly stark, quite bleak, urban landscape (And one which offers far more verisimilitude in depicting a near future New York City which Big Apple readers and others might recognize as potentially plausible.) But a more apt comparison Is with Matt Ruff's "Sewer Gas Electric: The Public Works Trilogy" for his humorous, often irreverent take, on New York City's impending doom. Like Ruff's mid 1990s cyberpunk classic, it is one of the best depictions of this city I've come across from within the literary realm of science fiction.
"Super Sad True Love Story" seems destined to become one of this year's critical and popular literary successes. It is certainly one of the best - If not the best - novels of this year. Shteyngart's reputation as our foremost living American satirist is secured with this novel's publication. His latest novel is a much more revealing look at human relationships than his earlier "Absurdistan", and one that is much livelier in its depiction of romantic love and satire. However, I do hope his future work exhibits much of the same literary range exhibited by the lesser known Matt Ruff (whom I regard as the greatest living literary alumnus, along with Shteyngart, of our alma mater, New York City's Stuyvesant High School); "Super Sad True Love Story" represents a major first step in such a direction.