The Piketty Problem by Garth Hallberg is an engaging novel of social protest, which acts as both a warning and call to action about the state of the economy and mechanization. Suzanne Dealy is at odds with her husband, who aims to mechanize chains of McDonald’s with “McRobots.” She meets kindred spirit Steve Harris, who’s an equal devotee of the economist Thomas Piketty. Together they join together to thwart her husband’s misguided plans and put an end to income inequality.
The Piketty Problem (subtitle The Robots Are Coming, The Robots Are Coming) is an astute and well-written exploration of the issue of the mechanization of the workforce in the West. As both titles may indicate to the more economically minded reader, the book riffs on the state of modern consumerism and the pitfalls of a world wherein the working class are unable to earn living wage in a world that demands unsustainable consumption. It does this effectively without being too heavy-handed, with a subtle satirical bite to the material.
The read is smooth, if perhaps asking for a little more judicious trimming of the word count to maintain absolute subjective focus, and presents a solid case through a focused cast of relatable characters facing a scarily believable scenario. Hallberg intends The Piketty Problem to continue in the tradition of past works of socially motivated political fiction, and in many ways the novel is successful at carrying this torch, which is all too necessary in the current political and economic landscape.