Odds Against Tomorrow
As part of a Post-Sandy literature bundle, Nathaniel Rich's new novel "Odds Against Tomorrow" gets into a hardcore future that is both uncertain, thrilling and down right scary. Researched to death, the novel travels with the hero, Mitchell Zukor, who works with ratios to predict the worst-case scenarios in life. A downer if anything. But the reality of what Mitchell discovers rings bells too loud for anyone to really ignore.
The story, dark but just not dark enough, centers around Mitchell, a super geek, and his life of paranoia, but cannot seem to make our new found hero interesting enough to keep eyes on the page. But the prose, the sheer beauty of it all, is dazzling and insists that you persist. The novel kicks off in Seattle where an earthquake destroyed Paul Allen's playground and took Starbucks with it thankfully. But it's the satire that makes this book worth pursuing. The futurists are often a bunch of over-hyped badly dressed hoolahoops, and Rich carefully shreds them down just enough for a smile to creep all over your face -- but maintains a researched tone that equates to you as the reader, taking the man rather seriously.
With "Odds" Rich revels in descriptions like: "The tunnel between the twin marble staircases at Grand Central Station is like a large, greedy mouth drinking the water. But clogging that mouth, and against the bottom of the stairs, were bodies.... He began to make out bare arms and legs and gray, puffy faces. It was as if they had been stacked there on purpose. And then came the smell-a sour, mildewed ghastliness."
Rich is the author of another novel, the playful "The Mayor's Tongue" -- a wild ride that turns into good old funny. His essays and short fiction have appeared in Harper's, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, McSweeney's, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and The Paris Review, and the man knows how to craft a journalistic thread to keep readers interested.
"Odds Against Tomorrow"
Farrar, Straus and Giroux