Things We Didn't See Coming by Steven Amsterdam

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Things We Didn't See Coming by Steven Amsterdam

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: This book opens on the eve of 2000 - when many thought computers would crash and planes fall from the sky etc. But we do see the resulting fictional chaos as the teenage narrator survives in a hostile and horrible environment where resources are severely limited.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 208 Date: August 2011
Publisher: Vintage
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0099547044

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This book has gained praise from the likes of the Washington Post and the Financial times so I was really looking forward to a good - even great read. But did I get it? I think that opening on the eve of the millennium (the most recent one) is pretty special in itself and should be a good 'hook' to draw the reader in. The narrator, young, male (not named as yet) and his family are packing the family car for the journey ahead. The poor car is full to bursting. Dad is a sceptic and he's taking no chances with this millennium situation and he's instructed his family to pack more than the usual festive presents this time. They've (well, dad has) made the decision to get as far away from London as they can - just in case. Just in case of what exactly is never mentioned, only implied. So it's New Year celebrations with the grandparents.

A line which caught my attention early on was when a young neighbour (pre-teen like the narrator) boasts that His father, who works in computers, is going to make 125 grand tonight, because he's going to stop blackouts and everything from happening.

As the family head out of the city and I get the impression that dad breaks the speed limit on more than one occasion but doesn't care, some people are already celebrating. All dolled-up and dancing in the streets without a care in the world. But there's an 'incident' with another driver which sets everyone on edge. Is this an omen of things to come, I wonder.

And as the story develops, Amsterdam's descriptions of the family as they spend a few days with them are credible and often quite funny. Everyone on their best behaviour etc. I got the sense that the grandparents, despite their age, are pretty feisty and up for anything. That just may be their undoing. Next thing, they're off with their grandson on some bizarre car journey. It all happened so quickly, almost in the blink of an eye, that I was left wondered what happened to the poor parents. I didn't get my answer till right at the end of the book.

And it's around this part of the story that I really lost interest. I found the plot unconvincing (yes, even given the scenario) and the transition rather clunky. I so wanted to like it - but I just didn't. Perhaps if the book had concentrated on the gung-ho and rather homely grandparents I think I would have enjoyed it much more.

A few years later and everything has changed. Whole swathes of the country as we know it now, have changed beyond recognition. Food and water are now scarce and it's a dog-eat-dog mentality out there. And this now-teenager and his elderly grandparents make an odd trio as they drive around. For what exactly?

And the situation worsens all the time. People are dying or living in horrendous conditions. Homes are abandoned etc. Clean drinking water and food are causing the main survival problems. At one point the narrator has to slice into a cushion and eat a few bits of golden foam, just to have something in my stomach. He meets up with various individuals on this journey and Amsterdam spells out just how tough it all is. I just wish I could have felt more sympathetic. For me personally, I couldn't get immersed fully in the scenario Amsterdam created.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might like to try Then by Julie Myerson.

Buy Things We Didn't See Coming by Steven Amsterdam at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Things We Didn't See Coming by Steven Amsterdam at

Buy Things We Didn't See Coming by Steven Amsterdam at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Things We Didn't See Coming by Steven Amsterdam at


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