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Science in the Capital #1

Forty Signs of Rain

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The bestselling author of the classic Mars trilogy and The Years of Rice and Salt returns with a riveting new trilogy of cutting-edge science, international politics, and the real-life ramifications of global warming as they are played out in our nation’s capital—and in the daily lives of those at the center of the action. Hauntingly realistic, here is a novel of the near future that is inspired by scientific facts already making headlines.

When the Arctic ice pack was first measured in the 1950s, it averaged thirty feet thick in midwinter. By the end of the century it was down to fifteen. One August the ice broke. The next year the breakup started in July. The third year it began in May. That was last year.

It’s an increasingly steamy summer in the nation’s capital as Senate environmental staffer Charlie Quibler cares for his young son and deals with the frustrating politics of global warming. Charlie must find a way to get a skeptical administration to act before it’s too late—and his progeny find themselves living in Swamp World. But the political climate poses almost as great a challenge as the environmental crisis when it comes to putting the public good ahead of private gain.

While Charlie struggles to play politics, his wife, Anna, takes a more rational approach to the looming crisis in her work at the National Science Foundation. There a proposal has come in for a revolutionary process that could solve the problem of global warming—if it can be recognized in time. But when a race to control the budding technology begins, the stakes only get higher. As these everyday heroes fight to align the awesome forces of nature with the extraordinary march of modern science, they are unaware that fate is about to put an unusual twist on their work—one that will place them at the heart of an unavoidable storm.

With style, wit, and rare insight into our past, present, and possible future, this captivating novel propels us into a world on the verge of unprecedented change—in a time quite like our own. Here is Kim Stanley Robinson at his visionary best, offering a gripping cautionary tale of progress—and its price—as only he can tell it.

From the Hardcover edition.

393 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published January 5, 2004

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About the author

Kim Stanley Robinson

224 books6,481 followers
Kim Stanley Robinson is an American science fiction writer, probably best known for his award-winning Mars trilogy.

His work delves into ecological and sociological themes regularly, and many of his novels appear to be the direct result of his own scientific fascinations, such as the 15 years of research and lifelong fascination with Mars which culminated in his most famous work. He has, due to his fascination with Mars, become a member of the Mars Society.

Robinson's work has been labeled by reviewers as "literary science fiction".

Excerpted from Wikipedia.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 454 reviews
Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
656 reviews7,105 followers
February 27, 2015

Glimpses Of An Ordinary Future

How would it be to live in the very near future? What will happen once we cross the rubicon, the point beyond which climate change overwhelms the Anthropocene and humans are no longer in charge of their surroundings?

We should expect high human drama under such extreme duress, right?


Daily life will carry on. That is what will happen.

So What’s New in The Very Near Future?

Extinction Rate in Oceans Now Faster Than on Land. Coral Reef Collapses Leading to Mass Extinctions; Thirty Percent of Warm-water Species Estimated Gone. Fishing Stocks Depleted, UN Declares Scaleback Necessary or Commercial Species Will Crash.

Topsoil Loss Nears a Million Acres a Year. Deforestation now faster in temperate than tropical forests. Only 35% of tropical forests left.

The average Indian consumes 200 kilograms of grain a year; the average American, 800 kilograms; the average Italian, 400 kilograms. The Italian diet was rated best in the world for heart disease.

300 Tons of Weapons-grade Uranium and Plutonium Unaccounted For. High Mutation Rate of Microorganisms Near Radioactive Waste-treatment Sites. Antibiotics in Animal Feed Reduce Medical Effectiveness of Antibiotics for Humans. 

Environmental estrogens suspected in lowest-ever human sperm counts. The Antarctic ice has started to break up as early as May every year. 

The El Nino cycle has accelerated so much that it is now called The Hyper Nino. The Gulf Stream has begun to shut down and the water no longer sinks due to the influx of fresh water from glaciers. Europe faces a complete ice age.

Two Billion Tons of Carbon Added to the Atmosphere This Year. One of the five hottest years on record. The Fed Hopes U.S. Economy Will Grow by Four Percent in the Final Quarter.

The Day After Tomorrow 

I was constantly reminded of the movie The Day after Tomorrow when I read this. But unlike DAT, 40 Signs is not designed as a disaster story, but as a ‘domestic comedy’, to use KSR’s own phrase. It is not meant to shock and awe the audience; or to use the disaster potential of sudden climate change to produce high drama. Instead it is a very subtly constructed future, achieved by sketching ordinary people from specifically selected walks of life that the audience knows are bound to be affected, and thus pays attention for tiny hints on how they have been in fact affected even as they go about their daily lives.

We soon notice that the plot advancing moments have a tendency to be connected to the changed world they live in. For example, the elevator scene shows how life, or at least the perception of daily life, has changed radically from our’s when flooding of the subway system is par for the course and does not even make the list of things to be discussed over dinner.

And thus it turns out that their lives have been altered immensely by the gathering doom -- it is just that they are now used to every incremental change and walks, almost casually, into the gathering ‘whimper’ that awaits them at the end.

The Theaters of the Future

There is not much here plot wise or excitement wise compared to a the dense action of Red Mars, but as always KSR makes up for it by the wealth of ideas and thoughts provoked.

The plot operates mostly in what KSR clearly considers to be the Theaters of the Future - Science & Politics. In fact, a core sub-plots of the book, and one of the key ideas in it, is about the Paradigm Shift (yup, Kuhn again) that has to occur in the field of science to make the scientists aware of their political responsibility. He says that an unfortunate repercussion of the World Wars' political promotion of science was that this overt politicization of Science led to an almost knee-jerk reaction -- the scientific community withdrew almost entirely from politics and took a much more ’neutral’ role. This meant that they no longer get directly involved in important political questions and so a vital and authoritative voice that can save humanity is lost to us. This has to change.

A Disaster Too Slow

Of course, most of the characters are scientists or politicians, and all of them have adequate information, theories and concerns, and fully appreciates the threat that global warming poses, but they just can't seem to awaken a Day After Tomorrow sort of urgency in their lives.

No matter how fast climate change occurs, it is not fast enough to not let us say ‘let us get used to this’, and to postpone decisive action for later.

The disasters just cannot strike fast enough for them to really act!

The most environmentally aware and empathetic politician in the book has this to say even as world falls apart around him:

Then the words burst out of Charlie: “So Phil! Are you going to do something about global warming now?”

Phil grinned his beautiful grin. “I’ll see what I can do!”
Profile Image for Claudia.
960 reviews556 followers
July 10, 2017
“When the Arctic ice pack was first measured by nuclear submarines in the 1950’s, it averaged thirty feet thick in midwinter. By the end of the century it was down to fifteen. Then one August the ice broke up into large tabular bergs, drifting on the currents, colliding and separating, leaving broad lanes of water open to the continuous polar summer sunlight. The next year the breakup started in July, and at times more than half the surface of the Arctic Ocean was open water. The third year, the breakup began in May. That was last year.”

KSR is an erudite. I’ve said it before and I will say it again; the amount of knowledge he possesses in every domain is astounding. This book here is no exception: it deals with climate change and its implications on people, from the average citizen, to scientists, lobbyists, senators up to presidential staff and also on political, economic and social environment.

It hardly can be considered sci-fi; dystopia will be more accurate for the time being, because, in few years, I think it will become non-fiction. Or fiction, from characters point of view, but based on real events.

And even if it’s not an easy book to read, mostly because of all the details about scientists’ work (genetics leading to bio-engineering), bureaucracy and political agendas (which I rarely digest) it is one of his most compelling works. The tension is gradually building – the polar cap is melting, tides are rising, storms multiply and intensify. With this in background, scientists are trying all they can to raise awareness about the global warming and its catastrophic consequences but their efforts are constantly rejected in favor of economics:

“Meanwhile humanity is exceeding the planet’s carrying capacity for our species, badly damaging the biosphere. Neoclassical economics cannot cope with this situation, and indeed, with its falsely exteriorized costs, was designed in part to disguise it. If the Earth were to suffer a catastrophic anthropogenic extinction event over the next ten years, which it will, American business would continue to focus on its quarterly profit and loss. There is no economic mechanism for dealing with catastrophe.”

And even if it’s not at all an optimistic book, it has some hilarious situations, most of them provided by one of the character’s toddler. I truly laughed out loud and they are perfectly fitted into the story.

What is happening now in US, the withdrawal from Paris agreement and the nonsense about carbon dioxide not being one of the major factors in climate change is, more or less, what you’ll find in this book (of course, Paris Agreement did not exist when the book was written, but Kyoto Protocol is mentioned). Anyway, stunning to see the resemblance to what is happening these days.

“The thing is, Mr. President, the world’s climate can shift very rapidly. There are scenarios in which the general warming causes parts of the Northern Hemisphere to get quite cold, especially in Europe. If that were to happen, Europe could become something like the Yukon of Asia.”
“Really!” the President said. “Are we sure that would be a bad thing? Just kidding of course.”
“Of course sir, ha ha.”
The President fixed him with a look of mock displeasure. “Well, Charles, all that may be true, but we don’t know for sure if any of that is the result of human activity. Isn’t that a fact?”
“Depends on what you mean by ‘know for sure,’” Charlie said doggedly. “Two and a half billion tons of carbon per year, that’s got to make a difference, it’s just plain physics. You could say it isn’t for sure that the sun will come up tomorrow morning, and in a limited sense you’d be right, but I’ll bet you the sun will come up.”

Bottom line: if you’d like to know how KSR envisioned nowadays, go and read the book. Grim and frightening scenario but so very plausible.
Profile Image for Robert.
817 reviews44 followers
September 22, 2011
The first time I read this book I was not overly enamoured of it: I had read its sequel first then come back to it before waiting around for the "third" instalment to be published and after that read Antartica which seemed like it might be set before this one...which turned out to be true...so i read the last one last but none of the others in the correct order!

Hence, having re-read Antarctica, I thought I would bash on through the 40, 50, 60 series and see how they looked as one long book.

The answer is, they look better, but still not great. We are in a near-future Washington D.C. though you would hardly tell; there was more indication way down in Antarctica, in fact. Confusingly, the incumbent POTUS, who cameos in one scene, seems modelled on Dubya (on the "smarter than he pretends to be" theory) but is never named. The protagonists from Antarctica are barely name-checked, but World's Senator Phil Chase becomes a proper character rather than a voice on the phone and his environmental advisor is the focus of attention. Said advisor works from home, whilst looking after his unholy terror of a toddler...

...which is what led me to the idea that KSR is the most obviously autobiographical SF writer I've ever come across. Not only are his books full of characters who like hiking/climbing/mountaineering/kayaking/just about any wilderness activity you care to name, but now he spends a book talking about his "Mr. Mom" experiences! Which is almost the sum of this "novel". In fact, reading the three in succession, it is obvious that it is one long novel chopped into parts and works better considered as a whole. Here we have the ground work for what comes later and not a lot else. ANd what comes later will be discussed later when I get round to reviewing 50 Degrees Below.

(Yep, I've left you hanging - a bit like this book does, in fact!)
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,104 followers
February 2, 2021
I can firmly say that any of Kim Stanley Robinson's novels will be more Science than Fiction, and this one is pretty much banking on it, drawing from experiences in DC to bring science and politics and science politics to the forefront, skirting around the BIG issue until it finally hits near the end.

You can probably guess this is a Climate-Punk novel. Great science, handling all the problems surrounding it (including those who deny it) as well as detailing the actual climate issues as it would have been seen in the early 2000s.

So far, so good, and I do understand this is a full trilogy, but this is NOT on the same level as, say, his Mars Trilogy.

It may be colloquial and charming and sometimes a bit... um... odd in certain character viewpoints (um, breastmilk) and a bit too heavily reliant on a Mr. Mom view, but that might just be me. I mean, I am a Mr. Mom, myself, so I GET it. Maybe it reads a bit too close to home but just strange enough to make me wonder if I was just normal. I think it's the uncanny valley effect, honestly.

The rest, or rather, any storytelling that isn't about science and politics was fine. I think, maybe, I would have preferred a bit less of that and more on the big issues. Pining after a girl and having a personal transformation is fine, mind you. I actually loved the Buddhist visitors, too, and their viewpoint.

Suffice to say, this whole novel was just FINE. After reading Ministry of the Future, however, it suffers a GREAT DEAL in comparison. Like-to-like, I probably would give it a 2 star to Ministry's 5, but on its own, I don't have much positive or negative to say about it. It was a trending novel and a necessary one for the time and it's even more trending and necessary now, but it's necessarily dated after everything we've already seen in RL.

Profile Image for Robin Wiley.
170 reviews26 followers
March 27, 2009
Have you ever seen the movie Day After Tomorrow where Global Warning almost ends the world and kills everyone in horrible ways? This is NOT THAT BOOK. For those of you that don't read KSR, his books are SO well researched and grounded in REAL science, they are called future history, not sci-fi.

The entire series takes place somewhere between tomorrow and 100 years from now. The north and south poles melt to the point that the ocean gets desalinated (less salt), and without the weight of the salt to pull the cold water down - the Atlantic Oceanic current (that circulates the warm and cold water) shuts down. No current means the Jet Stream wanders all over the place, instead of staying up in Canada. This means we get snow in Texas and Florida, and places like Washington and Missouri get winters with cold that 50 degrees below zero. If you've ever watched Ice Road Truckers you know that at that temperature, batteries just die, engines freeze up, electrical lines and trees just snap, and people can die very quickly without proper heat.

Global warming becomes a global climate crisis, and billions don't die, but thousands die and millions of people are miserable. Think about it - one citrus crop freezes and you don't die, but what if that weather stayed in Florida, Texas and Southern California for weeks? All their utilities are above ground, they don't have rock salt for roads, their plumbing pipes are plastic, they don't have winter coats, and they have no idea how to drive in the snow!

This book makes you understand the toll this would take on people, utilities, police and fire department, and local, state and federal governments. It also makes you understand how government works on a level you haven't seen since School House Rock's "I'm Just a Bill".

Depressing? NO. REALLY! The beauty of Robinson is he believes in us, and he believes in our ability to solve problems. He shows us the science that will save us - science that is here, or almost here - right now.

We follow 3 characters who have to live with the problems, and are part of the solution. They are all in the circle of the President, a dynamic guy who is busy and loves science, and gets elected after eight years of ideologs on the conservative side (not an unfamiliar scenario). The science is understandable. For instance, Tom Clancy makes me tired sometimes with his science. I skip pages. Give me the gist in a couple of sentences and move on already. Robinson does a great job of explaining the science enough to move the story, but not bore you.

The characters are interesting, smart people. The crisis is chilling but not doomsday. You'll read this series of 3 books, and want to buy it for your congressman and senators.

I loved it even more than his Mars trilogy, which is saying something!
Profile Image for Trin.
1,846 reviews567 followers
June 2, 2008
I thought I should finally try some Kim Stanley Robinson, as he’s kind of a classic at this point. This was…huh. I’m not really sure what this was. It was the first book in a trilogy, certainly—I’m not sure I’ve ever read such a long book that was almost entirely setup. Seriously, almost nothing happened until the very end—though that end is very dramatic. I wasn’t particularly wowed by the writing—DUDE PUNCTUATE YOUR DIALOGUE DO YOU SEE HOW ANNOYING THIS IS KTHX—or the characters, either; Frank was pretty much the only one who grabbed me, and I found him to be an asshole most of the time. Still…I kind of want to read the next volume and see what happens next. I mean, Robinson’s got to be building to something, right? Also, I just like the idea of there being a series about science and political intrigue and global warming. Therefore, I am kind of determined to like these books despite my reservations. Bring on volume two!
Profile Image for Erica.
182 reviews21 followers
July 15, 2012
*mild spoilers*

Elmore Leonard once said “I try to leave out the parts that people skip.” Kim Stanley Robinson did not heed this advice, and I was able to skim long swathes of this odd book. As someone who lives in DC and works on climate change issues for the federal government, I was ready to love it. It turns out, however, that workmanlike descriptions of local color do little to leaven painstakingly detailed descriptions of bureaucratic tasks and conference calls. After a while I realized I only continued to read because I couldn't believe KSR was going to continue to bleed the life away from his truly compelling narrative idea - civilization at the edge of abrupt climate change - with hundreds of pages of didactic science, hokey dialogue and maddening detailed descriptions of commutes, grant review panels, breast pumping, and packing lunches about his narrow group of protagonists. Or is that somehow the point? The book seems so disinterested in traditional plot development and action that I have to conclude that it is meant to be some kind of experiment in form: is this what all "future history" books are like?

I was rewarded for my skimming without about twenty pages of true narrative action and consequence towards the end of the book. Even there, however, I was struck by the breezy mentions of large parts of DC being completely flooded, with little mention of the death toll that would entail for the poorer residents of DC - not nearly as exotic and interesting to KSR as his Tibetan island nation subplot. For a book that insisted on including exhaustive detail up until the real action started, it was disappointing that details were barely noted at the very moment where they would have had real drama, immediacy and heft.

Profile Image for Angela.
Author 6 books69 followers
December 22, 2008
I have to admit to feeling ambivalent about Kim Stanley Robinson's Forty Signs of Rain. This is another of my "picked up on a whim" books, in this case because I was in the mood to read a vaguely-SFish novel about what happens when global warming wreaks hardcore havoc on the planet. Sort of like The Day After Tomorrow, only in prose form, and presumably with a stronger story since it's after all written by a Hugo-award-winning author.

There are quite a few beefs raised about this book on its Amazon reviews, and to one degree or another I agree with all of them. It is a problem IMHO when the first 350 or so pages of a book are pretty much character development and setup, and only the last 25 or so pages show you actual plot. Couple this with the fact that the book's politics come across to me as way too heavy-handed, and that it spends way, way too much time in didactic lecture mode, and more often than not I found myself going 'For fuck's sake, get to the story already!'

Don't get me wrong. I'm someone who actually supports the idea that global warming is indeed a serious problem, so in general principle I agree with the book's overall politics. Problem is, with all the time it spends in lecture mode, that gets really boring really fast. Especially if you're already on board with the assertions it's trying to make, and especially if you have at least a basic level of clue about the science it's trying to describe. Very, very much a "preaching to the choir" situation here, not to mention way, way much Tell and not enough Show. I cut the book at least a little slack with the knowledge that this is actually Book One of a trilogy, and therefore not to be taken as a whole story. But even with that leniency, I found the time spent actually getting to the plot to be quite frustrating.

That said, I will grant that at least some of the character development parts were actually interesting, when things actually happened in between the long rambling paragraphs about how the various characters' minds worked. The characters got interesting enough, and the actual final pages set up an interesting enough situation, that I am rather curious about what happens next and am still considering whether I want to go get Book Two, Fifty Degrees Below.

But I have to think about it. Two and a half stars for some occasional interesting character development, but minus points for way too much lecture mode.
Profile Image for Tomislav.
1,002 reviews69 followers
October 16, 2020
second read - 27 October 2010 - ****. This is the first book of a tightly-coupled trilogy comprised of Forty Signs of Rain (2004), Fifty Degrees Below (2005), and Sixty Days and Counting (2007).

Because I have previously (and within recent years) read the trilogy, I came at it this time with some foreknowledge of the concepts and events exposed in later books, and so read it as more of a character study. I identify much more strongly with Frank Vanderwal than I did on the last read, not so much with his lifestyle as with his personality and attitudes. (My life has probably been more like the Charlie Quibler's). It's interesting to note that since the first time I read this, I've participated in disaster relief in New Orleans after Katrina, housing construction in Cambodia, bought a kayak, winter camped here in Wisconsin, and solo backpacked segments of the Ice Age Trail. It gives me reason to wonder if this series has actually been influential in my life.

first read - 3 January 2005 - ****. Arghh - it's the first of a new trilogy - which I didn't realize until I was halfway through it. The next volume will be called Fifty Degrees Below and is scheduled for release in April 2005. Altogether the series is known as Capitol Code.

I've always enjoyed the texture of Robinson's writing, and this book is no exception. His science is accurate, and grounded in current events, giving his extrapolations on climate change the feel of realism. His characters live lives that are accurately detailed and interesting. His excursions into the philosophy of science are observant; sometimes it seems his characters are speaking directly to the reader on the subject.

The pacing of the book, in terms of extended character development, and leisurely plot progression indicate clearly that this is only a segment of one bigger novel. The most interesting character is Frank Vanderwal, on one year rotation to the NSF in Washington, whose interior life is explored in his relations with UCSD, a Buddhist epiphany through exposure to the Khembalung ambassador, and a chance meeting on the Washington Metro. Charlie and Anna's child-rearing details, while interesting, are an investment of time that does not see pay-back in this volume. Hopefully later.

The book ends on a nice ironic note, but it doesn't wrap up in a way that would allow this book to stand alone. I would advise others to wait for publication of the later volumes before reading this one.
Profile Image for Wilhelmina Jenkins.
242 reviews206 followers
April 19, 2010
I gave this book 4 stars because there were so many things I loved about it. First, it is set in Washington, DC, my hometown, during an ecological catastrophe. All of the lower lying areas are completely flooded, and the descriptions of the flooding were beautifully written and accurate. Second, the scientists and their discussions about their work and funding decisions were right on the mark. I loved them. The politics of legislative decisions was great as well, and would make good reading for anyone frustrated by the health care bill-passing process. The family sections were wonderful, accurately depicting a working scientist mother and a stay-at-home father and the difficulties of raising two small boys with very different personalities. And of course, the warning message about global warming was clear and important.

What did I not like about the book? Once again, we are in Washington, DC, and we get absolutely no input from the very sizable African American community. The Anacostia River basin is completely flooded, and we hear absolutely nothing about the death and destruction that had to occur in the black community there. I do not understand why George Pelecanos is the only white author who notices that there are real black people in DC. Will this stop me from reading the sequel? No, and this is a good thing because this really is not a stand-alone book - it feels like a cliffhanger. I need to know what happens next, so I have to read Book II, Fifty Degrees Below. And while this is a minor annoyance, I have already ordered the next book and am eager to see how the planet can be saved, if it can. And that is another reason for 4 stars.
Profile Image for Lobeck.
118 reviews20 followers
February 7, 2009
Kim Stanley Robinson does not know how to edit. Likely he could have combined this three book series into one book without losing much content. Alternatively, he could have retained the length of the story and just ensured that something interesting happened more frequently than every 150 pages.

The information about rapid climate change is interesting. The the politics around trying to intervene in environmental disaster, and the methods explored to achieve this make for an intriguing premise.
Profile Image for Torie.
308 reviews6 followers
February 3, 2018
Edited to add: After a few more days mulling it over I’m downgrading the rating because I realize I can’t recommend the book. We’ll see if that changes when I finish the series. Also noting that I read the vastly revised and condensed version in the Green Earth omnibus, not the original standalone.

I have such respect and admiration for KSR. Not just his singular, anti-capitalist imagination, but his ability to draw incredibly real characters that you feel drawn to even if they are so real they are, well, a little dull. Like the rest of us.

It’s one of the most interesting boring books I’ve ever read. Very little actually happens. Come to think of it... I’m not sure anything resembling conventional plot happens. But the characters are interesting and thoughtful and well-defined and I didn’t mind hanging out with then as the world begins to end. I read it in just a few days, which is pretty rare for me at this point.

Anna and Charlie’s relationship and marriage is so sweet and intimate, I enjoyed the window into it. Frank is off-the-charts creepy but in a way that’s totally realistic for misogynistic science jerks who think they’re god’s gift to both mankind and women.

Also it’s super weird to read this now that I live in DC!
Profile Image for beatricks.
195 reviews20 followers
April 6, 2016
I've been interested in Kim Stanley Robinson for a while, since I muttered something to my sister about wanting books that dealt with limited resource management and she mentioned his Years of Rice and Salt. Then on a much later ecological sci-fi (which I feel a pull to write myself) hunt, I discovered some loglines that made him sound like my beloved Ursula K LeGuin; the description of his Three Californias trilogy, to be precise. Plus, he lives in Davis! *I* know people who live in Davis! So I put the Three Californias and this -- which sounded incredibly relevant to my interests -- on my Bookmooch wishlist and had quite forgotten about it until it was sent to me a year later and, being in a bit of a reading rut with all my current chosen books, I opened it with curiosity. Only after I had gotten going did I realize I was once again breaking my no straight white male authors rule.

The story (insofar as there is one) is, on its face, indeed very relevant to my interests. It rotates between four POV characters, three scientists and one political staffer (also three male and one female, all white and straight) and is set in very-near-future Washington DC as well as San Diego. It deals with the scientific establishment's problems and politics within the context of trying to avert and reverse disastrous climate change. Also sort of cure disease via biomathematical algorithm, but that plotline kinda gets dropped, presumably to be picked up in the next part of the trilogy, because congratulations: you're accidentally reading a trilogy! The plot's inciting incident is the arrival of diasporatic Tibetan monks whose adopted island home, Khembalung, is threatened by rising sea levels. There is much discussion of politics and money setting agendas that continue to not serve public needs, of economic inequity, of Buddhist thought, of appreciating nature. All things I like.

But man oh man does this book not live up to its subject matter, ruined by the twin prongs of straight white male fuckery and eye-peelingly mediocre writing. First, we have Frank. Frank is one of the male narrators, and he is the worst. Of course, the book is secretly all about him -- in the latter part of the novel the other POVs all but disappear as his chapters suddenly go from being one in four to every other, and looonger, and then the lone female character's chapter end up being about Frank too, just from her POV. Frank spends all his time thinking about: a) human behavior as just barely adapted from "the savannah" and how everything everyone does is appealing to unevolved instincts about caves and shit b) game theory and prisoners dilemmas vis-a-vis traffic, no really c) chicks and how wild and strong and appealing they are and how he doesn't MEAN to stalk them he just keeps accidentally chasing after them after they've made it clear they aren't interested d) how much he hates being a grownup and just wants to go back to San Diego and surf. Also he's like ~skeptical~ about Buddhism because of plot (it makes no sense given his love of athletics as a form of meditation) so that he can have the most atrociously written and interminal epiphany I've ever read when he realizes that EVERYTHING! IS! CONNECTED!

The other three narrators aren't so offensive -- the other dude scientist has no noticeable personality because his chapters are all about explaining biomath to the reader; the lady scientist's entire story is about her enjoyment of statistics and her helping the Khembalis; and her husband, staffer and stay-at-home dad is probably the best character although I could really do without the weird asides about his sex life. But there's no good reason none of the Khembalis are POV characters telling their own story, and the bizarre inconsequential pointings-out of race ("Washington is really run by unimpressed black secretaries!" "An unusual number of black people on the Mall make the city look like Carnival!") speak to a mild but ultimately backwards effort to be racially progressive.

The most interesting thing about this book is the part that Kim Stanley Robinson couldn't control and had no knowledge of; the fact that it was published just before Katrina and thus is basically all setup for a fictional climate-based natural disaster on U.S. soil, because (as is clearly his thesis) political action will only come about after the U.S. is directly affected by global warming. Haha, it's funny because in real life a much worse disaster happened than the one he envisioned, and it revolved entirely around political inaction. And has continued to not change shit, eight years later. Ha ha ha. Meanwhile, his frequent "everyone is happy and generous in a disaster!" (p.s. the Khembalis, whose makeshift island home is drowning, are just always happy period) statements fall flat at best.

Finally, this book suffers from a tragic and unacceptable dearth of commas. Who edited this shit. Oh, that's right: no one.

Straight white males! When will I learn my lesson? Back to the backburner you go, sir.
Profile Image for Cris.
1,328 reviews
April 23, 2010
Plot. Plot. Where's the plot?

It's not a disorganized mess. Events proceed in an obviously planned manner. But nothing ever happens. (Actually, something happens at the end of the book, but I gave up well before that point.)

Too many characters with too little depth, and the plot proceeds at imperceptible pace. The idea appeals, but I'm no longer interested.
Profile Image for Tommi.
88 reviews
February 10, 2013
This book had intriguing characters- many of them scientists, so extra dear to my heart. it also had one of the best lines I've ever read: "An excess of reason is a form of insanity." Chew on that for awhile.
Profile Image for Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer.
1,823 reviews1,387 followers
April 13, 2018
Trilogy by author most famous for the "Mars" trilogy about a group of scientists that terraform Mars - the obvious premise of this set is that the earth itself needs terraforming in response to climate change/global warming and that scientists need to take more of an active involvement politically both with the electorate and with those who have previously controlled their purse strings and that the research bodies need to actively set the research agenda (a new Manhattan project or race for the moon) rather than responding to proposals received.

Main characters are based around the NSF (the US research body responsible for evaluating funding proposals) mainly Anna Quibler (whose husband Charlie stays at home with their hyper-active younger son Joe while working as an advisor, particularly on environmental matters to a famous Democrat "world" senator - Phil Chase) and Frank Vanderwal (initially on a one year secondment from which he resigns to the NSF leader Diana Chang, he then retracts his resignation when she permits him to lead a redirection of the NSF into an aggressive programme to investigate ways to mitigate climate change both medium and short term. Frank is homeless in his second year and ends up living in a treehouse in the park while starting a relationship with Caroline a mysterious girl with whom he was trapped in a lift. Eventually she reveals that she is a government agent, married to a sinister agent, who has been assigned to track Frank who through various of his activities, particularly his relationship with a researcher Yann who worked both for NSF and a biotech firm he was involved in and who is investigating the use of mathematical algorithms which Frank realises could be used to help genetic engineering).

In both books the earth's climate is changing drastically due to: a hyper El Nino in "Forty Signs of Rain" which leads to Washington being flooded and the shutting down of the Gulf Stream in "Fifty Degrees Below" with Europe and US hit by a severe winter, followed by the collapse of large parts of the Antarctic ice sheet. This, the intervention of the NSF in politics and Caroline’s intervention to give Frank an election fixing programme which one of his ex-intelligence colleagues Eduardo manages to reverse, lead to Phil Chase's election as president. The first acts of terraforming are an NSF organised (and reinsurance funded!) dump of massive quantities of salt to restart the Gulf Stream and a USSR effort to build on work by Yann as well as Frank's ex Marta, to engineer trees with the ability to absorb extra CO2, followed by an effort to pump sea water (caused by the into natural basins in dry areas of the world (again with reinsurance funding) and back onto the more stable parts of the Antarctic ice sheet.

Other themes of the book (which at first detract, then dominate and then become the story) are:

• Frank's emphasis that man is at roots a savannah based primate with the history of civilisation being too short to have changed our evolutionary instincts - he often observes and analyses behaviour in this light, but also sees his lifestyle as a return to his original roots - and plays golf Frisbee with a group of free-gans (who only eat food they can scavenge) as well as tracking animals freed from the zoo during the flood.

• The importance of physical exercise and the outdoors – the characters spend extended periods of the narrative backpacking, kayaking and climbing often with no other narrative development involved.

• Mental ability and the brains function – in light of seeming damage to Frank’s judgement and decision making ability following an attack and blow to the nose.

• Buddhism and its relation to science and knowledge - particularly the Tibetan exiles who come to Washington to lobby for the sea level threatened island nation of Khembalung (which then is inundated when a piece of ice breaks of Antarctica)

• Government surveillance - including the use of virtual futures markets with automated players used to assess potential security risks as well as series of competing and ultra-secret agencies.

• The failures of market based capitalism particularly in the light of costs which it externalises such as climate change. The book portrays it as a feudalistic system where workers don’t get the benefit of their own capital production and where the World Bank/free market system has effectively led to the elimination and apparent impossibility of other free, more moral and co-operative systems.

• The 19th Century American Philosophers – Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson and naturalist Henry Thoreau.
Profile Image for Jane.
2,119 reviews32 followers
June 25, 2015
There’s a new genre of fiction that is becoming ever more popular – climate fiction, or cli fi. Plots are focused on the environment and especially our planet’s climate. Climate fiction is benefitting from the fact that dystopian and apocalyptic novels are super hot right now – or maybe climate fiction is helping drive that popularity.

The Galesburg Public Library’s Food for Thought book discussion group found the water shortage dystopian novel Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis to not be scientific enough in explaining how we as a society could reach such a crisis. In June we discussed Kim Stanley Robinson’s Forty Signs of Rain, and we found it to be a little too scientific. We all at times felt a little overwhelmed by the facts, background information, and explanations of primate behavior and how the scientific proposal and grant process works. Still, those who finished the book were glad they had done so, and we all agreed it could make a great movie.

Most of the book is set up – the flooding crisis in Washington DC does not take place until the last 100 pages. But there are two more books in the series so Robinson could take his time introducing his characters. Scientists, politicians, biomathematicians at a start-up, and refugees from a low-lying island nation all meet and interact as we are fed the circumstances driving the planet toward an environmental crisis.

It’s refreshing to have a male author writing about a lactating working mother whose husband works from home and assumes most of the childcare. Their toddler is a real character in the book, not just a plot device. The politics in the book (published in 2004) seem all too real. The animals in the Washington zoo are released to fend for themselves as the city floods, something that just happened this month in the country of Georgia.

I often wonder how so many Americans can vote against their own interests, and one of Robinson’s characters agrees: “You work every day of the year, except for three lousy weeks. You make around a hundred thousand dollars. Your boss takes two thirds, and gives you one third, and you give a third of that to the government. Your government uses what it takes to build all the roads and schools and police and pensions, and your boss takes his share and buys a mansion on an island somewhere. So naturally you complain about your bloated inefficient Big Brother of a government, and you always vote for the pro-owner party….How stupid is that?” (p. 74)

Quite a few times as I read Forty Signs of Rain I found myself thinking “Yes, that’s so true!” Another example:

“The battle for control of science went on. Many administrations and Congresses hadn’t wanted technology or the environment assessed at all, as far as Anna could see. It might get in the way of business. They didn’t want to know. …And yet they did want to call the shots. …On what basis did they build such an incoherent mix of desires, to want to stay ignorant and to be powerful as well? Were these two parts of the same insanity?” (p. 114-115)

If you agree that climate change is a real planetary issue that needs to be addressed and don’t mind a fair amount of facts and figures, you might enjoy Forty Signs of Rain. If you think climate change is a load of bunk or just don’t think we can afford to do anything about it, the book would probably just make you mad.

Profile Image for Anissa.
881 reviews264 followers
June 20, 2016
I've read and very much enjoyed Seveneves so I figured I'd give KSR a read on his climate fiction trilogy. I've only ever read one other climate fiction book and it was an anthology that I felt was a bit hit or miss so I still don't know if my scifi loving heart extends too far into this sub-genre. Or, I should just stick to the summer blockbuster movies where the CGI is gripping with great sheets of ice dramatically falling away and crazy mega waves wiping out coastal regions while actors go on about oceanic desalinisation rates and jet stream consequences. Because I have to say, after reading this, I think I like the watching more than the reading of CliFi.

Technically there's nothing wrong with KSR's story but it feels like it's mostly set up for the big stuff. All the pieces are present: the impending catastrophe, the scientists tasked with a solution, the politicians & politics that must also participate in the solution & the inevitable masses who will suffer no matter what, while fewer survive & will probably wish they hadn't at some point. This makes me think that the strength of the total story of Seveneves was served by making it a big damned book instead of splitting it. I've a sneaking suspicion that I'll like the next book in this series better and likely will feel similarly about part of the third. Unfortunately, as I've read the first, I'm not inclined to jump right into the second. It was a quick enough read but I have to admit that I'm glad this wasn't my introduction to KSR because I'm fairly sure I'd not go on.

I'd only recommend this for CliFi fans, those who can roll with KSR's story telling (there's a pacing & tech spec info thing that occurs which seems to be his way) or those who are just looking to binge all three books in a week (doable).
Profile Image for Richard.
1,147 reviews1,043 followers
October 9, 2014
Apropos whilst reading a book on climate change, the New York Times just published a fairly in-depth article on investigations of sea level rise. The article, As Glaciers Melt, Science Seeks Data on Rising Seas , also has some interesting multimedia attachments. One fairly alarming tidbit I learned is that the ice piled on top of just Greenland would, if melted, raise sea levels by twenty feet.

The article also links to an excellent tutorial from the NGO CSIRO on Sea Level changes.

Book selection for the Hard SciFi group (aka the Yahoo hardsf group) for the month of October, 2010.
Profile Image for Marschlako.
25 reviews
October 9, 2019
Újraolvasás, nagyjából, ugyanis most a trilógia egykötetes, Green Earth c. kiadásában olvastam, amiben Robinson egy kicsit megvágta, átírta és aktualizálta az eredeti részeket.

A történet még ma is ugyanúgy tetszik, mint bő 10 évvel ezelőtt, noha érezhetően csak valaminek a kezdete; önmagában ez a kötet szerintem nem is nagyon áll meg magában, ezért is sajnálom nagyon, hogy a folytatásai magyarul nem jelentek meg. Persze hozza a szokásos robinsoni elemeket, s itt még a szokásosnál is több science-szel találkozunk, ami annak fényében nem is meglepő, hogy a globális felmelegedés mellett ez a trilógia (amint a címe - Science in the Capital - is mutatja) a tudományról, a tudományos életről szól, annak minden szépségével és mocskával együtt. Robinsonról azt mondják, nem túl karakterközpontú, nos, szerintem most viszont elég jó karaktereket sorakoztatott fel, hozzám legalábbis elég közel tudtak kerülni.

An excess of reason is itself a form of madness,

teszi magáévá Frank a khembalungi buddhista szerzetes, Rudra Cakrin* életbölcsességét, aki a legemlékezetesebb szereplő maradt a trilógiából, s most is végig rokonszenveztem vele. Robinsonnál elég gyakran** felbukkannak autisztikus vonásokkal rendelkező, vagy egyszerűen csak furcsa, magának való, zárkózott tudósok, s Frank is eléggé ilyen. Bár igazán furcsa kalandjai csak a következő kötetben teljesednek ki, érdeklődve követtem végig ismét sete-suta csetléseit-botlásait, morfondírozásait. Kifelé cinikus, morózus ember, aki igazán csak a természetben, sziklamászás közben önmaga, s aki a kötet végére a fenti mottó szellemében alapvető változáson megy át.

A másik kedvencem Charlie, aki otthon van "gyesen" a fiával, Joe-val, miközben távmunkában a klímaváltozás elleni harc egyik éllovasának Phil Chase szenátornak*** segít távmunkában. Fiát mindenhová magával viszi, aki, mikor éppen nincs vele, már az ajtón kilépve hiányzik neki, s meglepődik, amikor furcsán néznek rá az emberek az utcán, amikor öntudatlanul is pl. egy elhaladó teherautóra hívja fel Joe figyelmét, aki ugyebár ekkor nincs is vele, csak éppen fia jelenléte annyira lételemévé vált, hogy könnyű erről elfeledkezni. Kettősük számomra egy üde színfoltja a regénynek. Felesége, Anna (aki egyben Frank kollégája is), valamint a buddhista szerzetesek is szimpatikus karakterek, bár ők sajnos eléggé a háttérben maradtak.

Az eredetileg 2004-ben megjelent regény szinte profetikusnak is tekinthető, hiszen ami akkor még csak vészkiáltás volt, mára sajnos már többnyire valósággá vált****, legalábbis ami a globális felmelegedés felgyorsulását illeti, a probléma komolyan vétele ugyanis sajnos még ma sem megy a #felelős# politikusoknak.

Az összefogás, ahogy a lakókörnyezet igazi közösségé összeállva próbálja megoldani a felmerülő nehézségeket, szintén gyakori, meglehetősen optimista robinsoni elem - amivel pl. New York 2140-ben is találkozhattunk -, itt is feltűnik. Robinson, aki a kapitalizmus nagy kritikusa, ebben, a helyi közösségek összefogásában látja a kiutat is az emberiség számára, bár sajnos úgy tűnik, ez nem több, mint pusztába kiáltott szó: szuicid hajlamai elvakítják az emberiséget.

*Rudra Cakrin a jövendölések szerint az ősi Shambala utolsó királya lesz; a regényben Khembalung, a Gangesz deltájában levő kis sziget, ahol egykori tibeti menekültek leszármazottai élnek, akik eredetüket a titokzatos Shangri-Lára vezetik vissza.
** legutóbb pl. Fred Fredericks a Vörös Holdban
*** aki ismerős lehet a trilógia egyfajta előzményének is tekinthető, Antarctica c. 1997-es regényéből, ami az Antarktisz szerelmeseinek kötelező olvasmány.
**** Already it's turned into a peculiar mix of historical fiction, contemporary fiction, and science fiction, in the sense that some of it has already happened, some is happening now, and some of it will happen soon. - írja Robinson az új kiadás bevezetőjében, s megemlíti, hogy a regényben leírtakhoz hasonlóan, a Forty Signs of Rain megjelenése után egy évvel, a Katrina hurrikán hatására került víz alá New Orleans; s azt is, hogy azóta egymást követően két olyan kemény tél is volt a fővárosban, mint amilyet a Fifty Degrees Below-ban leírt, …
Profile Image for Tom Nixon.
Author 19 books9 followers
July 27, 2011
**This review covers all three books in the 'Science In The Capitol Trilogy- the other two are Fifty Degrees Below and Sixty Days and Counting**

Where to begin with this compact, neat little trilogy? These three books are strange because I both liked and disliked them all the same time, which isn't unusual for me, but in this case it can be put down to a simple divide: I like Kim Stanley Robinson's writing, science and technology. In this particular trilogy however, I don't like his politics. We can go round and round on what's wrong with me and when did I become such a good little capitalist Brownshirt for ages, but the fact of the matter is that this reads like 'An Inconvinient Truth' cast in fiction and makes no bones about discussing that most irritating of issues, global warming- or as the new memo says it's to now be called: global climate disruption.

What's even more problematic about this curious divide is that one of the underlying themes Robinson plays with over the course of the trilogy is the relationship between science and politics itself- so where do we begin? I would say I have to unpack the whole global warming issue myself, but that could take too long- instead, let's talk about Kim Stanley Robinson, because despite having more than a few issues with his politics in this trilogy, his writing still rocks my face clean off. Robinson is one of those incredibly talented science fiction writers that we need more of, matching- to me anyway, only Ken Macleod and probably Neil Stephenson for the sheer audacity and complexity of some of the ideas he has played with, both in this trilogy and his masterpiece of masterpieces- the Mars Trilogy, (Red, Green and Blue Mars respectively- appointment reading for anyone and everyone who wants to colonize Mars or is just a space nut in general.) Robinson plays more with hard science than technology than speculative fiction or technology which is what makes a lot of his books so damn good. The technology and the future he describes is fundamentally believable and you can see it in your mind's eye with ease. There's no aliens or robots or weird quantam transportation. Robinson is extremely good and extrapolating where technology might go and weaving it into his narratives.

This trilogy is no exception to that rule: whether the characters (stalwart champions of science who work at the National Science Foundation) are re-salinizing the stalled out Gulf Stream to get it re-started again or discussing possibly shifting salt water to the dry basins of the world to ameliorate the effects of sea level rise- or even, more fascinatingly talking about a rapid transformation of China's economy and energy industry (courtesy of the US Navy, who deploys en masse to China, plugs into their grid and runs the country's power off of their extremely efficient and safe nuclear reactors. I really hope Robinson wasn't speculating when he mentioned that the US Navy has the ability to do this in real life, because if so: very cool.) All these technological challenges that are thrown in the face of global warming I found to be fundamentally believable and could actually be deployed in the event of a climate crisis. (As a bonus: when it comes to developing energy alternatives, in these books Robinson rightfully pegs nuclear as a holdover to develop better solar energy. No wind, no ethanol, no pie-in-the-sky fusion generators, nope, nope, nope- Robinson says solar all the way.)

As for the story itself: well, it follows some hardy scientists who work at the National Science Foundation in D.C.-- one of them is married to a high-flying stay-at-home Dad/Senatorial Advisor, so we see an obvious connection between science and politics and what they do when faced with a sudden and genuine climate crisis. (Washington D.C. gets flooded, everything freezes- the Gulf Stream almost stalls out which would be very, very bad indeed.) Floating in and out of the story are some Buddhist monks from the made-up microstate of Khembalung, which actually drowns due to sea level rise at the end of the second book, I believe. (A fascination with Buddhism seems to float in and out of a lot of Robinson's writing, and the Buddhist monks play an important role in these novels by underlying the spiritual (and obvious) connection humanity has with the world around it- further underlined by one of the character's increasing fascinating with 19th Century American thinkers Emerson and Thoreau. To make a long summary short: there's nefarious deeds afoot, there's a climate crisis afoot and the high-flying state-at-home Dad/Senatorial Advisor's Senator decides to run for President and wins, thus setting out to save the world from itself and fix the climate crisis.

In the end, of course, everyone- including dear old Mother Earth lives happily ever after, more or less. But the technology and the strategy for fighting this fictional climate crisis aside, it's Robinson's 'wouldn't it be nice' politics that bothered me the most. Some kind of pro-environmental New Deal with an amazing First Hundred Days a la FDR from the Fictional Wonder Senator Turned President would not save the day, because they probably would get laughed out of the room, if we're being honest. The real trick, at least for the current American political system is going to be to make green energy profitable and more importantly, lucrative for business. If there's a President who can do that, then we would be cooking with gas, because at that point, the general greed (which yes, ignores that collective responsibility we all share for the planet) of the corporate world will take over and go bananas for you To me, the government creating the right conditions for business to make a massive investment in green energy and technology would pay off more than the wrangling that would be sure to occur if the government starts trying to lead from the front on this issue. People would lose their damn minds. OK, so back in the day, the government lead from the front and, thanks to World War II managed to solve the Depression. But that was then and we're all a lot more cynical and jaded now. A New New Deal, even a kind of green one? Never going to happen. Not in a million years.

I'm not even going to waste my breath arguing about whether or not global warming is real. I've been waiting for science to give me a straight answer on that for years now and it still hasn't and it never will. There's no such thing as a straight answer in science and if there was one on this issue, it'd be fundamentally unscientific in many ways- at least from my limited understanding of the scientific method and the like. Whether you believe in global warming, cooling or that it's some kind of socialist conspiracy, we can all get behind the following facts, I hope: first- fossil fuels are finite. They will run out someday. What are we going to do then? Second and perhaps most importantly of all, the basic idea that we have one planet (so far) and we should take care of it should be another idea we can all get behind. You can't make a buck if there's nothing left of the planet but a ravaged. scarred up lump of rock. If saving the planet for everyone isn't something you can get behind, then surely saving the planet for the forces of capitalism is.

But overall: this is Kim Stanley Robinson! The writing kicks ass, the story is fascinating and if Robinson wants to make people think about something, he certainly succeeds with that. I think I'll always like the Mars Trilogy more than this one, but I have to give mad-props to a writer who is as consistently thought-provoking as Mr. Robinson is. Good stuff and well worth a read. (If global warming is your thing- also try 'Earth' by David Brin.)
Profile Image for Daniorte.
101 reviews11 followers
October 20, 2014
Las primeras críticas que lei del libro es que era "Aburrido". Sinceramente me parece una critica demasiado fácil ya que si no sabes de que va el autor es normal que te puedas aburrir ya que promete lluvia pero se queda en las señales. Por otro lado si te gusta el autor, no te aburrirás. Stanley Robinson es un autor que le encanta desarrollar la psicología de los personajes. Le gusta recrearse en los actos cotidianos y de la ordinaria situación de una mujer con el sacaleches te hace tres paginas, o del hecho de que un hombre y una mujer se encuentren en un tren te saca otras cuatro paginas de disertaciones mentales del protagonista y así con muchos elementos de la vida cotidiana que puede resultar pesados pero en mi caso me gusta leerlo.

Cuando ves de que va el libro crees que será sobre el cambio climático, en cierta parte es así pero la temática principal es el tejemaneje de los tecnólogos encargados de administrar los recursos de la investigación. Se centra mucho en la problemática política del cambio climático y los conflictos de intereses entre las empresas privadas y las financiaciones o las patentes. El cambio climático lo desarrolla más en la parte final del libro y, si has leído mas obras de este autor, es fácil unir lo que pasa al universo que crea el autor.

Quizá la parte más criticable que le veo yo al libro es la que se centra en el laboratorio de biotecnología. Vale que lo usa para tratar el tema de las empresas privadas en la investigación pero en ningún momento termina relacionándolo bien con la temática central del libro y se me queda algo colgado a lo que le podría haber sacado más chicha

No esperes un libro rápido ni lleno de escenas épicas como la trilogía o 2312. Aquí las especulaciones siguen siendo muy buenas y la temática interesante pero es un libro pausado y con personajes con los que si no congenias les puedes coger manía. Lo bueno es que es corto!

Profile Image for Sara J. (kefuwa).
527 reviews45 followers
February 9, 2017
"Weekdays always begin the same. The alarm goes off and you are startled out of dreams that you immediately forget. Predawn light in a dim room. Stagger into a hot shower and try to wake up all the way. Feel the scalding hot water on the back of your neck, ah, the best part of the day, already passing with the inexorable clock. Fragment of a dream, you were deep in some problem set now escaping you, just as you tried to escape it in the dream. Duck down the halls of memory—gone. Dreams don't want to be remembered."

And so begins Forty Signs of Rain... which is what always gets me with KSR's books. The slice of life in everything, in between the science and all the "stuff" going on. Life moves inexorably on... not any faster or slower than it ever has. Doled out in seconds and hours and days and weeks.

The subject matter at the heart of this book is climate change and global warming. The science that surrounds it all, the consequences of which have been attributed to the modern consumer driven economy and lifestyle.

I was reminded of two books I had read this year while going through this one:
i) The feeling of righteous indignation towards Captain Davidson's views in "The Word for World is Forest", similar to Frank Vanderwhal's feelings towards the NSF having so much untapped potential. Concur.
ii) And then again the uneasy feeling of seeing the big picture mode of things from "No Country for Old Men" of the moral degeneration and people thinking it's not going on... similar feeling for the subject matter of this book.

Enjoyed reading this.

Luckily the library also has Book #2...
Profile Image for Jacob.
879 reviews50 followers
January 5, 2016
The writing is okay (quite readable but nothing special) and the idea is pretty good, but the core problem with this book is that nothing happens for the first 75%. You could compress the first 300 pages down to 50 and the book wouldn't lose anything in quality of story, because you'd still get to know the main characters as much as you need to. Instead, I now know them better than I know many of my cousins. Clearly, I should have spent my reading time on the phone with my cousins instead.

The first 3/4 of the book doesn't have much in terms of story, plot, or conflict. It's just a detailed description of several people's lives. If you are the type to enjoy character studies and read descriptions of people writing and reviewing grant proposals, negotiating over bills in congressional committees, and taking care of their kids at home, you will probably enjoy this book a bunch more than I did.

This book should have connected with me because San Diego and UCSD in particular play a sizable role in the setting, and I was familiar with many of the location descriptions there. Maybe this is a demonstration that a book about global warming is very difficult to make exciting, but more likely it's just a sign that the author has little sense of pacing, and that the book may not have been intended to stand on its own. My own opinion is that every book should stand on its own. There are ways to do that even when you're writing a series, so not using them means an author is not as good.
Profile Image for Alias Pending.
161 reviews19 followers
July 4, 2014
SHORT REVIEW: painfully boring.

SECOND SHORT SIGN OF REVIEW: I Cannot, Will not, and Shall Never believe that KSR wrote this book.

Third short etc., etc; To say this story was phoned in is to forget about the invention of the telegraph, the pre-Edison telegraph. At one point in reading this, I said, self, this book reads like a lifeless interoffice memo. Only to turn the page to find the next chapter was, in fact, written as an interoffice memo. Lazy.

Fourth... Seriously, an intern wrote this and KSR cashed the check. Here are few things that this book forgot to include; a plot, rising tension, distinct characters - no Dull Scientist #1 and Dull Other People numbers 2 through 40 are not characters, & redeemable dialogue, i.e., anything funny, insightful or worthy of contemplation. There are two modes in this book: chit chat and technical word salad. Also forgotten; action, description or a point.

39th yada yada: I can only believe the intention of this novel was to subdue a person's reasonable fear of climate change with a barrage - nay, a hurricane, of mind numbing cliches.

40th sign of a long review: I've now paid more attention to this story than the author did. I can only hope this outline of a novel is someday actually written... wait. No, I don't care anymore.
Profile Image for Mary Shafer.
35 reviews
February 28, 2018
This was the longest book I ever read, during which I constantly kept wondering, "When does the action start?" Seriously. I'm a weather/storm freak, and I'll generally give a book a long lead before I require being seriously engaged, but by halfway through this one, I kept thinking, "When will things actually start happening?" Because up until that time, it seemed like one long navel gaze.

Well, the answer was, things started happening in basically the last tenth of the book. Yes, really. Now, I stuck with it because the writing was good and the characters were well drawn. But if you're looking for any sort of action, there was almost none in this book, with the exception of a brief (and highly unlikely) scene that seemed out of character. So the plotting/pacing was just not good. Had I not been looking forward to a description of a storm, I'd have put it down long ago.

But the very worst part of this read was the editing; or maybe just the proofreading, not sure. Either way, this book was in serious need of some commas. I'm all for minimal punctuation, as long as it doesn't hinder understanding or change meaning. But this was minimal to the point of doing both AND being really distracting. I actually found myself feeling angry about the lack of commas! Talk about dragging the reader out of the story!!!

That being said, I know there's a sequel and I came to care about one of the characters enough to take a look at it just to see what happens to him. But I can't guarantee I'll get through the whole thing. Which is kinda sad and unfair for the author. If this had been my book, I would have thrown a fit to the editor about the punctuation, for real.

Overall, I was kind of disappointed, because the author has a reputation for being really good in his genre. On the positive side, it makes me think I have a good chance of writing a better book and doing well with it!
Profile Image for David Swanson.
19 reviews1 follower
February 18, 2020
This is pretty bad really. The general concept and plot are compelling enough that I've started reading the second in the series, but the characters are so bad that I have to wonder if Robinson has actually met another human being before.

Everyone seems to wander around explicitly thinking and talking about their motivations all the time, and it just feels wildly unnatural and stilted.

This almost worked in the Mars series, where the story was following a cast of explicitly hyper-focused, obsessive individuals, but it really doesn't work here at all.

I generally enjoy Robinson's work and will probably finish the series because I'm like that, but I'd be hard pushed to actually recommend this.

[Content warning for odd sexual fetishes I guess?]

There is an obsession with and sexualisation of breastfeeding throughout, with one character having a very explicit discussion with a coworker(!) on the subject. Felt totally unnecessary and fairly icky to me.
694 reviews
July 29, 2017
This began as a political novel about activists and science workers concerned about climate change. It seemed very slow to take off because I was expecting an ecological post-apocalypse SF novel, not politics. Fortunately the last 100 pages turned in the direction I was hoping for. Having spent a lot of time in Washington both around the Mall and at the zoo I found the parts of the book that took place there especially interesting. I already have the second book in the trilogy on hold at the library.
Profile Image for Petra Kuppers.
Author 29 books23 followers
May 28, 2017
Read for a research project around climate change and speculative fiction. This feels very well researched, lots of different data points connected, and the ending, a vision of dystopic Washington D.C., feels well handled and realistic to me. Some interesting male gender stuff going on, and some intriguing views on gender, science and spirituality, too. Good read.
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