Landscape with Invisible Hand

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Landscape with Invisible Hand Book Poster Image
Darkly funny sci-fi shows future with aliens, economic woes.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational value

Deals with issues of wealth inequality, colonialism, and ethnic supremacy.

Positive messages

In times of upheaval, friends and family can help each other survive.

Positive role models & representations

Adam is a dedicated and talented painter who tries to stay true to his artistic vision, even when it might be to his advantage to be more commercial. He's bright and articulate and works hard to help provide for his beaten-down family.


Adam's mother is roughed up by a fellow job seeker.


Adam and Chloe pretend to be romantically attracted to each other so that their time together can be recorded for the enjoyment of the aliens. It's hinted that they're occasionally physically intimate.


Occasional strong language, with one or two instances each of "bitch," "ass," "s--t," and "f--k."

Drinking, drugs & smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Landscape with Invisible Hand is a satirical sci-fi novel by M.T. Anderson, author of The Pox Party and Feed. It is set in the aftermath of an alien invasion and the subsequent economic collapse. The level of violence is low, limited to a threatening attack against Adam's mom by a desperate job seeker. Sexual content is limited mostly to cuddling and kissing, with some hints of more intimate activities. Swearing includes one or two instances each of "bitch," "ass," "s--t," and "f--k."

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What's the story?

Set in the wake of an alien invasion, LANDSCAPE WITH INVISIBLE HAND follows teen artist Adam Costello as he and his family adjust to a broken economy. Thanks to the job-destroying technology of the extraterrestrial vuvv, Adam and his mother and sister have little money for food, water, or medicine. Because the aliens are fascinated by human inventions such as "true love," Adam and his neighbor Cleo pretend to be romantically involved and allow their actions to be recorded in a pay-per-view arrangement. The pressure of pleasing their alien overlords takes its toll, and Adam finds himself heading for a crisis of artistic integrity and gastric distress.

Is it any good?

Darkly funny and politically insightful, this satirical sci-fi novel takes a unique look at the consequences of alien contact. Landscape with Invisible Hand pits a young painter against the artistic preferences of conquering extraterrestrials. It's not action-packed, but the book's narrative urgency comes from how relatable Adam's predicament is. Anderson shows the perils of runaway capitalism, and it's not a pretty picture.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Landscape with Invisible Hand imagines a worldwide economic collapse. What kinds of factors influence the health of a nation's economy?

  • Should artists pay attention to the monetary value of their work? How do artists balance their own interests against those of the marketplace?

  • Is affordable health care a right or a privilege? Why is medical care so expensive?

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