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Things We Didn't See Coming

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Michael Williams, in Melbourne’s The Age, wrote of this award-winning, dazzling debut collection, “By turns horrific and beautiful . . . Humanity at its most fractured and desolate . . . Often moving, frequently surprising, even blackly funny . . . Things We Didn’t See Coming is terrific.” This is just one of the many rave reviews that appeared on the Australian publication of these nine connected stories set in a not-too-distant dystopian future in a landscape at once utterly fantastic and disturbingly familiar.
Richly imagined, dark, and darkly comic, the stories follow the narrator over three decades as he tries to survive in a world that is becoming increasingly savage as cataclysmic events unfold one after another. In the first story, “What We Know Now”—set in the eve of the millennium, when the world as we know it is still recognizable—we meet the then-nine-year-old narrator fleeing the city with his parents, just ahead of a Y2K breakdown. The remaining stories capture the strange—sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes funny—circumstances he encounters in the no-longer-simple act of survival; trying to protect squatters against floods in a place where the rain never stops, being harassed (and possibly infected) by a man sick with a virulent flu, enduring a job interview with an unstable assessor who has access to all his thoughts, taking the gravely ill on adventure tours. But we see in each story that, despite the violence and brutality of his days, the narrator retains a hold on his essential humanity—and humor.

Things We Didn’t See Coming is haunting, restrained, and beautifully crafted—a stunning debut.

From the Hardcover edition.

Publishers Weekly Review

Nov 16, 2009 – Given that its nine linked stories are set in a postapocalyptic near future, the pleasure of Amsterdam's debut collection is surprising. Over the course of the book, just about every possible disaster assails the unidentified country in which the stories are set. Floods, drought, mob rule, and a virus that has one deranged character coughing up blood—each play a role in the disintegration of the world as we know it, and Amsterdam's narrator survives them all, first as a thief, later as a bureaucrat (which turns out to be not much different from a thief), and finally as a 40-year-old, cancer-ridden tour guide. Among the high points are “Dry Land,” in which the narrator encounters a drunken mother and her daughter clinging to each other in a cataclysmic flood, though each is more likely to survive alone; and “Cake Walk,” with a narrator who hides in a tree while a man infected with a deadly virus destroys his campsite. Though a couple of the later stories lack polish and punch, Amsterdam's varied catastrophes are vividly executed, while his resilient narrator's travails are harrowing.
Things We Didn't See Coming
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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary
  • Published: Feb 02, 2010
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Random House, LLC
  • Print Length: 208 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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