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Things We Didn't See Coming

3.37  ·  Rating Details ·  1,022 Ratings  ·  205 Reviews
It’s the anxious eve of the millennium. The car is packed to capacity, and as midnight approaches, a family flees the city in a fit of panic and paranoid, conflicting emotions.
The ensuing journey spans decades and offers a sharp-eyed perspective on a hardscrabble future, as a boy jettisons his family and all other ties in order to survive as a journeyman in an uncertain l
Paperback, 174 pages
Published March 2009 by Sleepers Publishing Inc. (first published 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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I don't have a particularly good relationship with post-apocalyptic fiction, tending to find it either too far-fetched or, if not far-fetched, too depressing to want to immerse myself in for very long. I was spoiled early by having to read Robert Swindells's relentlessly bleak postnuclear misery-fest Brother in the Land for a school English class, after which I spent much of the next few years lying awake at night worrying that the noise of jumbo jets coming over Gatwick's flight path might in f
Jan 07, 2016 MaryG2E rated it really liked it
This is a thought-provoking, clever book, rather serious and grim, but with occasional flashes of humour. In 2009 it won The Age Book of the Year prize for fiction.

The story revolves around the survival over several decades of an individual following a global disaster. Although the type of disaster is not disclosed, I deduced that it was an enormous natural cataclysm, which, over time, disrupts the weather, destroys the earth and shatters societies. Food shortages lead to starvation and lawlessn
Ed Bernard
Jan 22, 2013 Ed Bernard rated it it was amazing
Actually 4.5 stars, but decided to round up>
An interesting book structurally, this “novel” is actually 9 stories featuring the same narrator, each separated by a few years, each taking place in a increasingly dystopian future. We witness his relationship with his parents, his grandparents, his highly destructive girlfriend, and also see him move from job to job in a post-apocalyptic world – in one, he rides through the countryside on a horse, helping/convincing people to leave their homes as
From my FBC review,a discussion of the each story with the first sentence or so excerpted:

1:What We Know Now
"For the first time, Dad is letting me help pack the car, but only because it’s getting to be kind of an emergency."

The narrator at 14 on New Year's Eve 1999-2000 and the beginning of the "troubles". The one pure mainstream story, it seems a later addition for the sake of completion but the last story connects back here and illuminates it.

2:The Theft That Got Me Here
"The new pills seem to
Nov 20, 2010 Emily rated it it was ok
I think I didn't get this book. The concept of moving through time so quickly for each chapter wasn't so much interesting as distracting. I kept turning the pages back wondering what happened in between and where the other characters suddenly went. What the hell happened in the years between chapter 4 and 5? How old is the narrator now? Who the hell are these people??

I ended up just floating through the narrative, not really interested but not totally disinterested. It was short and I got throug
Dec 18, 2010 Traci rated it really liked it
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, some
Three and a half stars.

This is a first novel, but I would not have guessed that if I hadn't read the book jacket. The writing is polished with a nice flow.

The book is really snapshots of the main character's life as the world goes to hell (and maybe rebuilds?). The first chapter takes place when the main character is 10 years old and his father is convinced that Y2K will destroy civilization as we know it so he bundles up his family and drives them to his wife's parents' farm in the country on N
May 07, 2012 S'hi rated it really liked it
Recommended to S'hi by: the writer? heard speaking at MWF 2010
Inspired to read Steven Amsterdam’s prize winning novel again after hearing him at a recent reading. A master of succinct images which suddenly propel the action in new directions, that evening Steven transformed the energy of the room in an instant.

Things We Didn’t See Coming was originally a series of short stories. The publishers were ready to try something different, and liking Steven’s writing suggested that he bring the pieces together a little more to make a single narrative through what
I've always been fascinated by dystopian books. What would happen if our societal agreements fell away and we each had to fight for our survival.

"Things we didn't see coming" chronicles episodes from the life of a young man coping with "a new climate" and the break down of society as we know it. Beginning with his father's fear of the Millennium Bug, our narrator continues with tales of how developments impact on his relationships. He helps his grandparents take an illicit drive to the countrysi
Sep 09, 2013 Librariasaurus rated it it was ok
This is one of the shortest books I've read in a while but it has taken me the longest amount of time to read.
I struggled with the concept, is it short stories about different characters or chapters of the one characters life through the different stages of post-millennium apocalyptic turmoil? I didn't feel there was a unifying factor that brought all the stories together in the end apart from there possibly being a veiled examination of the life cycle (birth, life and death) running underneath
Jan 14, 2010 Andrew rated it really liked it
Upon initial inspection, this seems like an collection of short speculative fiction, exploring possible future societies (or the collapse thereof). However, as one reads this book, one becomes intensely aware of a distinct progression - a progression of the human consciousness, through various stages of one's life, regardless of the circumstances that one lives with. The dilemmas faced by the protagonist echo those present in our everyday (i.e. non-apocalyptic) lives. And also a progression of s ...more
Tom O’Connell
Nov 08, 2013 Tom O’Connell rated it liked it
I would say Steven Amsterdam is one of my favourite Australian writers, but he was born and raised in America and I’m not sure which country he prefers to align himself with. Nevertheless, he shot up my list of favourite contemporary authors on the strength of his – in my opinion, criminally underrated – second novel, What the Family Needed, (my review of which can be found here).

Things We Didn’t See Coming, Amsterdam’s debut, caused a minor stir when it was published in 2009 by the then-fledgli
Cassie Langridge
Nov 14, 2014 Cassie Langridge rated it liked it
This is one of the books I picked up from the lovely people at Vintage when I was doing work experience there. It appealed to me first of all because of the title. Fucking awesome title. It’s potentially a good title for my life. I have several books with titles that appear as though they could be heading up a list, so I guess it’s a device that I dig right now. Others of mine include: True Things About Me by Deborah Kay Davies and And This Is True by Emily Mackie. It’s also post-apocalyptic, wh ...more
Mel Campbell
An odd book. I wasn't sure what to expect and it took me some time to acclimatise (pun intended) to its episodic structure. I'm used to spending an entire story in one particular set of 'poc circumstances so it threw me to see that the stakes were constantly changing for our nameless hero. (It also took me a while to figure out it was the same protagonist at different periods in his life.)

I was frustrated not to be given more detail about any of these epochs, instead having to dwell in their de
The Blurb Radio Show
Steven Amsterdam's "Things we didn't see coming" is a series of scenes from a future where an event (only vaguely hinted at) has caused societal collapse.

We never find out the name of the central character who is the storyteller - beginning from the eve of the event, where he is a child - age unclear.

Each chapter is a new point in time, describing life in a chaotic world, with challenges ranging from lack of water, to ceaseless rain, to disease, to pestilence. There are times of luxury too, as
Paul Weimer
Oct 10, 2009 Paul Weimer rated it liked it
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, Pantheon Books.

Steven Amsterdam is a native New Yorker working in Melbourne, Australia. Things we didn't see coming is this ex-pat's collection of linked short stories in an alternate history where things after Y2k went a little...wrong. A

The protagonist is never named either, and we follow him and the world for years after Y2k's troubles (and more troubles in the course of the stories) have led to a post-apocalyptic environment, with cen
Ocker Hazelbag
Apr 22, 2016 Ocker Hazelbag rated it liked it
Things we didnt see coming was recommended to me by my sister. At first, I didn’t really know what to expect from the novel. I had never heard of Steven Amsterdam and when I read the back of the novel, it seemed quite exciting, but vague as well. When I started reading chapter 1, I found the novel quite boring, because there didn’t happen much. But chapter 2 slowly was way more appealing to me and I thought I was really going to like the novel. But I didn’t have a clue at the beginning of chapte ...more
Jun 27, 2010 David rated it did not like it
I finished reading Steven Amsterdam's Things We Didn't See Coming a few days ago, and I was very glad. The book is nine stories loosely set in a similar post-apocalyptic future, and most of them are quite downbeat, depressing, and cynical in their takes on human nature. Worse, the future that Amsterdam envisions is somewhere between statist and totalitarian, but the amazing part is that the people living in it don't rebel at all against it. The presumption is that all purpose and sense of morali ...more
Apr 09, 2015 Jess rated it it was ok
Shelves: dystopian
This was story was told in a very disconnected, episodic style that didn't work for me. I get that the disconnection between the times in the narrator's life were reflective of how difficult it was to maintain continuity in relationships in the apocalyptic world...but the details were so sparsely filled in about everything that it just struck me as lazy storytelling. It seemed like instead of bothering to come up with answers about how the apocalypse came about and its repercussions, the author ...more
Aug 25, 2016 John rated it really liked it
I finished this in just over a day. The structure was quite good in that we get well spaced out vignettes of the (a touch pretentiously) unnamed protagonist, leaving us with a good chunk of filling in to do along the way.

My main criticism though is that the book is too short. It covers roughly 30 years of a post-apocalyptic society but you never really get to know any of the people that make up the world. Even the protagonist is lightly sketched and develops little over the course of the novel(l
Jul 21, 2016 Tiffany rated it did not like it
This was a very confusing, non linear story... or should I say series of short stories about the same narrator that didn't really connect. None of them really came to a conclusion either, like several random chapters from a series of books about the same guy.
Jan 10, 2015 Romany rated it really liked it
I don't usually like short stories, but these dystopian future tales, each set in the same universe, were exceptionally compelling.
Feb 22, 2015 Linene rated it it was ok
I am. A huge fan of this genre, and was very excited to read short stories about it. However, these stories fell short of having any depth to them.
Aug 13, 2014 Kyra rated it it was ok
Choppy and not enough character development. Didn't flow well for me.
Nov 23, 2010 Donna rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-story
Unexpected little page-turner gem. This has been a great afternoon.
Phine Hazelbag
Feb 10, 2016 Phine Hazelbag rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
The writing is so good and clever. I loved the characters.

I just loved this book.
John Luiz
Oct 23, 2011 John Luiz rated it it was amazing
Except for the great Mad Max movies, films and books about post-apocalyptic, dystopias aren't normally my cup of tea. I'd prefer to read about how characters deal with familiar problems in recognizable situations not too far removed from my own. But I can say I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of linked stories about a world that's come apart after a Y2K meltdown.

Some reviews have noted the fact that the book doesn't have a table of contents indicates the author intends these stories to be mo
Oct 15, 2016 Anna rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this for a few reasons; the span of coverage from the ominous pretext to the apocalypse straight through what felt like decades during and after it was a big one. I related to the narrator's voice somewhat and found most of the nine different scenarios included intriguing. The enigma of each snapshot was something to keep up with, and I think I benefited from reading it in only a few sittings as opposed to leaving big gaps between each chapter. The writing style is very simple a ...more
Apr 07, 2010 Rick rated it really liked it
Ten years later, the fears surrounding Y2K have faded mercifully into the recesses of our collective subconscious. The millennium bug never bit — computers didn’t fail, economies didn’t crumble, governments didn’t fall. But Steven Amsterdam’s imaginative first novel, Things We Didn’t See Coming, posits a reality in which the worst predictions came to pass. Told through a sequence of short stories chronicling the life of an unnamed narrator, the book opens on New Year’s Eve, 1999. At midnight of ...more
Jul 29, 2016 Simon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting and not quite what I expected. The book follows an unnamed narrator through nine self-contained episodes, starting in the year 2000 and ending (as far as I could work out) in c. 2040. It’s a short book and the prose is spare so rather than a detailed and complicated vision of mankind’s immediate future we get some vivid passages on a first-person scale with a strong sense of environmental and social disorder lurking behind and alongside the narrative(s). This includes some frightenin ...more
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Is a writer living in Melbourne. He was born and raised by lifelong New Yorkers in Manhattan.

He wrote his first story about a hamster whose family was starving. A lilac bush in bloom saved everyone.

Steven Amsterdam has edited travel guides, designed book jackets, is a psychiatric nurse. Is a palliative care nurse.

More about Steven Amsterdam...

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“Nous sommes arrogants, stupides, nous manquons d’humilité face aux siècles qui nous ont précédés. Ce que nous appelons
« savoir », ce que tu apprends à l’école sur les fossiles et les dinosaures, ce ne sont que des petites idées. Ce qu’on sait aujourd’hui, c’est qu’on n’a pas assez réfléchi.”
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