Things We Didn't See Coming
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Things We Didn't See Coming

3.35 of 5 stars 3.35  ·  rating details  ·  768 ratings  ·  166 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...more
paperback, 174 pages
Published March 2009 by Sleepers Publishing Inc. (first published 2009)
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Not the Booker Prize 2010
13th out of 86 books — 158 voters
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Best Typography on a Book Cover
37th out of 309 books — 75 voters

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Community Reviews

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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...more
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...more
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 se...more
Ed Bernard
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...more
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...more
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...more
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
Paul Weimer
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...more
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...more
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...more
May 07, 2012 S'hi rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
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
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
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
Nicholas Cheng
Maybe I'm not intelligent enough to delve into this type of fiction.

3-stars because I was honestly confused about the jumps in time and I didn't know how to piece the omissions together. In the second story (or chapter) I was having trouble trying to figure out whether the narrator was the same person, and often my focus would wonder away from the plot and I would be heavily trying to figure out the cause of the situation - the basic who what when where why and how aspects didn't get through to...more
Zac Davis
Picked this up on a whim at the library and basically read the whole thing in one day. It helps that I'm a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction but even so, I found this collection of interconnected short stories to be more than its genre. The choices of details to carry across stories that seemingly could stand all on our their own gave the whole book a haunting reflective quality that I greatly admired. And the detail of leaving gaps between years of the narrators life that some have found annoying...more
Unexpected little page-turner gem. This has been a great afternoon.
Michelle M
I thought this was a fantastic little book. Consisting of nine short stories following the narrator as he moves through life in a world unraveling after a series of cataclysms (drought, superflu, floods).

Focusing on the unnamed narrator, it's a character study of adaption and transcendence in a world remaking itself and the people in it.

I especially enjoyed the story of the ride through the rural zones with his grandparents. Also, interesting image of marriage as an 18-month renewable contract,...more
Steven Amsterdam's Things We Didn't See Coming was published by Sleepers Publishing in Melbourne in 2009. Shortly afterwards, it was added to the VCE English reading list for senior high school students, securing a captive audience, and hopefully opening the eyes of a number of students who otherwise may never have read a book like this.

Steven's road to publication is every wannabe author's dream. He had two short stories published in The Sleepers Almanac and the publisher actually asked him if...more

I'm not sure what makes this little Book of Nightmares a story collection rather a novel, other than the fact its author says so. There's nothing particularly discrete about its subsections, and I can't see any one of them standing up all that well on its own.

But that's a tiny quibble about a very interesting, if uneven, book. The prose is one of its real pleasures: it's economical without being either flat or--like THE ROAD--ostentatiously stark. It's also, and not infrequently, witty, largely...more
Skipper Ritchotte
Things We Didn't See Coming is one of those wonderfully unexpected books, a wolf in sheep's clothing in a way. It's short and unassuming in appearance, only 200 pages long, and that with fairly large font. It reminds me of my favorite Vonnegut books in the way it packs every page with meaning; there is nothing extraneous, no frills and no filler. (Apologies to Vonnegut for my use of the much-hated semicolon there.) It's also not what you could call a fun, easy read, but is instead terrifyingly h...more
The world ends, and it's horrible. Families are separated, upstanding citizens must become thieves and conmen to survive. Disease racks the country. The protagonist - or protagonists, for Things We Didn't See Coming is a collection of short stories all written in the first person. Throughout the book I was in two minds as to whether there was one single protagonist or many - is separated from his family.

Despite all these tragic events, the Things We Didn't See Coming is beautiful. I found it poi...more
John Luiz
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...more
Things We Didn’t See Coming is the story of one young boy, 9 years old on the eve of the millennium, and his subsequent journey through a world irrevocably changed by Y2K. As the world falls slowly apart and suffers through drought, flood, fire and disease, he teeters on the fence of petty crime and respectable government employment and experiences all facets of the evolution of human civilization.

The writing is beautifully stark, poetic and chilling, and the story twists and turns along with hi...more
“They never saw it coming.” Often meant as a comfort, this statement carries with it the scent of ignorance — blissful, willful or otherwise. Should they have known? Should they have looked? Should they have asked?
Most of the people in “Things We Didn’t See Coming,” a sharp debut from Steven Amsterdam, not only didn’t see things coming, they refuse to see them once they’re here.
The book consists of nine separate but connected stories, all told by the same nameless narrator at various points in...more
This was an interesting take on the post-apocalyptic genre. It was advertised as a collection of short stories and is structured this way, however it is more of a novel that is serialised over the protagonist's life. I struggled with whether to rate this a 3 or a 4 as to be honest it's more a 3.5 but I settled with a 3 because whilst I did enjoy it, it didn't capture me.

It was kind of like The Road in that we don't actually know what happened for the world to end up like it is, and we don't ever...more
I hate this book.
I loved this book.

I loved each separate chapter, each story was great. Each idea for an apocalypse, while not fresh or new was done in an engaging and exciting way. I love how it threw you into the middle of it all and left you to figure out what was going on.

I hated each desperate chapter and how the only thing tying one to another was the main character. Years would skip, characters would appear, characters would disappear, things would happen, places would change without so...more
Tom O’Connell
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...more
Madeline Knight-Dixon
The Things We Didn’t See Coming, Steven Amsterdam:

So I just saw on someone’s blog a list of dystopian novels they wanted to read. A recent revelation that I made was that dystopia probably needs its own subsection of the library now, because these things are everywhere. If you walk through the science fiction section of any library you’ll see easily 10 or 15 titles that are unknown, but everything this you would expect from the genre.

This book falls into that category. It follows one man through...more
Graham Clements
Things we Didn’t See Coming is a collection of nine stories with the same unnamed central character. The stories are told in a linear order and follow the life of the main character from his childhood to his death. The first story is set on New Year’s Eve 1999 and subsequent stories extend fifty years into the future. The stories are all set in an Australia suffering wild climatic swings.

The main character is neither hero nor anti-hero. He is an everyman survivor; a loner, not a leader. He is s...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...
What the Family Needed Things We Didnt See Coming Familiemagie The Best Australian Stories: A Ten-Year Collection Willow Pattern

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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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