Steven Amsterdam

“The book as a whole is a small marvel, overflowing with ideas. Scary, funny, shocking and touching by turns, it combines the readerly pleasures of constant reorientation with the sober charge of an urgent warning. Things We Didn’t See Coming refracts our life-and-death fears through those moments of human contact where they are most keenly felt; some of those fears are eternal, some shockingly new.”
The Guardian

The Age Book of the Year

The Guardian First Book Award longlist

We think we’ve seen it all before, but the future still arrives without warning.

For the wry narrator of this riveting journey, each shift brings him somewhere new—he’s protecting his grandparents from the world outside their city gates; he’s evacuating squatters before the rains wash away everything; he’s enjoying a senator’s coddled enclave in the hills; he’s being stalked up a tree by a plague survivor; he’s negotiating love with a woman who is far tougher than he could ever be; he’s leading adventure tours for the terminally ill. Despite the permanent emergency of this landscape, the narrator’s fractured evolution feels anything but grim—instead, it reveals what it means to survive.

“Breathtakingly strange…Things We Didn’t See Coming is the kind of book that can inspire us to think differently about the world and entertain us at the same time.”Washington Post

“A smart, snappy collection of Apoca-lit now… It’s a clever structure and Amsterdam works it fabulously well.”Pop Matters

“A treat to read—playful, intelligent, and intriguing.”Daily Mail

“ce fulgurant roman…”Les Echos

“Moving and poetic”The Scotsman Book Supplement

“There is a satisfying tingle in imagining an Armageddon just round the corner. But Amsterdam also gives his book an emotional heart; it lies in the contrast between the narrator’s very ordinary emotions – jealousy, fear, the desire to belong – and his extraordinary circumstances… A memorable debut.”Financial Times

“Even in the blackest scenes Amsterdam’s gift for mordant humour keeps the reader entertained and depression at bay… What makes Things We Didn’t See Coming such an impressive novel-and very impressive debut-is the playfulness of the writing contrasted to the grimness of the subject matter. In Amsterdam’s hands the apocalypse sounds like it might be fun.”Sunday Times (London)

“Disturbing and deeply smart … darkly comic and full of surprises.”Time Out New York

“Fantastic and gripping and utterly original… Abstract and philosophical, this book is a journey towards acceptance of many things, including death, all considered through a series of set pieces. The narrative pulls you in and then darts off. It is a maze, an adventure, a lesson, a lament. Read it once and then read it twice, often… Rarely has the darkness of life been looked at with such buoyant irony, imaginative grace and disarming candour.”Irish Times

“A wry observer with a throbbing conscience…. A heartbreaker. It’s hard to embrace a Cassandra. But Amsterdam seems to still be betting on the better parts of our humanity, if not our prescience, to see us through.”The Plain Dealer

“Brilliant … Thoughtful, intelligent, savvy… full of horror and hope and compels you to think.”The News & Observer (Raleigh)

“Reminiscent of the recent dystopian novels of Margaret Atwood…. Funny, scary, and described with a flair for the telling detail.”Harper’s Magazine

“Feels like a genuine discovery… Timely and unexpectedly moving.”The Daily Beast

“Don’t read this book in bed unless you want to stay up past your bedtime thrilled by the discovery of a new writer. . . . [A] stunning read.”The Millions

“Enters the literary world with a full-blown talent that can’t be stopped.”Library Journal (starred review)

“The perfect combination of uncanny landscapes, existential anxiety and social critique”Australian Book Review

“Dire as many of the developments are in Things We Didn’t See Coming, the restrained beauty of the storytelling provides an uplifting balance.”Sydney Morning Herald

“Preternaturally assured, finely crafted and thoroughly accomplished, it deserves to be read widely.”The Age (Melbourne)

“[Amsterdam] bolsters his dystopian vision with issues facing our planet, from climate change to refugees; computer bugs to medical malpractice. Each of these issues that fill our daily news consumption and contribute to heightened anxieties is, in Amsterdam’s hands, a mere backdrop to explore how humans need not become devils in the face of approaching annihilation. Which makes Things We Didn’t See Coming a far more hopeful book than its subject indicates.”Chicago Sun-Times

“Impressive and believable…. Amsterdam’s understated predictions are refreshing.”The Onion’s A.V. Club

“Spare, effective, and, when it needs to be, even stunning. . . . The characters we encounter in these narratives . . . feel alive and whole.”Orion Magazine

“[A] clever blend of humor and razor-edged sadness”Courier-Mail(Brisbane)

“A sharp debut. . . . Amsterdam resists the temptation to turn any of the stories into cautionary tales or sermons…[He] takes an unexpected approach by forgoing a narrative arc to focus on individual people and incidents instead of the larger world.”The Wichita Eagle

“Something very strange happens upon finishing Steven Amsterdam’s (remarkably assured and kind of masterful) stories: what should be a bum trip through a variety of dystopias—foodless worlds; heartless periods of ceaseless rain and savagery; breakouts of peace and plenty marked by venality and ambition; biblical pestilence and illness—ends up anything but; one puts down the book feeling something close to hope. Perhaps it’s the life-is-long, cyclical wisdom of it all, maybe it’s a newfound appreciation for the Here And Now, although I’m inclined to think it’s just gratitude that there are such writers around.”David Rakoff, author of Half Empty and Don’t Get Comfortable

“Bold, original, and sneakily affecting.”Emily Maguire, author of Taming the Beast

“There’s more happening between the lines in this book than there is within the lines of many other novels of literary fiction. Amsterdam’s writing is tight, calculated and compelling, allowing the characters to breathe into life.”Andrew Hutchinson, author of Rohypnol

“In this book we hear a voice as naturally surprising as the jazz of Django Reinhardt or Dexter Gordon. A real writer, in short.”Gary Indiana, author of The Shanghai Gesture and Utopia’s Debris

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