An Unlikely Future: A Matthew Binder Book Review

by - January 10, 2019

Imagine the year 2036. Imagine everything that could transpire in the next 17 years, good and bad. The unknown of the future is fictionally chronicled in Matthew Binder’s The Absolved.

The story is told from main character Henri’s point of view. Henri is a wealthy oncologist, with a wife, Rachel, and a son, Julian. In 2036, he lives in a world powered by Artificial Intelligence. His car not only drives itself, but conducts itself in a nearly human form called Chloe. A similar piece of technology runs their home, Emma. Emma controls the temperature, appliances, water, doorbell, locks, Wi-Fi and more.

This kind of technology also lives inside everyone’s fingertips. Implanted holograms become more of a coming-of-age ritual than a bar mitzvah or sweet sixteen. However, most of these pieces are luxurious items.

To fix the problem of rich versus poor, the year 2030 brought a Basic Income that was created for every U.S. citizen. There are different classes, one of them being The Absolved.  The Absolved consists of citizens “lacking sufficient talent or skill to contribute to today’s high-tech workforce.” They never have to work, but are still supplied with food, shelter and healthcare. Despite their class being the name of the book, there is hardly enough mention to warrant it as the title. However, that flaw takes the backseat to the overall character of Henri.

Flawed or unlikable characters are not a new concept and can actually make the overall storyline more personal or well-received. For Henri, his egotism, sexist language and disrespectful character “flaws” make him quite the opposite. You get a real taste for his character right away, as he details his affair with a young medical school student who didn’t pass her first year. He spends the entirety of the book declaring his love and devotion to his family while simultaneously cheating on his wife and describing himself as if a different person was committing the act of adultery.

His despicable personality is beyond unrelatable, to the point where he shares a piece of his backstory and its revealed that he hasn’t changed since he was a high school student playing in a rock band that wasn’t as popular but spoke of his competition as talentless and him being superior of both that band and his own bandmates.  He quits his job without consulting his family, throws tantrums when he has to participate in family functions like his son’s doctor appointments or baseball games and doesn’t seem to notice or care that his wife is calling out for attention despite being poorly mistreated.

Other than the main character’s one-sided storyline, the general storyline is hard to follow. Although this story is set in the not-too-distant future, the futuristic aspect doesn’t coincide with any real timeline. There is mention of man not setting foot on the moon in over 60 years, suggesting that 1976 was the last year NASA sent astronauts there. Descriptions of his childhood suggest that life was much different despite him being born in 1990. These holes in the plot made the idea of a future with robots less believable and more unfocused.

The Absolved had the potential to tell the story of people who were deemed “talentless” in a world full of technological advances and how they fought back, but instead told the story of a philanderer with zero redeemable qualities. The story was uncomfortable to read and was underdeveloped in places that deserved more expansion. This is yet another book that falls victim to plenty of potential but misses the mark.

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