Odds Against Tomorrow
By Nathaniel Rich
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Hardcover, 9780374224240, 320pp.)
Publication Date: April 2, 2013
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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.
An NPR Best Book of 2013
Nathaniel Rich is the author of The Mayor’s Tongue. His essays and short fiction have appeared in Harper’s Magazine, The New York Review of Books, McSweeney’s, and The New York Times Magazine. Born in New York City, he now lives in New Orleans.
More and more writers are setting their novels and short stories in worlds, not unlike our own, where the Earth's systems are noticeably off-kilter. The genre has come to be called climate fiction â?? "cli-fi," for short. More at NPR.org
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Praise for The Mayor’s Tongue
“A brilliantly told novel, by turns terrifying, touching, and wildly funny.” —Stephen King
“An author who could well become one of the defining writers of his generation.” —The Sunday Telegraph
“A spare masterpiece.” —The Boston Globe