We've all seen this "Twilight Zone" episode: a doomsayer keeps warning of apocalypse; no one believes him; when at the end disaster finally strikes, it comes as vindication and relief.
This book is not like that. It's not a punchline: it's a real novel. It's not predictable. It's not apocalyptic. It feels more and more convincing, real, and grounded with each page. The writing is light, crisp and exact, like a stone skipping over water, but look close, and you will see a depth of erudition and true feeling.
The three-part structure of Nathaniel Rich's novel, as well as its ambition and technique, remind me of Don DeLillo's "White Noise." In that book, when disaster came, things got surreal, and the narrative twisted through a maze of mental mirrors. The book was virtuosic, but rang hollow: false comfort that the disaster will be mainly in our heads.
A quarter century later, we can no longer afford to believe that. While flirting with narrative voice and a touch of formalist symmetry, "Odds Against Tomorrow" commits to and remains faithful to realism. The characters deepen, and the landscape broadens, as the plot accelerates, and the suspense mounts. Finally comes a single page of surprising, sweet, piercing emotional impact. A moral is stated succinctly. The book ends.
It worked in the nineteenth century, and it works again in the twenty first, now that we've buried both Ronald Reagan and David Foster Wallace, and prefer to peer out from inside our heads at the world.