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Odds Against Tomorrow: A Novel Hardcover – April 2, 2013
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Superstorm Sandy changed many landmarks on the East Coast and became a new benchmark for destruction. It also added to readers’ ability to suspend disbelief while reading this book. Set in a future rife with ecological disaster (like the destruction of Seattle by an earthquake), it stars mathematical prodigy Mitchell Zukor, son of a Kansas City slumlord. He turns his obsessive fear of disasters into the epitome of financial success in Manhattan until a category three hurricane makes a direct hit on New York City, at which point he is treated as a prophet. Mitchell progresses from the stereotype of the obsessed nerd—think handmade T-shirts of famous mathematicians like Fibonacci—to a more thoughtful human being, a transformation that echoes the narrative arc and underlying themes of the novel. This literary thriller is blessed with a propulsive plot, macabre humor, several richly developed characters, and serious ethical and philosophical issues, all lightly clothed in skillful writing. Highly recommended for readers of literary fiction with a political edge. --Ellen Loughran
"This brilliantly conceived and extremely well-executed novel [is] the opposite of a disaster, a knockout of a book by a young writer to keep your eye on from now on."
--Alan Cheuse, All Things Considered
"Let's just, right away, recognize how prescient this charming, terrifying, comic novel of apocalyptic manners is...Rich is a gifted caricaturist and a gifted apocalyptist. His descriptions of the vagaries of both nature and human nature are stark, fresh, and convincing, full of surprise and recognition as both good comedy and good terror must be."
"Scarily prescient and wholly original."
"This literary thriller is blessed with a propulsive plot, macabre humor, several richly developed characters, and serious ethical and philosophical issues, all lightly clothed in skillful writing. Highly recommended."
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This would be a wonderful read for high-school and college-aged students looking for an environmental book that is packed with tension and action! The amount of papers that could be written on this book is endless, and I'm surprised at the lack of articles on it, although it is a 2014 book.
Regardless of that squabble, the fact is that Nathaniel Rich's book is highly entertaining and an excellent read - but it's also the kind of read that makes you think after you've closed the book, a definite plus!
Somehow, though, nothing in the book was ever quite satisfying. The setting (a thin slice of New York) never came to life. The characters never seemed real or likeable. The dialogue ranged from formulaic to pretty bad. Even the disaster event itself was mostly unsatisfying, happening somewhat "off-stage", after which the plot takes an oddly quixotic road trip to "Lord of the Flies"-ville, then meanders back to New York until it washes up on some kind of conclusion. (And yeah, what was with the first-person character in the beginning? It was like a framing device they forgot to come back to!)
Despite the frustrations, the book managed to hold my attention just enough to finish it -- and was even funny / exciting in a couple spots -- so it gets three stars.
Rich examines the question: so what comes after the impending semi-apocalypse? Is the tree-hugger mentality preferable to the corporate mentality? Post capitalism, how might one thrive? Part of his answer comes from a quote by David Goodis. "There is no such thing as courage. There's only fear. A fear of getting hurt and a fear of dying. That's why the human race has lasted so long." And part of his answer comes in the passage that begins, "...disorder always won in the end. The idea that man could order the world to his own design was the most pitiful fairy tale ever told."
Along the way I enjoyed powerful images Rich turned up, a smooth writing style that flowed from beginning to end and a page-turning story I did not want to end. As dystopian tales go, this one held at least a bit more hope than some. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and recommend it to anyone thoughtful enough to entertain the notion that something's rotten in Denmark.