Odds Against Tomorrow A Novel

Nathaniel Rich




Trade Paperback

320 Pages



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Winner of the Inaugural New Orleans Library Society Fiction Award

New York City, the near future: Mitchell Zukor works on the cutting edge of corporate irresponsibility, and business is booming. A brilliant mathematician, he spends his days calculating worst-case scenarios for FutureWorld, a consulting firm that indemnifies corporations against potential disasters. As Mitchell immerses himself in the calculus of catastrophe, he exchanges letters with Elsa Bruner—a college crush with her own apocalyptic secret—and becomes obsessed by a culture’s fears. When Mitchell’s darkest predictions come true and an actual worst-case scenario engulfs Manhattan, he realizes that he is uniquely prepared to profit. But what will it cost him?

Odds Against Tomorrow, hailed by Rolling Stone as “the first great climate-change novel,” is an all-too-plausible literary thriller, an unexpected love story, and a philosophically searching inquiry into the nature of fear. The future is not what it used to be.


Praise for Odds Against Tomorrow

“Any sentence from Rich is worth reading, any thought worth pondering in this ambitious novel of ideas.”—Teddy Wayne, The New York Times Book Review

"Rich displays both enthusiasm for his subject and evocative linguistic flair In just a few pages, he paints a convincing and dreadful portrait of a city about to be destroyed, a city so insensate and self-involved that it fails to recognize when it's staring doom in the face."—The New York Times

"One of the best rewritings of the ark myth."—The New York Observer

"Rich is an imaginative storyteller, and his vivid vignettes are peppered with factoids that seem just true enough to be frightening He shows that living with your eyes focused on the distant horizon can blind you to what's happening right in front of you."—The Boston Globe

"Highly anticipated . . . Odds Against Tomorrow sweeps you along on a current of high anxiety."—Chicago Tribune

"The novel moves fast, bathed in a hallucinatory glow, and the centerpiece depiction of post-hurricane New York gives the book a prophetic quality." —The Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Amusing and petrifying by turns, this is near-future fiction with an edge of the real."—Nature

"Captivating . . . Rich enchants with vivid characters and attention to their idiosyncrasies . . . The accessibility of both the story and the science in this highly approachable novel makes the read all the more exciting and terrifying. Five stars."—Time Out (New York)

"An exceptional work, often humorous—if darkly so."—Bloomberg News

"Prescient and disturbing . . . A premonitory dissection of New York's pre- and post-Sandy state of mind."—The Dallas Morning News

"If the books to come are half as good as Nathaniel Rich's novel Odds Against Tomorrow, there may be a silver lining to the end of the world."—The Santa Barbara Independent

"[Rich] addresses [his subject] with poise and the kind of gallows humor that would make Don DeLillo, Joseph Heller, and Gary Shteyngart proud." —Full Stop

“An irresistible literary thriller . . . Rich mines the terror of our times.”—Rolling Stone

“The opposite of disaster, a knockout of a book by a young writer to keep your eye on from now on . . . As terrifically described as any of the best science fiction we have.”—Alan Cheuse, NPR’s All Things Considered

“Scarily prescient and wholly original.”—Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair

“Rich’s descriptions of the vagaries of both nature and human nature are stark, fresh, and convincing, full of surprise and recognition as both good comedy and good terror must be.”—Cathleen Schine, The New York Review of Books

“Nathaniel Rich has turned disaster porn into high art.”—Annalee Newitz, Slate

"As a study of catastrophe, this novel chills and convinces. Contemporary dystopian fiction cannot rely on fantasy but must engage more rigorously, as Rich does, with the natural world: J. G. Ballard's The Drowned World via David Attenborough."—Financial Times (London)

"Rich zeroes in on our collective anxiety with a story of wild-eyed ingenuity that is both meditative and propulsive . . . It's also nearly impossible to put down." —Kirkus Reviews

"This literary thriller is blessed with a propulsive plot, macabre humor, several richly developed characters, and serious ethical and philosophical issues, all lightly clothed in skillful writing. Highly recommended." —Booklist

"Recent current events have conspired to make this chilling novel even timelier . . . Mitchell's intensely fraught journey from man of intellect to man of action is one the reader will not soon forget." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

In the Press

Work in Progress » Blog Archive » Novels and the Future
On May 7th, Robin Sloan and Nathaniel Rich sat down in front of an audience at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco to discuss the role of fiction in interpreting the future. After the event, the conversation continued online.

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

The way other people fantasize about surprise inheritances, first-glance love, and endless white empyreal pastures, Mitchell dreamed of an erupting supervolcano that would bury North America under a foot of hot ash. He envisioned a nuclear exchange with China; a modern black plague; an asteroid tearing apart the crust of the earth, unleashing a new dark age. Such singularities didn’t frighten him, he claimed; they offered freedom. They opened wormholes to a sublime realm of fantasy and chaos. Worst-case scenarios, he said, were for him games of logic. How vast
Read the full excerpt


  • Nathaniel Rich

  • Nathaniel Rich is the author of The Mayor's Tongue. His essays and short fiction have appeared in Harper's Magazine, The New York Review of Books, McSweeney's, and The New York Times Magazine. Born in New York City, he now lives in New Orleans. For more information, please visit www.nathanielrich.com  
  • Nathaniel Rich © Meredith Angelson