The Future for Curious People by Gregory Sherl
I bought this book from Kramer Books in Washington D.C. off of a ‘Staff Picks’ shelf. This is my favorite way to choose books at an independent bookstore when I have no wishlist in mind.
I started reading it immediately, got about halfway through on the trip, put it in my backpack as I was getting off the airplane, then forgot about its existence entirely for three solid weeks. I read other things I had lying around, I bought books on my Kindle, I packed up my entire life into boxes and put them into temporary storage, and I continued forgetting about this book, though there was always this nagging feeling of forgetting, like I’d met someone for coffee but their face smudged into the background so that only the vaguest sense of an espresso and lights lingered.
Finally, though, I cleaned out my backpack and picked this book back up, started reading from where I left off (halfway through, the plot was not so difficult as to require rereading) and finished in about a day. It was… not bad. Again, much like Oscar Wao, I started out loving it. I think with most books, this is the case for me. I am generous with my first opinions, but after that I expect for my attention to be earned.
The Future for Curious People is about two strangers, Evelyn Shriner and i-can’t-remember-his-name-even-though-I-just-closed-the-cover (edit: Godfrey Burkes. yes. of course), both in relationships that aren’t *quite* right. They go to an Envisionist to see their future. An Envisionist, in this barely-future world, is a doctor who can hook you up to a machine so you can watch your hypothetical future with a romantic partner. The reasoning behind it being that though free will exists, human brains have the power to semi-accurately project future possibilities by processing sensory information and memory. Or something. The science is fairly vague, honestly, it’s a sort of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-fuck that requires a painless but necessary suspension of disbelief.
The book is mostly a love story between two predictably quirky, average-ish MC’s who get together after a book’s worth of will-they-won’t-theys. When Godfrey describes Evelyn, it is almost always in reference to either her legs or her quirky as shit rainboots with flowers glued on them. She has a kleptomaniac friend who also has a dorky (and non-threatening to the main character but good enough for a supporting character) love interest. I was looking for something that was just a half step up from the regular YA romance that I read for stress relief. After reading Rainbow Rowell and Stephanie Perkins, I am 100% convinced that a love story can be both adorable and quality, both squeal-inducing and leave a lasting impression, so I’m not going to settle for any crappily-written YA shit anymore. That being said, this one fell pretty perfectly into what I was looking for. It was cute, but not overly so. It had some interesting things to say about life and living in the moment and the ideas of memory, etc., but I wasn’t blown away by its thoughtfulness. It was quick, and I found it… endearing. Not amazing quality when examined closely, but not the worst thing humanity has ever produced.
I would recommend it to those looking for an adult version of a light YA romance read, probably. My biggest problem was the manic pixie feel of the whole thing. How Evelyn was still this princess to be caught at the end, how Godfrey was this charming prince who isn’t appreciated by his fiance, (who at first seems perfect but then, of course, turns out to be vapid, shallow, etc. etc. etc.). It was just so damn twee. And so obviously written by a white guy from a barely-veiled version of his own experiences, with some very light sci-fi thrown on top. And just… I don’t know. Cliche? Is it a cliche to call things cliche?
Nevertheless, 3 Stars. Probably won’t read any more of his books, but I didn’t feel cheated while reading it. It’s definitely not on par with Rowell or Perkins, but it wasn’t truly heinously offensive either. Oh, how high the standards of this blog.
P.S. Check out a better review than mine. I’d forgotten that Evelyn changes the endings to famous books to make them happy endings when reading for the blind. And later she finds out that she has fans. Of course she does. She’s Evelyn Shriner, and she glues flowers onto her rainboots. Of course the people listening to her dulcet tones butchering classic literature are like HELL YES, I’VE ALWAYS THOUGHT ANNA KARENINA SHOULD HAVE ENDED IN A WEDDING. ALL THAT TRAIN BUSINESS IS JUST SO MESSY!
*eyes roll out of head and onto the train tracks*