Friday, February 12, 2010

Things We Didn't See Coming

Maybe I wanted to love Steven Amsterdam's Things We Didn't See Coming too much. Unfortunately I finished it feeling that I should have enjoyed it more than I did.

The nine chapters (or are they actually short stories?) are inventive and disconcerting, challenging and constantly surprising; all set in an indistinct, post-apocalyptic future which at times seem temporally near, but at others extremely distant.

Initially it looks like we are in for an alternative reality, starting with a Y2K millennium panic that really does go bad, but then we start skipping through the twenty-first century glimpsing nine snapshots of lives that seem to reference what has come before but how it is hard to tell. The connections between the stories are too tenuous or not there at all and I was left lost and a bit puzzled by each subsequent one. The book group questions on his website suggest that all nine stories are narrated by the same person, but this doesn't feel right to me – it just doesn't make sense or ring true.

Individually the nine stories are all great pieces of writing – thought provoking and haunting in many places – but regrettably the holes and gaps and disjunctures meant that I couldn't believe in it as a complete narrative.

I do love the cover design: simple, but powerful and intriguing. And his website is a great example of how a you can make the most of a tiny marketing budget to enhance and promote the book. Just don't click on the What are you so worried about? link.

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