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Things We Didn't See Coming    by Steven Amsterdam order for
Things We Didn't See Coming
by Steven Amsterdam
Order:  USA  Can
Pantheon, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Elizabeth Schulenburg

What if Y2K had really happened? If our world changed overnight, would you be strong enough to do what it would take to survive? Things We Didn't See Coming is a series of connected short stories about a man facing that very situation - how to survive after an apocalypse.

When we first meet our narrator, whose name we never learn, it is on the eve of Y2K, and his family is fleeing the city, headed to his grandparents' farm. In each successive story, we learn a little bit more about how the world has changed. While we never know the exact details, it is clear something catastrophic happened that night. Our narrator never stops to catch us up, but rather shares the stories of his ever-changing fight to survive, leaving the reader to fill in the gaps.

In The Theft that Got me Here, he tells the story of the day he snuck his grandparents out of the city, to the place they loved in the country, for one last visit; Cake Walk gives glimpses of the disease that has spread throughout the earth; The Forest for the Trees examines an interesting new form of marriage; and Best Medicine has him taking a group of dying survivors on an adventure tour. While some stories are certainly stronger than others, all are compelling, and the strong, funny, compassionate, remarkable narrator, reaching to hang on to his humanity, is the glue that holds them together.

'It's instinct for me, the desire to go see what's been left, to put a price on every bit of it, to figure out what I can use and what I can haul away, to imagine the people who bought it all and laugh at their futility, to move in and make their world mine, But if we continue walking toward this mirage, if we change our shells even this one more time, I am sure in my blood we'll doom ourselves to always live exactly as we have lived, inhabiting whatever corner of the world isn't nailed down, never staying anywhere long enough to make anything real. We will be the ghosts that feed off the edges of life.'

Things We Didn't See Coming is a remarkable debut. It was utterly fascinating, and I highly recomend this book. I can't wait to see what this author writes next!

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