Tuesday 28 April 2009


Some heart-warming father-son conversation:

"I'll take care of you when you get old."
"You can promise to be as sweet as you want, but picture this: the future is a hospital, packed with sick people, packed with hurt people, people on stretchers in the halls, and suddenly the lights go out, the water shuts off, and you know in your heart that they're never coming back on. That's the future."

It's from the opening story in Steven Amsterdam's Things We Didn't See Coming. Published a couple of weeks ago by Sleepers, a small Australian press, and written by a Melbourne-based American writer, it's another book looking at the end of the world.

I really like the cover (designed by Peter Mendelsund): an elegant use of text without graphics, it's surprisingly easy to read, despite its appropriate out-of-kilter arrangement. It reminds me of that much-emailed study (supposedly from Cambridge, but nobody can find it) about scrambled/fragmented word order: you don't need the whole word for comprehension. (More here.)

What's the book itself like? Well, it's... quite good. All of the stories are probably about the one man, from his childhood experience of heading for the hills with a survivalist father who expects the Millennium Bug to destroy everything, to his adult experiences of various world-ending tropes (endless rain, societal collapse, plague, global firestorms). It makes the mistake, though, of starting with its strongest story, finishing with probably its weakest, and arranging the rest in order of diminishing returns. All of this leads the reader understandably unsatisfied.

Getting back to the cover, it reminds me of an easily (and unfortunately) misread book jacket I saw recently. The title jumps out at you from a distance, but not for the right reason.

PS: If the two cover images aren't displaying properly, I apologise--Blogger is being peculiar, and the water mains on my street have exploded, cutting off the supply, so I am too tired and filthy to properly grapple with the vagaries of recalcitrant blogging platforms. So, basically, I'm not the sort of person who'd survive societal collapse.


Ian Koviak said...

Yeah, what a wonderful cover. I'd love to read that soon.

JRSM said...

I think it's getting an American release from Pantheon later this year/