Michael Williams, in Melbourne’s The Age, wrote of this award-winning, dazzling debut collection, “By turns horrific and beautiful... Humanity at its most fractured and desolate... Often moving, frequently surprising, even blackly funny... Things We Didn’t See Coming is terrific.” This is just one of the many rave reviews that appeared on the Australian publication of these nine connected stories set in a not-too-distant dystopian future in a landscape at once utterly fantastic and disturbingly familiar.
Richly imagined, dark, and darkly comic, the stories follow the narrator over three decades as he tries to survive in a world that is becoming increasingly savage as cataclysmic events unfold one after another. In the first story, “What We Know Now” — set in the eve of the millennium, when the world as we know it is still recognizable — we meet the then-nine-year-old narrator fleeing the city with his parents, just ahead of a Y2K breakdown. The remaining stories capture the strange — sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes funny — circumstances he encounters in the no-longer-simple act of survival; trying to protect squatters against floods in a place where the rain never stops, being harassed (and possibly infected) by a man sick with a virulent flu, enduring a job interview with an unstable assessor who has access to all his thoughts, taking the gravely ill on adventure tours. But we see in each story that, despite the violence and brutality of his days, the narrator retains a hold on his essential humanity — and humor.
Things We Didn’t See Coming is haunting, restrained, and beautifully crafted—a stunning debut.