While there is all kinds of social commentary in Gish Jen’s dystopian novel The Resisters, for some reason it reminded me of the Saturday morning cartoons I used to watch as a kid. In spite of the seriousness of the ideas presented, Jen uses subtle and not so subtle humor to make the science fiction aspects fun. However, the science fiction is so close to non-fiction that the dystopian parts become anything but fun.
At the center of it all is baseball, a game that had been eliminated from public life but the Surplus (poor people) start an underground league. Gwen, the daughter of Grant, the narrator, has a pitching gift that her father works hard to develop in secrecy.
Meanwhile, the Netted part of society (rich people) decide to bring baseball back as the Official American Pastime – mostly to compete with ChinRussia in the Olympics. Gwen is discovered and tons of blackmail, manipulation, fights for freedom, suspense, betrayal and thrills ensue.
To me, the best humor came in the form of the house belonging to Gwen and her family. With AI pushing full steam ahead, their house talks to them and interrupts their conversations and acts like an unwanted relative.
More than occasionally, Jen throws in fun literary references such as Gwen’s teammates being named Joe March and Warren Peese and the serious references that tie to the the story and themes:
Like have you ever heard of this book, Michael Kohlhaas? – which Coach says is his favorite book because Michael Kohlhaas is just so stubborn! And when I said he sounded like Bartleby the Scrivener, he said that was exactly right, and isn’t it amazing how interesting we find characters who say no? In life we like people who say yes, but in books we like people who say no, he said. Which is just so true, don’t you think? I think maybe he used to be a professor.