GFBA – Steven Amsterdam

Second book down in the GFBA – Steven Amsterdam’s slender and poetic post-apocalypse tale “Things We Didn’t See Coming”.

Amsterdam’s greatest insight when writing this book was to structure it as a series of stand-alone chapters, each one moving the narrative on a few years at a time, so that all of the violence and chaos is caught in the corner of the eye, rather than thrown centre stage. Allusive and vague, this injects a tense realism to the story. At the same time, unlike Cormac McCarthy’s harrowing “The Road”, Amsterdam doesn’t follow his main character from point to point through the blasted landscape of a collapsed society, but shows all the compromises and hypocrisies of a tentative social reconstruction. Starting with the irrational hysteria about the Y2K computer bug, the narrative moves through war, flood, disease, drought and fire, (like Biblical plagues, as one walk-on character observes). By the end of the book, riddled with various cancers that seem more routine than life-threatening, the narrator adapts to survive in a way that feels fitting and, in a strange way, precisely observed. Amsterdam keeps his prose light and unobtrusive, and just the right side of elegiac. There was something profoundly sad about it, moving even.‬


It didn’t make the shortlist for the GFBA, but it’s definitely worth reading, and is easily less polarising that “Boxer Beetle”.

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

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