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Friday, March 12, 2010

Book Snapshots: "Things We Didn't See Coming" by Steven Amsterdam.

Things We Didn't See Coming is a book about an imagined future and, as these things typically go in books, the future is not looking great.  Fortunately, in Steven Amsterdam's book even a bad-news future makes for interesting, fresh, and bright reading.

Remember the millennium bug?  Y2K? the fears of disaster associated with the year 2000?  We return to that time as the first chapter of Things We Didn't See Coming begins, and it turns out the the gloom-and-doom, end-of-the-word types are correct.  Following the millennium, the world changes dramatically, both socially and environmentally. The book's narrator navigates this new place, tries to get work and avoid new deadly diseases, survive environmental challenges and keep together a relationship.  If this sounds a bit like life right now, it is.  However, the context is changed to an imagined new future.   

Each chapter lands the book's narrator into a new story, with little transition or continuity between chapters.  This strategy in a book about a melted-down future is quite successful.  Just as the story's narrator must constantly adapt to new norms, in each new story the reader must also quickly come to grip with changing circumstances.  As a reading experience, this is at times both a bit startling and even disappointing, as some of the story lines are exceptionally creative and engaging and worthy of continued exploration.  However, in Amsterdam's postapocalyptic world we must all adapt.  The quick changes do make you feel more vibrantly the upheavals being experienced by the book's narrator.

In sum, the stories told in Things We Didn't See Coming make for an interesting read.


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