Haddon excels at using just a couple of lines to whip up individual, engrossing, realistic and convincing characters, who could just be happy if only they would get over themselves. Few, if any, actually achieve this and it gets a little wearying after a while. This is a short story collection so lets him find nine different ways of saying the same thing.
Or, okay, seven, because there are two stand-out stories. One is the title story, quite simply a minute-by-minute description of the collapse of a pier – never named, but think Brighton – and the effect of the physical and emotional traumas on a disparate group of people. Then ‘The Woodpecker and the Wolf’ reveals a previously unsuspected talent for hard sf: a quite plausible description of the first Mars landing as it might actually be, stripped of all the romance – i.e. no fun at all. Haddon seems to be one of the few to grasp that a Mars colony would not be like, say, Plymouth Rock. Woefully underprepared the Puritans might have been, but at least they could open a window without suffocating or go for a walk to get away from each other. I wish Elon Musk could / would read this story.