Odds Against TomorrowOdds Against Tomorrow by Nathaniel Rich

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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 analyst, like throwing gasoline on a fire in his case, as he’s already neurotic as hell.

and then he becomes a wildly successful neurotic swing voter, until the hammer comes down.

the book could be roughly divided into three parts–an almost satirical opening, in which we watch our hero quake his way to the top of the ladder; an almost nature-survival middle; and an oddly lyrical end. one could be forgiven for thinking that one is reading three different books, but it hangs together all the same, as the writing changes right along with the protagonist. it’s an interesting trick to have pulled off. fortunately, the book never loses its funny–given the subject matter, the funny is absolutely crucial. Rich is, by the way, very, very funny.

it’s a kind of Vonnegut-like funny, however–you have to be willing to accept the scalpel-cut comments on human nature that will follow. this is my sole argument with the book, and the fault may be my own, but i have a hard time believing that humans are perforce going to behave that crappy. particularly disturbing to me was the scene (see spoiler below the fold). Equally fun are the jabs the author takes at capitalism, anti-capitalism, the financial industry and the insurance industry, and all the social structures that make sure the money goes ’round.

the reader of this audiobook did a great job–the voices are distinct and the narration lively, and he even sings a ditty or two. excellent job, this reading.

i found this book immensely enjoyable. so much so that i’m going to start it over from the beginning rather than go run and buy another audiobook. it’s going to be a hard act to follow.

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SPOILER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:

in the woods, the men are all running around “hunting” and the threat is so thick in the air you could shoot it. but the thing is, i know a lot of men who would no more go feral than they would put on pink ballerina tutus. young men, even, the most unstable demographic. it’s an unfair slur on men, and it felt like a totally cheap shot in otherwise evenhanded characterizations.

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