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Let's Discuss Odds Against Tomorrow by Nathaniel Rich

Let's Discuss Odds Against Tomorrow by Nathaniel Rich

Odds Against Tomorrow - Book Club

It's finally time to discuss our first book club pick, the dystopian disaster novel Odds Against Tomorrow by Nathaniel Rich! We're trying a new format to accomodate readers with busy schedules and those located outside of our home base of Chicago. I invite all of you to join the conversation by commenting on this post. As a refresher, here's a brief summary of the novel:

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 an empty 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.

Now, take to the comments to respond to the discussion questions below or to pose your own. Remember, you can comment at any time and reply to other commenters. No holds barred but, please, let's play nice.

Discussion questions (Warning: spoilers! If you haven't read Odds Against Tomorrow yet, buy your copy here.)

  • Why do you think FutureWorld became such a successful company? Is there a company today that similarly preys on fear to make money?
  • What does this novel say about our society's attitude toward disasters? How is this different from how we feel about other threats such as terrorism or economic collapse?
  • Who is Elsa Bruner? How is she important to the book beyond the way Mitchell chases her?
  • Of the two main female characters in the novel, Jane has much more "screen time" than Elsa. The book's synopsis teases an "unexpected love story." Which of these women is Mitchell's real love interest?
  • Though Rich wrote Odds Against Tomorrow before Hurricane Sandy, in retrospect it seems like he almost predicted that disaster. How did you react to the similarity between the floods Rich described and the destruction the northeast endured last fall?
  • Some of the most harrowing parts of the novel take place in a canoe. What did those moments evoke in you? What is a city without its citizens?
  • How did this novel comment on our country's disaster recovery capabilities?
  • In the end, Mitchell shocks everyone by refusing to rejoin society and his old life. What does this represent? What would you have done, faced with the same options?

Go forth and comment!

This discussion will be as good as you make it, so be sure to share your thoughts and questions below. I'm looking forward to an engaging conversation!


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Eat Your Words: Allusion and Cut In