Odds Against Tomorrow (Rich)

Odds Against Tomorrow
Nathaniel Rich, 2013
Farrar, Straus and
Giroux
320 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781250043641



Summary
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 a cavernous office in the Empire State Building; Mitchell is employee number two.

He is asked to calculate worst-case scenarios in the most intricate detail, and his schemes are sold to corporations to indemnify them against any future disasters. This is the cutting edge of corporate irresponsibility, and business is booming.

As Mitchell immerses himself in the mathematics of catastrophe—ecological collapse, global war, natural disasters—he becomes obsessed by a culture’s fears. Yet he also loses touch with his last connection to reality: Elsa Bruner, a friend with her own apocalyptic secret, who has started a commune in Maine.

Then, just as Mitchell’s predictions reach a nightmarish crescendo, an actual worst-case scenario overtakes Manhattan. Mitchell realizes he is uniquely prepared to profit. But at what cost?

At once an all-too-plausible literary thriller, an unexpected love story, and a philosophically searching inquiry into the nature of fear, Nathaniel Rich’s Odds Against Tomorrow poses the ultimate questions of imagination and civilization. The future is not quite what it used to be. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—March 5, 1980
Where—New York, New York, USA
Education—B.A., Yale University
Currently—lives in New Orleans


Nathaniel Rich is an American novelist and essayist. He is the author of the 2013 novel, Odds Against Tomorrow, the 2008 novel, The Mayor's Tongue and the 2005 nonfiction book, San Francisco Noir: The City in Film Noir from 1940 to the Present. Rich has written essays and criticism for the New York Review of Books, Vanity Fair, New York Times Magazine, Harper's Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Slate.

Rich is an alumnus of Yale University, where he studied literature. After graduation he worked on the editorial staff of the New York Review of Books. He moved to San Francisco to write San Francisco Noir, which the San Francisco Chronicle named one of the best books of 2005, the same year he was hired as an editor by the Paris Review.

The Mayor's Tongue was described by Carolyn See in the Washington Post as a "playful, highly intellectual novel about serious subjects—the failure of language, for one, and how we cope with that failure in order to keep ourselves sane." A number of prominent artists and book designers, as well as readers, have contributed to an ongoing project to design cover art for books by the fictional Constance Eakins, a central character in the novel.

NPR's Alan Cheuse called Odds Against Tomorrow a "brilliantly conceived and extremely well-executed novel...a knockout of a book." Cathleen Schine wrote, in the New York Review of Books, "Let's just, right away, recognize how prescient this charming, terrifying, comic novel of apocalyptic manners is.... Rich is a gifted caricaturist and a gifted apocalyptist. His descriptions of the vagaries of both nature and human nature are stark, fresh, and convincing, full of surprise and recognition as both good comedy and good terror must be." (From Wikipedia. Retrieved 6/4/2013.)



Book Reviews
[Rich's] precise, journalistic prose is that of, in Saul Bellow's words, "a first-class noticer"…Any sentence from Rich is worth reading, any thought worth pondering in this ambitious novel of ideas about the way we die now. I'm excited to see what he'll predict next…and also a little terrified.
Teddy Wayny - New York Times Book Review


Scarily prescient and wholly original.
Elissa Schappell - Vanity Fair


Let's just, right away, recognize how prescient this charming, terrifying, comic novel of apocalyptic manners is...Rich is a gifted caricaturist and a gifted apocalyptist. His descriptions of the vagaries of both nature and human nature are stark, fresh, and convincing, full of surprise and recognition as both good comedy and good terror must be.
Catherine Schine - New York Review of Books


This brilliantly conceived and extremely well-executed novel [is] the opposite of a disaster, a knockout of a book by a young writer to keep your eye on from now on.
Alan Cheuse  - NPR's All Things Considered


Mitchell Zukor works for a unique consulting firm, FutureWorld, predicting disasters that companies can indemnify themselves against...—earthquakes, nuclear war, terrorist attacks, pandemics, financial meltdowns, tsunamis.... It is almost impossible to read this novel without indelible images of Hurricane Sandy coming to mind. The novel succeeds on its own terms in envisioning such a disaster in terrifyingly visceral terms. And Mitchell’s intensely fraught journey from man of intellect to man of action is one the reader will not soon forget.
Publishers Weekly


This literary thriller is blessed with a propulsive plot, macabre humor, several richly developed characters, and serious ethical and philosophical issues, all lightly clothed in skillful writing. Highly recommended.
Booklist


A mathematician with a combination of unusual gifts sees the worst coming in this strange rumination on catastrophe prediction. Mitchell Zukor is the protagonist of this open-ended exercise in paranoia by Rich.... Zukor's impossibly accurate prediction makes him a cult figure of sorts, the visionary held hostage by his own fear.... [T]his book is not comfortable reading, but it's also nearly impossible to put down. An oddly affectionate portrait of disaster relief that deftly mocks the indemnity mindset of a culture under siege.
Kirkus Reviews



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