Things We Didn't See Coming is a fascinating collection of nine short stories, told by the same narrator about how his life changed after the Y2K breakdown of the grid, which signalled a transformation of the world.
Now, this might all sound a bit pretentious and depressing but, really, this is a great book. I had reservations that I might get slightly lost in technical Y2K jargon, but itís not the case at all. What I did find is a brilliant collection of cleverly linked, thoroughly original stories.
Some made me cry (ďThe Theft That Got Me HereĒ may just be the most upsetting thing Iíve read all year) and some made me laugh out loud. Some made me depressed, and some made me all the more scared of flash floods and far less trusting of horses (that makes much more sense once youíve read the book, trust me). However they made me feel at the time, all of them made me think once Iíd put down the book for the final time.
Each tale can stand alone as a great short story, but together the collection is so strong, and itís an even bigger achievement as this is Amsterdamís debut work. It really feels like a piece thatís come from a seasoned writer who has found his niche and spent years honing the perfect narrative. The bookís blurb has it spot on: ďThings We Didn't See Coming is haunting, restrained, beautifully crafted Ė a stunning debut.Ē
One of the things I found most interesting is that I didnít particularly like the narrator at the beginning of the collection. In fact, I found him quite obnoxious and hoped heíd soon be killed off and replaced by a nice wholesome boy with better morals. However, the journey the narrator goes on is fantastic. We watch him change from story to story, and he really does develop before the readerís eyes. Itís an extremely clever process that must have taken a great deal of hard work.
I would have liked a little more of an explanation as to what actually happened in the meltdown. Weíre given little snippets of information and I managed to paint a vague picture in my head, but to be honest, I really have no idea what caused the plague, the floods and the death of millions. Itís a wasted opportunity as Amsterdam writes dystopia so well, and I would have loved a story detailing exactly what happened to turn the world into such a horrific place.
That said, Amsterdam is a real talent, and Iíll certainly be keeping my eye on him in the future. I look forward to his next release (make it soon, please) and hope, after reading Things We Didn't See Coming, that you are, too.