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REVIEW: Odds Against Tomorrow by Nathaniel Rich

odds against tomorrowOdds Against Tomorrow
By Nathaniel Rich

Review by Stephanie Rinehart

Yet Mitchell couldn’t help but notice how, as the water pelted the dirt, it did not seep into the ground. It collected in pools, as it would on a tarp. He was suddenly desperate to do research. He knew that most droughts ended not in a single rainstorm, but over weeks and even months—just as droughts didn’t begin overnight, but over months as rains came with less frequency. Normally a drought ended only once a certain minimum amount of rainfall had been recorded over the course of a season. But what happened when a major rainstorm followed a major drought?

Mitchell Zukor is a young man obsessed with disaster. Eventually, he lands the perfect job at FutureWorld, a company that advises and insures large corporations against potential losses from disasters. Mitchell’s job is simple—calculate and present potential disasters to companies, outlining how each scenario can directly affect the company. Mitchell is ridiculously good at his job and even foresees a disaster happening to New York City.

I had a really hard time with this book and not just because I’m disaster-phobic. (I have learned through much googling that there is no fun word for a phobia of natural disasters.) The entire middle of this book put me on edge. I had to take a break after every chapter because each description of possible natural, political, or manmade disasters filled me with such anxiety that I couldn’t keep reading. I will say this for Nathaniel Rich, Odds Against Tomorrow is very well written. I think that had Odds Against Tomorrow been poorly written, I would have been too distracted to even get anxious in the first place.

No, I had a hard time with Odds Against Tomorrow because there’s a lot of story. It’s not a bad thing, but it can get exhausting to follow at times when you’re so worked up about the possibility of volcanoes erupting or the likelihood of earthquakes so powerful that they can level an entire city.

So the main storyline is that Mitchell Zukor works for a company called FutureWorld predicting disasters. Mitchell also spends his time writing letters to Elsa Bruner, a girl he met in college who suffers from Brugada syndrome. Brugada is a syndrome that can cause her heart to stop at any time. Elsa, who lives in a summer camp turned hipster commune and farming operation, is fascinating to Mitchell, since she’s literally a walking timebomb. Mitchell doesn’t think Elsa takes her condition very seriously, since she lives far from any hospitals and top-notch doctors. Then add in Jane, Mitchell’s co-worker at FutureWorld, who ends up being Mitchell’s companion during and after the natural disaster that does eventually hit NYC. Then there’s the natural disaster storyline, and everything that follows.

See? That’s a lot of story. It all fits together, and like I said, it’s a beautifully written book, but it left me feeling exhausted and uncomfortable. This could just be on me, though. Mitchell is the kind of character I really don’t like. There’s just something about him that doesn’t appeal to me.

 

Borrow It: Odds Against Tomorrow is a very well written book with a lot to keep you engaged. If you aren’t scared of disasters, you may even get through it quickly. When you combine the anxiety-causing natural disaster ideas, the fact that Mitchell annoyed me, and all of the different storylines, Odds just doesn’t scream “buy me.”

Odds Against Tomorrow
Nathaniel Rich
Picador
$16.00 (Paperback), 306 pages
www.nathanielrich.com, Twitter @NathanielRich

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All content (c) 2011 Bookshelf Bombshells