Wednesday, September 01, 2010

NUTSHELLED: "Things We Didn't See Coming"

Sort of a Y2K-era Invisible Man, at least in the sense that the protagonist is continually reinvented (and repeatedly baptized by metaphorical napalm) while remaining essentially - at his well-meaning core - the same person. The author's gambit is revisionist future-fic - turns out the Y2K bug was real, after all - and he sends his narrator out into the unforgiving, ravaged United States, checking on his progress every few years. (Readers of James Howard Kunstler's World Made By Hand who wished Kunstler had shed some light on the fate of Robert Earl's absent, gone-to-make-his-way-in-a-fallen-world son may find some satisfaction here.) Every glimpse manages to be more harrowing than the last was. First he's a nine-year old, fleeing the city for the country on New Year's Eve, 1999. Then he's a teenaged thief, then a government employee tasked with clearing civilians from flood-zones, later a serially bamboozled cuckold, later a licensed embezzler.  (To say more would spoil things.) Amsterdam has a deft lightness of touch that prevents Things from straying into The Road/Mad Max morbidity, even though in some ways this book is a more horrific because the narrator allows himself a belief in the greater good and in the potential goodness of others. For all the ecological wreckage, relentless disease, and infrastructural rot on damning offer here, the lack of humanity is what lingers in memory; our hero almost would have been better off as the last man standing. Haunting. A+

No comments: