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Odds Against Tomorrow

3.39  ·  Rating details ·  2,293 ratings  ·  314 reviews
A novel about fear of the future—and the future of fear

New York City, the near future: Mitchell Zukor, a gifted young mathematician, is hired by a mysterious new financial consulting firm, FutureWorld. The business operates out of an empty office in the Empire State Building; Mitchell is employee number two. He is asked to calculate worst-case scenarios in the most intrica
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 2nd 2013 by Farrah, Straus and Giroux (first published 2013)
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Average rating 3.39  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,293 ratings  ·  314 reviews

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Jun 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Odds Against Tomorrow is a little better than okay. I read the book mostly in a rented condo way the hell up on Lake Superior after kayaking and other terrifying activities with my family. When I needed space, late in the evening, Rich's book did its job. The premise was relevant and interesting enough to hold my attention but I'm not sure the premise as presented is substantial enough to carry a novel.

You know how some novels have a bazillion characters? I'm looking at you, Games of Thrones guy
Jenny (Reading Envy)
After dipping into this book here and there, I finally stayed up past midnight to wade through the rest. Water puns intended.

I am a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction, and this has more similarities to a disaster movie, watching events unfold as the disaster takes place. Mitchell Zukor is a mathematician with an innate ability to predict and calculate disaster, and after Seattle is destroyed by a massive earthquake, he takes a new position with a disaster assessment type firm in New York City. I th
Nov 04, 2017 rated it liked it

This would have been fine plot wise - it was a very interesting take on a dystopian/futuristic world - but the writing just wasn’t for me and I found it pretty boring and rambly.
Jun 24, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
Shock and Awe and a Failure of the Imagination

In the coming apocalypse, millions will suffer and there’s not much we can do about it. That’s the message of “Odds Against Tomorrow,” Nathaniel Rich’s exquisitely detailed story of the inundation of New York City by category 4 hurricane Tammy. It’s being hailed as the finest novel of climate change, in the vanguard of a new category of fiction: “cli-fi.”

True, it is a relatively entertaining story – if you like your heroes nerdy, fearful and swept a
Allan Dyen-Shapiro
Aug 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
I absolutely loved the first half of this book. Mitchell Zukor is a mathematical genius and a deranged individual whose mind obsesses on disaster scenarios. He gets a job as a futurist. His greedy boss finds he's wonderful at scaring big money types into buying their services so they can plan for disasters that are far-fetched, often to the point of ridiculous. But Zukor really believes in what he's doing.

Then, one day, he's right. He predicts history's worst hurricane that submerges and destroy
Trevor Brown
Apr 30, 2013 rated it did not like it
Started with an interesting premise, moved into predictable but serviceable in the middle, descended into cliched and boring after that and totally left the rails approaching the final third when nothing anyone does makes any sense. Probably the stupidest ending of any book I've read in the past few years too. Just relieved I'm done with it now. ...more
Apr 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Nathaniel Rich's Odds Against Tomorrow, an eerily prescient take on worst-cast scenarios and postdeluvian New York, is like a more humane, optimistic version of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Mitchell Zukor, a brilliant risk-assessor, makes a fortune providing mathematical proof for society's darkest fears after leaving the comfort of a white-shoe finance job for a mysterious start-up called FutureWorld. Then comes the flood, the realization of Mitchell's paranoia, and the onset of a post-apocalypt ...more
Dec 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was a good read. Blows my mind that Rich wrote a Hurricane Sandy novel 5 years before Hurricane Sandy.
But, if you think about it, it just goes to show that these storms (catastrophes) shouldn't be catching us off guard. The signs are there in the tidal charts and weather system patterns.

A good read about fear and its coping mechanisms, definitely worth your time.
Gary Schroeder
May 15, 2013 rated it liked it
This is a difficult book to review as I’m not entirely sure how I felt about it. Let’s just say this: if you like stories which leave their meaning wide open to personal interpretation, “Odds Against Tomorrow” might be a great book for you.

Without revealing too much, protagonist Mitchell Zukor is an unsettled young man making his way in Manhattan following a mid-western upbringing. Mitchell’s great talent in life is his ability to sift through data and mathematical models and synthesize probabi
Aug 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
this review refers to the audiobook version.

wow! total awesomeness. i've never read anything by this author before, had no idea what to expect, bought it in a fit of i-need-an-audiobook-now. what a reward it is sometimes, taking a flyer on an author unknown to you.

the story is about a young man new to the Big Apple from scenic Kansas, who has the advantage of being a mathematical whiz. (Rich describes him as looking like a swing voter. snicker.) our boy gets a job as a worst-case scenario analys
Nov 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Tales of climate-catastrophe date back to the nineteenth century, but only a few novels on the subject were published before the 1990s. Recently “Cli-fi” has entered the literary lexicon in keeping with public concerns about climate change and how little is being done about it.

Odds Against Tomorrow is the story of Mitchell Zukor, a mathematical genius obsessed with catastrophe and worst-case scenarios.

He leaps from a low-level “quant” position at Fitzsimmons Sherman’s Department of Equities, As
Claude Forthomme
Apr 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An excellent read, well-written, fast paced, the main character is geeky, absent-minded and thoroughly likeable. The ending is unexpected, though in line with the character's off-beat personality. This was my first "brush" with climate fiction, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would just like to add that I suspect Nathaniel Rich's original intention was to zero in on one disturbing aspect of our society, the way we use mathematics and turn it into a pseudo-science to fool people and get them to co ...more
Apr 27, 2013 rated it liked it
I love this sort of character. I have lots of friends who are quants.
Anyone who says, "Well, it could have been worse..." would like this book, I imagine.

There were some GREAT lines in the first half of this book.

I would give it a higher rating for a punchier ending. I don't mind the way it ended necessarily -- but the language / quirkiness / energy of the tale was much different at the end. All the things I liked in the beginning are gone in the end. I don't think I highlighted a single phras
John Brumbaugh
Apr 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
An interesting premise that just seemed to be bogged down by a writing style I wasn't too pleased with. I can't really describe what was bad about the writing style, but it didn't keep me interested to continue in jumping to the next page after the main protagonist left Manhattan, and the tie up to the book left a little bit too much open. I think the reason I didn't want to continue is I didn't like the main protagonist, but I didn't hate him. I just didn't care about him, so I didn't really ca ...more
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Any book that shines a light on the news/general public not listening to scientists is okay by me. I feel like I also got some decent survival tips and really want to buy a canoe.
Mal Warwick
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: trade-fiction
It's hard not to feel at least a little like Mitchell Zukor. From an early age, Mitchell has been obsessed with disaster. Not run-of-the-mill personal disaster such as getting shot down for a date or getting rejected on a college application, but real, honest-to-God catastrophe. An asteroid crashes into Earth. A hemorrhagic fever pandemic stalks the planet. The Yellowstone supervolcano erupts. That's the sort of disaster that keeps Mitchell up at night. But unlike everybody else in the world, Mi ...more
I really liked the first half of this, although it probably helps that I was reading half of it during heavy rainfall. Helped for the setting, at least.
But somewhere after the big event, it loses pace, although I haven't yet figured out why, exactly. The characters seem less convincing, and it felt a little like the author had a really good idea but then got stuck trying to finish it.
Still a fun read.
Sep 28, 2019 rated it liked it
New York is flooded. And there is so much money to be made from it. Jonathan Swift meets the 21st Century and its looming threat of climate destruction and grabs his pen.
Disaster capitalism at its finest, with very good visual imagery and genuine entertainment to take you sailing through the inundated avenues of New York.
Particularly interested in how Rich exploits gender roles and expectations to emphasise the hyper-capitalistic nature of his satiric post-apocalyptic scenario.
Maison Elliott
Jan 17, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With barely more than three characters at play, be ready to hear the inner thoughts of our protagonist, Mitchell. The language to disprove Mitchell is vivid and I felt the viscerality of his fears and premonitions, which made his internal journey all the more compelling. This novel combines normal themes of modernity, alienation and abstraction, and slams them headlong into the future of environmental uncertainty. We're all screwed, but for those that can get out and survive, maybe a brand new w ...more
Apr 03, 2013 rated it liked it
(Made a few corrections.)

Damn. I really wanted to love this book. It sounded so interesting and edgy - the kind of dark humor of which I am inordinately fond. Unfortunately, I didn't, it wasn't, and, taken as a whole, the humor wasn't all that dark either - more like a lint grey. I give it 3 stars because there *is* some good dialog in it - repartee that is pretty witty - and some semi-memorable, two-dimensional characters who drift in and out of the plot, all of whom I will have forgotten in t
Uwe Hook
Sep 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Nathaniel Rich keenly observes trends current society is falling into/has been unconsciously enslaved by. Fear of litigation rather than wise reflection drives decisions. Inertia impels inaction. The short term is all that matters, of course, because the shareholders this quarter will disapprove anything that does not maximize profits. Profits Are Paramount — longterm thinking be damned.

Rich examines the question: so what comes after the impending semi-apocalypse? Is the tree-hugger mentality pr
Jun 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book - written before Sandy - is an incredibly prescient tale of New York City devastated by a massive hurricane. The book's third act, possibly inspired by Bill McKibben's book Eaarth, renders a world where, "the future would vanish as a preoccupation - the present would consume man's full energies." Without explicitly talking about climate change Rich digs deep into this issue. This is done by exploring hysterical worst-case scenarios accompanied by rabid analyses of risk vs. reward fuele ...more
Apr 18, 2013 rated it liked it
This book is not for everyone. Interesting plot - quite different.
The redeeming quality this book has to offer is the central theme of our obsession or addiction to fear, the purpose that it gives us in our outwardly driven lives, and the constant messages we receive through media that we are not complete, that we are not enough, and we must strive to find that which makes us whole.
Then, the corporations conveniently provide with the means to fill these needs, and fight the fear, with their pro
Gail Poag Smith
Apr 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Truly a literary-thriller. I really enjoyed it, especially the exploration of fear in the life of the main character.

"The way other people fantasize about surprise inheritances, firts-glance love, and endless white empyreal pastures, Mitchell dreamed of an erupting supervolcano that would bury North America under a foot of hot ash."

This first sentenced hooked me. Very well written with a surprising ending that I didn't particularly like.
Sep 09, 2013 rated it liked it
"Odds Against Tomorrow" is a story about Mitchell Zukor's relationship with his fears. The book comes across as three different books compiled into one: Part I is psychological thriller, Part II is B-rated action movie, and Part III is reminiscent of "Brave New World." The changes from one mood to another can be off-putting, but the overall plot runs through each of them. I identified a little too much with Zukor; his character and the 4-star prose kept me turning the pages. ...more
Jun 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
I liked this one a lot, perhaps in part because it was so unusual. Natural disasters are morbidly fascinating, and I googled a lot of the information provided about potential structural issues with NYC - it is accurate. Towards the end of the book, I could not connect with what was motivating Mitchell any more, and as a result, the end was weaker than the rest of the book.
Jun 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
This book was at once incredibly interesting and creepy. Still, it hasn't received either positive or negative reviews across the board.

Join us as we discuss this novel in our book club! Conversation in the comments:
Jan 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Gosh this was fun. It's been a while since I read a book in one sitting, and this was a great read. The writing is patchy in parts, but it's simply a fun story with creative characters and eerily familiar possibilities for anyone living in New York. Highly recommend for a casual read! ...more
Amy Warrick
Jan 06, 2014 rated it did not like it
Reading this book felt like homework, and I finally decided I am old enough to choose to NOT do homework if I don't want to. I couldn't care enough about anybody in this book to finish. It's just...flat. ...more
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Nathaniel Rich is an American novelist and essayist. He is the author of Losing Earth: A Recent History, which received awards from the Society of Environmental Journalists and the American Institute of Physicists and was a finalist for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award; and the novels King Zeno, Odds Against Tomorrow, and The Mayor's Tongue. He is a writer-at-large at the New Yor ...more

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“The way other people fantasize about surprise inheritances, firts-glance love, and endless white empyreal pastures, Mitchell dreamed of an erupting supervolcano that would bury North America under a foot of hot ash.” 5 likes
“The message was: disorder always won in the end. The idea that man could order the world to his own design was the most pitiful fairy tale ever told.” 2 likes
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