Odds Against Tomorrow
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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.
your fear of imminent death? Can you teach me? The difficulty wasn’t that these questions would be embarrassing or cross some line of decency. They would, of course, but he held back for a different reason: he was afraid that Elsa might reveal herself to be less carefree than she appeared. That she might say something truly horrifying like What do you mean? I’m terrified! I’m paralyzed with panic. I can barely get out of bed. I keep my hand on my heart at all times in the crazy hope that I’ll be
don’t. But I did.” “This flood is making me bughouse crazy.” Jane’s forehead was smudged black from the floodwater and her hair tangled in muddied clumps. But still her face retained its brightness. Even now, bedraggled and exhausted, the light was still on. Only twice, briefly—first when it seemed they were trapped in the apartment and later when they had passed the woman stranded with her infant—had the light gone out. He couldn’t help his mind’s eye from drifting back to the previous night.
he should direct the Pyscho Canoe, the distance between the shores. But he never had the opportunity. As they turned onto Fort Washington Avenue, Jane gave a celebratory whoop, startling him from his calculations. Amid aid tents and portable toilets, a crowd of flood refugees stood around the edge of Bennett Park. They regarded Mitchell’s canoe perplexedly but quickly lost interest. After all they’d seen in the past twenty-four hours, what was a tie-dyed canoe? An aid worker ran to meet them,
face in the mirror looked unhappy. In fact the face was giving a very strong suggestion of tears. Mitchell dumped his sewage-stained clothes into the bathtub: slacks, Leonardo Fibonacci T-shirt, socks, even the boots. He emptied the contents of his Go Bag onto the sink counter—opening the ziplock bag to let the bills air—and then tossed his backpack into the tub as well. He twisted the hot faucet as far as it could go. When the water hit the clothes it released a metallic smell that thickened
Hank had said. “He don’t know shit.” The fingers exerted a remarkable pressure on Mitchell’s skull. “And they call him prophet,” yelled one of the McIntyre men. Hank gave McIntyre a defiant glare. McIntyre shrugged, and turned his back. The crowd dissipated, the refugees wandering to their trailers. Once the danger had passed, Hank lifted his hand. “Thank you,” said Mitchell. “They wanted to kill me.” “I have a proposition for you,” said Hank. He gestured at Jane. “And your friend.” And so