Zach's Reviews > Forty Signs of Rain

Forty Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson
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's review
Jan 20, 09

Read in January, 2009

If State of Fear ( ) were well-informed and written about ten times better, it might be something like this book.

While not nearly as good as the Mars trilogy or Antarctica, this is a solid novel about the politics of climate change and the human consequences. The four main characters all live in Washington D.C. and are involved in the hill's affairs as NSF scientists, senatorial staff, and private-sector researchers. As usual, scientists and the scientifically informed are the heroes of the story, and their struggles with social institutions are a good primer on the complex ways science and government interact and the stakes involved. Also as usual, the scientific literature integrates seamlessly with the main plot, rather than as a series of obvious asides, so that you learn about the underlying topic naturally as the story unfolds. Robinson does this better than any other author I've read; I'm always fascinated by the technical minutiae he presents, whether it's a physical or chemical process, the drama of policy making, or the dynamics of funding research projects. You would think these topics would make for very dry reading, but Robinson turns them into page turners.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and found myself empathizing with the characters. The ending was an unsatisfying "this is the first book of a trilogy" kind of thing, but other than that I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Earlier impressions (part way through the book):

I love this man sooooo much. Quote about the nature of capitalism and democracy:

"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."

Note: the average American worker makes around 35K a year, and it's estimated they produce about twice that in value for their employer, which is where the two-thirds part comes from.

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Reading Progress

01/12/2009 page 50

Comments (showing 1-3)

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message 3: by Jesse (new)

Jesse But they'd need to produce three times that in order for the math to pan out. Else, they're taking home half of what they produce.

message 2: by Zach (last edited Jan 13, 2009 11:03AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Zach Jesse wrote: "But they'd need to produce three times that in order for the math to pan out. Else, they're taking home half of what they produce."

You are correct. I meant they produce twice that in net value (profit) -- wages already subtracted as a cost to the employer.

message 1: by Nathan (new)

Nathan Sounds like my kind of system.

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