Sunday, October 31, 2010
"Things We Didn't See Coming" by Steven Amsterdam
In an attempt to take a break from my normal reading fare (i.e., more paranormal stuff), I decided to run through my I-want-to-read-this-someday-down-the-road list and see if anything looked good. This seemed to fit the bill - definitely not supernatural, and short to boot. I placed my reserve and when it came, I checked it out thinking I might eventually get around to it.
It didn't take long to start reading it, and once I started, I found I couldn't stop. There's something about this book, something that compelled me to keep reading. It's an odd format - nine "stories" that are more like snapshots of the narrator's life at different times over 30 years. Luckily, the stories appear sequentially, so there's no jumping around in time. But it's still strange to read about someones life like this; I found myself wondering how he got to where he was in each story. It's stories without background, if you will. And you never do learn the name of the narrator, so he could be just about anyone.
The scenes follow the narrator after the world takes a complete nose-dive on New Year's Eve, 1999. Remember the whole Y2K fiasco? Well, in this book, the fearful were absolutely right to worry - the planet evidently cannot survive the transition to the year 2000. The narrator is taken to his grandparents house by his parents, his mother being a naysayer and his father being a true believer. Obviously, this will cause problems down the road for his parents, and indeed, when he visits them in later stories, they are no longer together. His grandparents make an appearance again in one of the stories (one of the more touching entries), along with crazy weather, the flu-like plague (which reminded me quite of bit of Stephen King's Captain Trips illness from "The Stand"), and other challenges the narrator faces.
It's a strange work, but the point is, it works. I thought the character development was quite good considering that it's not done in the typical fashion; I wanted to find out if the narrator was going to survive. I also thought some of the peripheral characters were interesting and well-done, too, no small feat when they make such short appearances. It's a good little book, and I truly believed that some of this gloom-and-doom world could happen. I'm curious to see what Amsterdam does next.