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The Ministry for the Future

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Established in 2025, the purpose of the new organization was simple: To advocate for the world's future generations and to protect all living creatures, present and future. It soon became known as the Ministry for the Future, and this is its story.

From legendary science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson comes a vision of climate change unlike any ever imagined.

Told entirely through fictional eye-witness accounts, The Ministry For The Future is a masterpiece of the imagination, the story of how climate change will affect us all over the decades to come.

Its setting is not a desolate, post-apocalyptic world, but a future that is almost upon us - and in which we might just overcome the extraordinary challenges we face.

It is a novel both immediate and impactful, desperate and hopeful in equal measure, and it is one of the most powerful and original books on climate change ever written.

563 pages, Hardcover

First published October 6, 2020

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About the author

Kim Stanley Robinson

230 books6,201 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 3,655 reviews
Profile Image for Robert.
7 reviews
October 24, 2020
A short guide on how to enjoy reading The Ministry for the Future:

1. Be aware that it occupies a peculiar spot between fiction and non-fiction. The book features individuals, it even drives home a powerful point about individual engagement, but it is not focused on personal stories. While some chapters do go on at length about personal trauma, others are literally meeting minutes. Reams of fictional near-future history. Details on geoengineering techniques. The infamous infodump. If it is an aquired taste, it's a taste well worth aquiring.

2. Do not expect a scientifically rigid proposal for solving the climate crisis. KSR is an amazingly informed and engaged author and there are a number of intriguing and well-researched ideas in this book, touching on geoengineering, policy work, economics and more. Some might even work - while others would be picked apart by a domain expert. Personally I err on the hopeful side, plus they're fun to read. However, that doesn't really matter. Whatever its ultimate realism, the book fosters an understanding that solutions (plural) to climate change and global inequity are possible, that they can be imagined, that--look--this could be one way it plays out, however unlikely, that, yes, there are unknowns, but we can't really afford to let that paralyze us.

3. Do not mistake it for a dystopian novel. It starts out sobering, then proceeds with a grim determination that turns into determined hopefulness. Not utopian either; there's no starry eyed insistence on the ensured triumph of rationality and enlightenment (and if such is possible, it will be hard-earned). But despite the cautionary mention that humans usually believe they will be alright all the way to the end, KSR ultimately commits to optimism.

4. Do consider it a rallying cry. One among the many-but-not-yet-enough. I hope it finds its target in spite of considerable cynicism.
24 reviews19 followers
September 4, 2020
Tl;dr: I want to believe. But I find KSR’s answers to the challenge of global warming vague and unconvincing, so much so that this attempt at a hopeful, needle-threading future has left me more worried about the next century than when I started reading it.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a sci-fi writer in possession of a utopian plotline must be in want of that quote about the end of the world being easier to imagine than the end of capitalism. I think KSR gets a good 5% of the way in before he paraphrases it here. And sure, a bit of a cliche, but it could be a great declaration of intent, a signpost that this novel won’t just indulge in apocalyptic visions (which he summons to terrifying and moving effect in the opening chapter) but try to chart a course between Scylla and Charybdis towards a better future.

The problem is that KSR doesn’t actually have a very good idea for how we get there, so he cheats. Repeatedly. Relentlessly. Remorselessly. Scylla actually has an allergy to ships, you see, and Charybdis is definitely super-scary but needs to wash its hair when the protagonists come by so we’re all good. It’s the equivalent of reading a right-on but fundamentally incoherent editorial in The Guardian — I really sympathise with the author’s politics and aspirations, but this isn’t the argument to be made for them.

Now, before I lean in to technical nitpicking and complaining about heavy-handed authorial shenanigans, a quick word about The Ministry for the Future’s literary quality. Which is often good, sometimes great, but wildly, spectacularly uneven. There are moments — the harrowing opening chapter “somewhere near Lucknow”, a majestic description of the sun as godlike creator-destroyer, a fraught late-night traverse across an Alpine glacier — that are compelling and even transcendent. And there's a solid if slightly less spectacular novel buried in there about a traumatised disaster survivor trying to cope with a chaotic new century without losing his humanity. But these elements stand tall above a sea of infodumps barely disguised as lectures or bureaucratic notes, a lightly-sketched-in protagonist with inexplicable persuasive abilities (more on that later), and frankly jarring interludes where we hear from the personifications of photons, blockchain, history, the economy, and a carbon atom, amongst others. Some are OK. Some are not. It turns out carbon atoms are hyperactive, ditzy, and into molecular threesomes! Who knew? You do now, reader.

But on to the plausibility issues. In the style of the infodumps above, I’m just going to list some of them out here. There’s a new global carbon e-currency which is guaranteed to increase in value but doesn’t create deflation or liquidity issues because, I dunno, blockchain? (At some point the monetary trilemma and all other macroeconomic concerns are memorably hand-waved away as [Žižek sniff] pure ideology, even if we end up majoring on MMT which I guess is fine). Unstoppable Mach 2 swarm missiles with seemingly unlimited range are used by shadowy extra-state actors but don’t problematically destabilise geopolitics in a way we need to hear about. An open-source replacement for all social media immediately overcomes the network effects of incumbents in about a week, effortlessly circumvents most of the Great Firewall, and doesn’t seemingly require armies of half-traumatised mods and admins to police its content. A UN agency undertaking a weeklong abduction of every single person in Davos isn’t discovered by national intelligence agencies even years later. Wholly unspecified carbon air capture technologies are ready and scalable in the next twenty years. Microwave power transmission is happening from space by the 2030s, which likely means those satellites are being designed and funded…about now?

There’s a case study to be had in one of KSR’s coolest ideas, pumping meltwater out from under glaciers to re-ground them. Just drill a hole, and then pump the water out with minimal energy input because the weight of the glaciers means the water rises up almost all the way to the surface! But would it? Well, a) even contained reservoirs don’t bear all the pressure of their overburdens, so probably no, and b) if the meltwater is venting to the sea what pressure there is should be largely relieved by the flow, so double nope. And that’s just the surface-level problem with the idea. For instance, are meltwater pools even connected on a useful scale? What about channelisation under the ice? Is runoff even all that important in affecting glacial velocities? What’s the relative impact of (effectively unpumpable) warm sea water in driving changes in ice shelf pinning lines in Antartica versus (pumpable) surface meltwater runoff? It seems our current state of knowledge about all those questions isn't promising. At best, this seemingly nifty and concrete idea floats on a raft of best-case assumptions. And it’s one of the most superficially plausible and carefully discussed things in the book.

Beyond the technological nitpicks, however, there’s just a seeming desire to wish away the less pleasant realities of the last twenty years. Unprecedented floods of refugees and global depression, fine, very plausible, but the political backlash is contained to, uh, some right wing tough guys making trouble in a park, not, say, even more brutal versions of the Lega, Vox, BNP, and FN rising politically? We’re repeatedly told nationalism is back in a big way, but it’s strangely impotent on the page. Seven thousand travellers die in a single day in an ecoterrorist strike against airlines and states do absolutely nothing of relevance to the plot in response except meekly draw down airplane travel? (Though to be scrupulously fair, huge but ineffective counterterrorist operations are mentioned at one point and then utterly dropped from the narrative). Never mind when the same thing happens with micro-drones threatening swathes of the world population with BSE infection if they continue to eat beef, or power plants being systematically attacked around the world without apparent consequence or backlash. Libertarian ranchers in the US leap at the chance to abandon farms and rewild the prairies, except for unpopular militias easily defeated by a Wild West calvacade. China/US or China/India geopolitical rivalry don’t even get a look in. You get the idea.

What planet is this? Apparently one where the entire politics of reaction, cultural grievance and zero-sum realpolitik that have led to this moment no longer exist. One where the revolutions of 1848 weren’t crushed and replaced by 66 years of revanchism and brutal inequality ending in a catastrophic war. A better place, surely. One I’d like to live in. Just not, you know, the real world.

Instead of wrestling with why global warming is hard to solve, Green Lanternism is left to run riot here, from central bankers being convinced to upend the global monetary system by a Paddington-style Hard Stare to the Swiss government being convinced to try and buck the global power structure by a Hard Stare to a showdown with ecoterrorists who have Stepped Over The Line that is resolved by...you get the idea. All you have to have to save the planet is willpower, and apparently the psychic mojo of the Hypnotoad.

So where does this leave us? This is a painfully earnest, occasionally graceful book that will hopefully inspire like-minded people to action. Maybe even useful action! I suspect it'll be loved by many. And those are all good things. Just pray civilisation doesn’t need anything like the sequence of improbable coincidences, spectacular breakthroughs and authorial meddling KSR seems to think we do.
Profile Image for Claudia.
947 reviews524 followers
June 27, 2020
I don’t know what happened that I didn’t like his last two novels, New York 2140 and Red Moon, but this one is the KSR that I love: bold, intriguing, with surprising and daring ideas.

It’s in the spirit of Science in the Capital trilogy, but much better and more audacious in its purpose.

It’s year 2025. In January, a new organization is established with the purpose to ensure a safe climate for future generations. Less than two months later, a heat wave struck India and killed 20 million people.

Everything changed after that.

The story is told from multiple - more or less anonymous - points of view, eyewitnesses of the following events from all over the world, for the next 20 odd years. There are also a few page-short chapters told from the PoV of some totally unexpected onlookers . It also follows the path of Mary Murphy, the head of the The Ministry for the Future, the decisions she took to make sure the future will still be available for the next generations and Frank May, the sole survivor from the heat wave that struck Lucknow (oh, the irony…)

Being set so near to our present day, it does not read like a fiction. It expands on today’s political, economic, and social climate and follows a very plausible future path, from my point of view.

The eclectic mélange of narrations makes it even more realistic. There are chapters that literally gave me goose bumps and made me stop reading to ruminate upon. It will seriously make you think about the future, because until it gets better, will get worse. It may be tiresome from time to time, due to the extensive talks or info regarding economic tools, but I looked at them as lessons; not always pleasant, but useful and important.

I think it’s one of those books which should be read by everyone, because it tries to raise awareness about the climate change which is upon us. People, if not affected by something, tend to disregard the problem. Reading this it'll be impossible not to be affected or at least, to raise you some question marks: what if this will happen? Maybe not to this extent, but it will for sure to a certain degree.

It’s one of his best works, not to be missed.

>>> ARC received thanks to Little, Brown Book Group UK / Orbit via NetGalley <<<
Profile Image for Anissa.
842 reviews252 followers
October 20, 2020
For half of this, I thought I'd rate this around 2.5 stars but around the 56% mark, I felt like the story hit its stride (or I acquiesced to it). I began enjoying it more and couldn't put it down. By the book's end it had me feeling so hopeful that I felt that for me, this was more a 4-star event. So strong 3-star for the whole thing.

I expect infodumps but found an excess of them, even for KSR. There are two main characters, Frank a survivor of the opening heat wave that kills 20 million people and Mary who is the head of the Ministry for the Future. Characterization is scant for others and it's serviceable at best for Frank and Mary. This is not a surprise but it just goes further to remind that I don't come to KSR's books for the characters. Because of the varying POVs in the chapters, this book often didn't feel much like a novel for a good bit. There was more economics than this reader was looking for, to the point of eye-crossing at times. On the upside, there's also some simply brilliant wit & voice displayed. My favourite, when a carbon atom narrates a chapter. And I definitely smiled when two characters discussed Maigret briefly.

I don't know that I'd recommend this to anyone unfamiliar with KSR's writing (admittedly this can be a slog for the initiated). I'm just glad I enjoyed this more than Red Moon. It starts off well, is a bit of a slog for a third but finishes very well.

Favourite quotes:

"Easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism."

Favourite provocative passage:

"In the United States, the National Students’ Union website showed that thirty percent of the union members had now responded YES to the union website’s standing poll asking them if they were in so much financial distress caused by their student debt that they would like to see the union initiate a fiscal non-compliance strike, by not paying their next debt payment. On joining the union, members had agreed to join any strike requested by thirty percent of the membership, so now the union coordinators called for a strike vote to be sure, and got an eighty percent yes vote, with ninety percent participation. None of this was surprising; student food insecurity, meaning student hunger, was widespread, also student homelessness. So the strike began.

Student debt was a trillion-dollar annual income stream for the banks, so this coordinated default meant that the banks were suddenly in cash-flow hell. And they were so over-leveraged, and thus dependent on all incoming payments being made to them on time to be able to keep paying their own debts, that this fiscal strike threw them immediately into a liquidity crisis reminiscent of the 2008 and 2020 and 2034 crashes, except this time people had defaulted on purpose, and precisely to bring the banks down. The banks all rushed to the Federal Reserve, which went to Congress to explain the situation and ask for another giant bail-out to keep liquidity and thus confidence in the financial system itself. There were calls from many in Congress to bail out the banks, as being essential to the economy, and too connected for any of the big ones to be allowed to fail. But this time the Fed asked Congress to authorize their bailing out the banks in exchange for ownership shares in every bank that took the offer. This was either nationalizing finance or financializing the nation, in that now it was clearer than ever that the country was in effect run by the Fed. And since Congress ran the Fed, and people voted in members of Congress, maybe it was all beginning to work, somehow, because of this strike. Definancialization of a sort. End of neoliberalism.

Favourite hopeful passage:

"That there is no other home for us than here. That we will cope no matter how stupid things get. That all couples are odd couples. That the only catastrophe that can’t be undone is extinction. That we can make a good place. That people can take their fate in their hands. That there is no such thing as fate.'
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books3,913 followers
January 25, 2021
You know, the first time I saw the title and the cover, I thought this would be a far-future SF, not a near-future prediction. I'm happy to be wrong.

I'm even happier to have loved this novel from the first page to the last. Indeed, over the last 8 years of new novels, I've loved everything that KSR has written, being duly impressed about his improvement with characters and his truly fantastic grasp of science, politics, history, economics, and future speculation. Indeed, my only complaints have ever been about his characters who usually feel a bit more like vehicles for stories and especially IDEAS more than people, but for this book, it wasn't the case.

I was brought to tears several times.

However, I need to be very clear on this: KSR's strength is absolutely and utterly in ideas. I feel like I just read an accessible novel that outlines all of the biggest real-thought on climate change and possible solutions while having it all put through the meat-grinder of real-politics, real-people, and enormous ongoing tragedies.

The book starts out with millions dying of heat in India.

It picks up with angry people worldwide demanding change and butting heads, devolving into assassinations, new politics, massive setbacks, economic upheavals, MORE climate disasters hitting the affluent people, more chaos, new legislation, MORE political upheaval, more dead, and economic systems that are both familiar and much more complicated than most of us have ever really researched TODAY.

I mean, some of us have. Bitchains, UBIs, carbon monetary systems (not as in burning it, but drawing it out of the atmosphere), and the eventual re-greening of the Earth. And it's a lot more complicated and gloriously explored than anything I can get into with a simple review, but the BOOK does a fantastic job of outlining a gloriously chaotic near-future that would, in other times, be considered a bonafide classic.

The book, frankly, is rich, deserves immense respect, lots of thought, and public discourse.

Maybe most of us are burned out by the seeming impossibility of getting a New Green Deal, one where the new jobs come directly from creating a sustainable future.

But maybe what we really need are the ideas firmly planted in our heads, complete with plans, backup plans, backup-backup plans, and awareness of all the ways it could all go wrong (and will) so we're not blindsided when we lose four billion people (minimum) in the next 30 years.

This novel should be THAT talking point. For how tragic it is, it's FULL of great thought and, dare I say it, HOPE.
Profile Image for Cathy.
1,598 reviews238 followers
October 23, 2020
This might be about great big ideas, but without a decent narrative or memorable, well-developed characters I simply don‘t care. If I want to read essays about possible solutions for climate change, I do that. And if I want to dive into blockchain or speculate about economics and virtual currencies, I talk to my colleagues at work. Throwing in the odd chapter with minuscule plot and barely there characters doesn‘t make this a readable novel for me.

Mary and Frank were not bad and I liked the Antarctic setting, there just wasn‘t enough of all that. Hence, boredom. I started skimming a third into the book and finally DNFd at 56%. Not for me.

I received this free e-copy from the publisher/author via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review, thank you!
Profile Image for Kevin.
270 reviews656 followers
November 29, 2022
Speculative Fiction on surviving our ecological crises has a long ways to go, but this is a start...

--2022 Update: Having been steeped in (geo)political economy and adding more political ecology, it always startles me how shallow other nonfiction disciplines are at analyzing the real-world structures (processes and how they affect existing material conditions) behind ecological crises. This only seem to get worse once we step outside of critical nonfiction and into fiction. It's one thing to imagine utopic alternatives completely untethered to real-world conditions (and this may still be more useful than all the dystopia untethered to real-world conditions I see in fiction), but the bridge to get anywhere requires connections to existing conditions.
--I do appreciate the role of fiction in providing more widespread cultural references, although even here we must critically examine the target audiences (who even reads these days?) and how malleable fiction can be (ex. Western schoolchildren raised on Orwell's fictions and treating it as a substitute for critical history).

--My bias towards nonfiction helps unearth talented nonfiction writers who dispel the onerous “textbook writing style”. Let’s consider the various methods of using books to popularize the structures of ecological crises in the age of Anthropocene/Capitalocene and “There Is No Alternative”/“It’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism”:
a) Fiction with nonfiction elements: this book
b) Nonfiction dressed as fiction: Another Now: Dispatches from an Alternative Present
c) Nonfiction still with accessible writing: Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World and Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist.
…Ideally, read them all! Given the urgency, the more styles of delivery targeting diverse audiences the better. If you compare my reviews for the other books, this fiction is predictably less technical…

The Good:
--The first half was uncomfortable reading in the summer of 2021, as the Pacific Northwest was going through an unprecedented heat wave (where "heat dome" entered my vocabulary) to pair with our new norm of summer forest-fire haze and flash floods. Despite my impatience with exploring new fiction, the main characters grew on me, although embarrassingly I lost track of what happened to one of the protagonists (what happened to Frank?!)…
--I read this along side Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist, which expands on the fiction’s economic hints: economic growth/degrowth (even better unpacked in Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World), reviving the Commons, money/central banks/public banks (The Bubble and Beyond), etc.
--This fiction literally injects nonfiction encyclopedic definitions (what fiction talks about John Maynard Keynes’ “bancor” trade system design and “euthanasia of the rentier”?!), making it probably the most technical fiction I’ve read while barely scratching the surface. For more on this topic, see:
-The Global Minotaur: America, the True Origins of the Financial Crisis and the Future of the World Economy
-And the Weak Suffer What They Must? Europe's Crisis and America's Economic Future

The Questionable:
--Since there are numerous voices in fiction, it’s sometimes difficult to determine the author’s exact opinions:

1) On violence:
--The violent protests (including assassinations) in this book deserves a lot of discussion; elsewhere, the “debate” between Andreas Malm (How to Blow Up a Pipeline) vs. Extinction Rebellion (This Is Not A Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook) should really be a synthesis since the focus is actually on property damage/sabotage, as no side sees human violence as currently useful for the environmental movement. I suppose this is one advantage of speculative fiction, to play things out down the road (without committing to an opinion...).
--I’m also sadly unconvinced by the relative absence of reactionary violence and state surveillance/violence (ex. the rise of Fascism to revive global capitalist production during the endless Great Depression: Blackshirts and Reds: Rational Fascism and the Overthrow of Communism).

2) Western Imperialist assumptions?:
--Related to violence is the messy geopolitics. I would love for India to correct her current trajectory, revert back to and exceed her Non-Aligned Movement era’s imagination (The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World) to lead the world in the revolution against capitalist climate catastrophe and structural unemployment (Planet of Slums) as the book speculates.
--However, it’s difficult to square phrases like “the world’s largest democracy” with one character’s astute mocking of spectatorship “democracy” (i.e. one-dollar-one-vote oligarchy) vs. participatory democracy (esp. economic democracy of property rights and consensus decision-making, as opposed to capitalist stockholding, and public control over credit-money creation, as opposed to capitalist private banks backed by the "regulatory capture" of capitalist-state central bank): The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement
--Meanwhile, China is just a "police state" caricature where the single party dominates (so simple!), resulting in "rule without law" unlike the "rule of law" in (one-dollar-one-vote oligarchy) Hong Kong apparently...
…Even more-honest liberals (i.e. capitalist reformers supporting political “democracy” amidst economic aristocracy) can provide more critical comparisons of modern India/China, see the bottom of this review: Capitalism: A Ghost Story
…The next critical step is Vijay Prashad:
-India/China: https://youtu.be/4hz5sXYiBo8
-China: https://youtu.be/8-m-DZHLNGs
-Imperialist ideological censorship: https://youtu.be/6jKcsHv3c74
--Another highlight of Western imperialist assumptions is a reference to Edward O. Wilson’s “Half-Earth” idea, which in typical technocratic armchair fashion speculates setting aside half the earth for wildlife and finds this a worthwhile project (Ecosocialist critique: https://www.researchgate.net/publicat... ). If we can return to real-world conditions, can we imagine the nightmare of who will plan/enforce this, and the further dispossession of Global South petty producers (for a crucial correction to Western Green New Deals: A People’s Green New Deal)?
--This is another reason I’m unconvinced by the relative lack of reactionary violence, since this type of bland imperialist assumptions (see: Discourse on Colonialism) belongs in the spectrum of Malthusian “overpopulation” rhetoric pervasive in the technocracy of Western sciences. This bleeds into anti-immigration “Lifeboat Ethics: The Case Against Helping the Poor” and is one bad crisis away from eco-fascism. See: Too Many People?: Population, Immigration, and the Environmental Crisis

--The few naysayers of Varoufakis' "Another Now" book immediately attack the "likelihood" of Another Now's political timeline. I tend to see this critique as missing the main point of Another Now: Dispatches from an Alternative Present, which to me is a nonfiction dressed as fiction to bring alternative economic structures (technical) to life (social imagination). Thus, the focus is on the nonfiction economic alternatives we can build rather than just the messy deconstruction phase (as in this fiction). With every day we lose to capitalist ecological destruction, we spiral further down a messier deconstruction with less options for building alternatives…
Profile Image for Bart.
377 reviews85 followers
November 2, 2020
This is it. The final big KSR novel. I dreaded starting it, to be honest. Yet another climate book: don’t we know that story? His two previous ones were letdowns: New York 2140 was okay, but ultimately transparent, and Red Moon even formulaic: Stan seemed to have run out of steam.

I think Robinson’s decision to stop writing long novels liberated him. And so his final big one is both a synthesis and a departure, and most importantly: totally unapologetic KSR, and a feast as such. It’s also a paradox, a book that is “desperate and hopeful in equal measure”, as the dust jacket has it.

Some might think it not enough of a novel – a long essay perhaps. Some might think it boring, or preachy. I think none of that applies. I think it’s brave, fast-paced, and subdued. It’s a story for sure, and it builds on the legacy of that other great science fiction novel: 1930s Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon. I loved The Ministry for the Future.

The only criticism I can muster might be that Robinson’s hope might be non-sequiturish, so to say. Aren’t we doomed anyway? Who knows? Who will tell? “There are many realities on a planet this big.”

In the remainder of this review – about 3000 words – I will elaborate on all of the above, backed up by quite a few fragments from various recent interviews with KSR. It’s a joy to have a writer being so open & explicit about his thought process.


Full review on Weighing A Pig Doesn't Fatten It
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,248 reviews219 followers
January 8, 2021
This book follows the progress of the titular Ministry of the Future established as a United Nation body with a mission to "speak for the future". It's told from the viewpoint of several characters in and around the organization as it moves from its initial rather ineffectual roots to being the driving force against climate change across the globe.

So this is a terrible book, and I'll get into why in a bit.

I just want to point out the first chapter though, because it's powerful and brilliant. What it is, is the account of an aid worker in Northern India during the first heat wave in recorded human history to hit a heavily populated area with a wet bulb temperature that is incompatible with human life. It's powerful because it's only fiction in that it hasn't happened yet. The current trajectory of climate change says this is inevitable by the end of the 21st century. (For more on this I strongly recommend The Ends of the World: Supervolcanoes, Lethal Oceans, and the Search for Past Apocalypses).

If only the rest of the novel matched the standard of its first chapter.

The rest of the book is the now very familiar future history that this author believes should and will happen. That history is towards a technocentric marxist green global government. The author's calls for this to happen get increasingly strident (desperate?) with each book. In this one he goes a bit further than previous books, advocating for lethal force against polluters and over-consumers. Government-sponsored ecoterrorism in places.

Generally speaking it comes off as unhinged, and requires that the reader forget how humans work. For instance, there's one memorable scene where a group of rural people sadly and quietly leave their small-town homes for the last time because all people who live a rural existence are being moved to high-intensity housing in cities, because that's better for the world in general.

What? Sadly and quietly? What!?

Why? Because they've been told by scientists what's best for them and the world, so they happily comply.

Readers of all genders, may I present the year 2020 as a counterargument?

This ridiculous piece of rose-tinted trash would be getting one star, and only gets two on the strength of the first chapter.
Profile Image for Tom Quinn.
537 reviews141 followers
December 17, 2021
In some ways a worthy successor to the techno-thriller mantle Michael Crichton used to wear, this book aims to be a draw-you-in page turner built on a foundation of current events and present-day science, extrapolated into a claustrophobic tale of human survival in a hostile environment. It mostly succeeds but falters a bit after a strong opening before settling into a mundane and exposition-heavy final act.

Robinson has explored at great length (probably too great - this could be shorter) the ramifications of climate policy in the near future and he delivers the tale in a satisfying vignette layout, shifting viewpoints between many different narrators to share component pieces of the story. It gave me a bit of a Grapes of Wrath vibe, what with the bleak landscapes and terse play-by-plays. But that's probably generous. Maybe World War Z is the better comparison, as we're not approaching Steinbeck levels of literary artwork here. Good story at heart, but once again it doesn't need to be this long. Robinson has an unfortunate habit of listing things, great honking chains of comma-strewn lists that often run ten to thirteen items long, depending on whether you count entries between commas but joined by "and" as a single item or two. This really gums up the works of what could be a tighter narrative. Cut that stuff down as well as the rehashing of cause/effect, scientific consensus, and finer policy points—the audience reading this book is already on board, man—and serve up more of the single character drama. And I mean drama, please, not policy speeches and pensive hikes through snowy mountain trails.

3 stars.
Profile Image for Lori.
308 reviews100 followers
February 15, 2021
If the earth becomes hot enough then, the oceans will boil. That doesn't actually happen in the book, so I don't need a spoiler tag. I still feel a vague urge to put one on it.

It's got a strong start, but I was weary of it long before the end.
Profile Image for Repix.
2,157 reviews393 followers
August 3, 2021
Siempre me pasa lo mismo con KSR, la premisa me encanta, el arranque es brutal pero, poco a poco, mi interés va decayendo, la historia se vuelve aburrida, el estilo de escritura aparece simple y hasta infantil o, incluso, lioso y sin sentido. Reconozco el valor del libro, aunque algunas ideas sean realmente estúpidas, pero, aunque me empeñe, este autor no es para mí.
Profile Image for Oleksandr Zholud.
1,051 reviews100 followers
November 10, 2020
This is a fresh, 2020 cli-fi SF by Kim Stanley Robinson (KSR), which reads more like a manifesto than a fiction novel. I read is as a part of monthly reading for November 2020 at SFF Hot from Printers: New Releases group.

The story starts with a great human-made catastrophe: it is mid-2020s, a heat wave hits India and kills more people than 4 years of the WW1, as well and animals and damages the biosphere. Among a few survivors is a foreign volunteer Frank, who sustains a psychological trauma due to the calamity. At the roughly the same time, in 2025, the Paris Agreement Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change decides to make a Subsidiary Body, a supranational agency charged with defending the environment and all living creatures present and future who cannot speak for themselves. It was unofficially named “the Ministry for the Future” and it is headed by the other protagonist, Mary. The further story follows their lives (and many others) and their efforts to save the world.

The novel is ‘classic’ KSR, infodump-heavy story well known to funs by his earlier works, e.g. Red Mars. The info covers a broad range of topics, including but not limited to: economics, environment protection, natural habitats, monetary policy, socialism, saving polar caps, income redistribution, market failures, alternatives to air travel, etc. However, in this book his political activism took over his writer’s talent. Both protagonists aren’t very interesting characters and the story is a bit predictive – not even reading the book, I guess most people assume that ‘good guys’ will win and the danger of environmental collapse will be turned over. At the same time as a cookbook filled with possible solutions it definitely shines.

I have to admit, policies advocated by KSR are often too left-wing for me. I’m from the ex-USSR, I know the faults of socialism. I dislike his adoration of Russia and China, two quite aggressive authoritarian states. It maybe less profound than pro-Chinese Red Moon, but nevertheless saying ‘they are fine because the USA is not a paragon of virtue’ is wrong. Situations with Tibet, Yugurs, Hong Kong, Taiwan for China or with aggressions of Russia in Georgia (2008) and Ukraine (2014) as well and internal suppression of ‘the other’ from LGBTQ+ to political opponents should make both regimes international pariahs, and their leaders, with their cults of personality – personas non-grata. Of course, some alt-right may accuse the author of selloff to authoritarians, but it is not so: he mentions 1989 Tiananmen Square and HK protests, which is enough not to get published in China, as well as after Putin Russia…

I’m an economist by trade and while I agree with some of his arguments in that sphere (as well as with the fact that environmental problems are very real and urgent), I think he gets quite a few points wrong. Say, for example, he mentions bancor proposed by Keynes on 1944 Bretton-Woods conference:

John Maynard Keynes, the chief British negotiator, also suggested at Bretton Woods that they found an International Clearing Union, which would make use of a new unit of currency to be called a bancor. The purpose of the bancor would be to allow nations with trade deficits to be able to climb out of their debts by calling on an overdraft account with the ICU that would allow them to spend money to employ more citizens and thus create more exports. Nations making use of their overdraft would be charged 10 percent interest on these bancor loans, which could not be traded for ordinary currencies, or by individuals. Nations with large trade surpluses would also be charged 10 percent interest on these surpluses, and if their credit exceeded an allowed maximum at the end of the year, the excess would be confiscated by the ICU. Keynes thus hoped to create an international balance of trade credit which would keep countries from becoming either too poor or too wealthy.

The story is true, but ‘keep countries from becoming either too poor or too wealthy’ is wrong – say the USA has trade deficit since 1976 – it hasn’t become poor in these 44 years… moreover, Keynes suggestion was made in a very specific situation, when private credit markets and economies in general were everywhere subordinated to the exigencies of war finance, while in his earlier works, written in what was much closer to our current globalized world he made quite different proposals.

There are several more claims connected to the economics, which I find dubious. I still liked to read them discussed in some depths.

It is not a SF as much as environmental manifesto, a book on a very important topic but not an easy of smooth read. Nevertheless, it is actually an utopia, even if it doesn’t seem so at the start.

Profile Image for Jason Furman.
1,167 reviews764 followers
May 30, 2022
Kim Stanley Robinson doesn’t understand central bank balance sheets. Like, not missing some nuances but complete and total ignorance of them. Normally I would not bring up an issue like this about a novelist, I suspect most of the novelists I read do not understand central bank balance sheets and are probably the better for it. But Kim Stanley Robinson has written a “nonfiction novel” that purports to be a highly accurate and detailed account of the near future, both the ways in which climate catastrophes play out and how the world responds to them and ultimately triumphs—after a lot of pain and suffering. And central banks plays a big role in this account—with the words “central bank” appearing 80 times as compared to a mere 18 times for the phrase “climate change”. (In fact, 30 percent of the time the word “carbon” appears in the book it as part of the phrase “carbon coin,” which Robinson invents as a new central bank currency.)

Given the novel claims to be a new form of detailed realism, more like a series of opeds than a novel, it seems reasonable to judge Ministry of the Future at least in large part based on the cogency of these opeds. And in making that assessment I’ll start with central banks.

The hero of the book repeatedly meets with central banks to get them to subsidize carbon reduction, with Robinson at one point writing, “When Mary reminded them that they had quantitatively eased trillions of pounds into existence when needed to save the banks, they nodded; their job was to save the banks. To quantitatively ease trillions of pounds into existence to save the world: not their job.”

A few problems with this: (1) quantitative easing entails buying interest paying bonds with interest paying reserves at market prices, it is not a giveaway or a net increase in the amount of wealth but a transaction that simultaneously expanded the assets and the liabilities of the central bank, (2) quantitative easing didn’t save the banks, in fact the banks generally opposed it because it lowered their profit margins by lowering the interest rates they got on loans ore than the interest they paid on deposits, and (3) if you want to buy carbon there is no reason at all the central bank would or should do it.

Robinson seems transfixed by central banks having some magic money ability that the fiscal authority does not have. And that this ability would allow the expenditure of enormous resources while sequestering other resources all while avoiding any inflation or other tradeoffs.

This is not a small issue in the book which has a number of genuinely small issues (Robinson misunderstanding discounting and infinite sums in a five page chapter solely devoted to the subject and confuses the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund).

All of this was as part of an intersectional approach to climate change that for reasons I did not fully understand included discussions of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), student loan debt relief, new social networks that make micropayments for your data, and a melange of other left issues that are either orthogonal to addressing climate change or even actually competing in resources or attention with addressing it.

I found an awful lot of that highly irritating (in case you didn’t notice), and it made me nervous that Robinson’s discussions of the consequences of climate change and geo-engineering were similarly inaccurate.

That said, I did find something intriguing about the book and the way it was constructed. A series of short chapters told from different perspectives in a nonfictional, historical report type of way, the polyphony of voices was engaging and moved along. The opening depiction of mass death due to heat in India was powerful. The emphasis on geoengineering is important because that should be part of our climate solution (he also has a strong emphasis on mitigation, through extremely abrupt and damaging reductions of carbon use, especially in transportation, but is much lighter on the third aspect to the solution—adaptation).

I’m not sure if I regret reading the book or would recommend to others, but it was unique and memorable—but it was also badly flawed and to the degree it is presented as an actual manifesto for policymakers it will send them down a bunch of rabbit holes related to central banking, student loan debt relief, social networks, and more that will not help solve this problem.
Profile Image for Andreas.
482 reviews129 followers
October 8, 2020
Synopsis: It’s 2025, the founding year of the Ministry of the Future which is an agency established in Zürich, Switzerland, to ensure health and safety for the generations to come. A heat wave crawls over rural India just before the yearly monsoon, killing twenty million people, and everything changes.

The story follows Mary Murphy, head of the new ministry, and tells her troubles founding the ministry, bringing banks and governments to political agreements over climate issues, and her long way to retirement. Her live is interleaved with that of Frank May, the sole survivor of the heat wave.

Review: This clifi is a very typical Kim Stanley Robinson novel: Less of a plot, more of a speculative extrapolation. Where his New York 2140 featured the rising sea level, his new novel focuses initially more on the direct impact of higher temperatures with the dire killing of people who cannot flee into cooled buildings, because there are none. This is not the only place which KSR lets the reader visit, but also beloved Antarctica with updated climatic implications since his great novel of 1997.

Another central showplace is the city of Zürich. As I lived there for a year, I can assess, that KSR’s lovely descriptions of the town are top notch, and I once again fell in love with this place.

The author wouldn’t be himself if he wouldn’t introduce some radical protagonists into his story who try to change the way our capitalistic world works. In this case, the trauma of the heat wave radicalized Indians who call themselve the “Children of Kali”, a Hindu goddess of Destruction. He envisions them to destroy the whole aircraft business by bringing planes down using an army of small drones directed into the flight paths of the planes. The message is obvious: stop flying, and the industry follows. But they don’t stop there.

Robinson offers an optimistic view into the further future, one where humanity can overcome the climatic change using terraforming technologies, a reformed capitalism disempowering the connection between banks and governments by issuing a blockchain certified carbon coin, and wiping away crappy Facebook by implementing a people owned and operated new Internet.

He finds many angles which are needed to save our children’s world, some may be naive, others could be counterargued. But together they form a holistic view that could work – something that I’m missing in so many dystopian clifis of these days.

I can fully recommend this Near Future Hard SF for everyone who doesn’t focus on plot or character but wants to see a solution oriented future of climatic change.
Profile Image for Anna.
1,656 reviews618 followers
January 30, 2021
I've been thinking a lot recently about the need to construct a narrative of recovery from disaster, in order to have any hope for the future. My thoughts centred upon the pandemic and how normality as we knew it will never return, but perhaps we can move from emergency into rebuilding something different. The first step towards doing the latter is imagining it as a possibility and envisaging one day not being afraid to leave my home. I am thus attempting to avoid despair despite the truly disastrous state of the UK in January 2021. Racked by the new turbo-covid variant, hospitals overwhelmed, more than a hundred thousand dead in the pandemic and another thousand every day, the worst death rate in the world, in lockdown for the third time, economically crippled by brexit, ruled by a bunch of useless Tory goons who are responsible for it all. As I find Kim Stanley Robinson's books among the most hopeful I've ever read, 'The Ministry for the Future' seemed like it might help.

At first, it was just the opposite. In order to illustrate the horrors of climate change, the book opens with a truly terrifying account of a heatwave in India that kills twenty million people in a fortnight. I was thus punched in the face by my existential terror of climate change, which has been crowded to the side by my existential terror of the pandemic in recent times. It was not pleasant to be reminded that while covid dominates our lives, climate change continues to inexorably undermine the survival of human civilisation. It therefore took me a while to get through the first fifty pages, despite their undoubted readability. Once I'd reacquainted myself with this existential dread, and with the help of escapism in large doses, I found the rest of the book compulsive. I do not think it's science fiction, or at least doesn't read as such. Although there are characters and a narrative, as well as technological extrapolations, it felt more like Francis Spufford's elision of fiction and non-. Except Spufford recounts history with judicious use of fictionalisation, whereas Stanley Robinson gives readers a detailed recovery narrative of the future. In New York 2140 he spoke directly to the reader, and in 'The Ministry for the Future' he does so still more insistently. This book sits you down, takes you by the shoulders, and says earnestly, "Listen to me. We are not doomed by climate change. There is hope for a better world. Do not despair."

The title of the book refers to an agency set up in Zürich under the auspices of the Paris Agreement, with limited budget and no statutory powers, with the purpose of representing the interests of future generations. It is led by Mary Murphy, who uses the UN agency's soft power to influence governments, banks, and businesses. She is a powerful figure, but still essentially a figurehead and co-ordinator. Kim Stanley Robinson is absolutely the last author to intimate that one person can save the world. Her point of view allows the reader to see the many ways to tackle climate change: geoengineering, renewable energy, financial reform, rewilding, transformation of agriculture, transport decarbonisation, and postcapitalist economics. As ever in his novels, Kim Stanley Robinson has a very impressive grasp of the material, beyond any other author I've come across. I discussed this with a friend who is currently reading Blue Mars. He has the trick of extrapolating with considered conviction across an incredible range of disciplines in both the hard and social sciences. Presumably he draws upon a network of experts, identifying key concepts and explaining them with great clarity. I have studied and taught carbon emissions mitigation in academia, so do not praise this lightly. I've read plenty of novels with flimsy and unconvincing economics, in particular. Kim Stanley Robinson synthesises and summarises environmental economics with a succinct accuracy that I can't fault. My knowledge of hard science, engineering, and technology is more limited, but I found his extrapolations almost entirely convincing. I remain sceptical of blockchain, as there's so much baseless hype around it. Nonetheless, I am willing to entertain the possibility that it may be useful if set up and managed as public infrastructure rather than for shareholder returns.

While impressively systematic and convincing, the depiction of technological change and geoengineering are not what make 'The Ministry for the Future' memorable. Obviously I appreciated the economics and the reckoning with bankers. What set this apart for me, from Kim Stanley Robinson's other novels as well other climate change fiction, is his depiction of the violent rage against the hyper-rich elite letting the planet burn. Mary shares protagonist duties with Frank May, who barely survives the catastrophic Indian heatwave and suffers from severe PTSD. He is a fascinating character, the exact opposite of all the men in so-called climate change novels that annoyed me with their self involvement (cf Solar, The Lamentations of Zeno). Climate change has taken over his life and over decades the reader watches how this plays out. Unlike much climate change non-fiction (notably The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis), Kim Stanley Robinson acknowledges and reckons with probably the main impediments to tackling climate change: oil companies and the super-rich. Moreover, he examines the question, unmentioned in any climate change non-fiction I've read, of whether killing a few super-rich is morally right in order to preserve billions of people alive and unborn. The answer is not simple and this book doesn't pretend that it is. I found the intensity of Frank's anger very easy to sympathise with - I am constantly seething with murderous rage at the destruction wrought by billionaires. The role of violence and sabotage in turning the world away from climate disaster is carefully judged throughout. Violence is shown to not usually be justified, yet can be effective in desperate situations. Although the Children of Kali and their direct violent actions are only an occasional presence in the narrative, their inclusion is important.

I don't think 'The Ministry for the Future' works particularly well as a conventional novel, as it doesn't spend nearly as much time with its characters as New York 2140 or the Mars Trilogy. Although I found Mary and Frank interesting characters, their lives were entirely defined by climate change. This is absolutely not a complaint! The book works brilliantly as a manifesto, polemic, and a narrative of possibility. I cannot be the only person who is consumed by fear and despair about the future right now, and needs convincing, analytical, hopeful narratives to counter the blizzard of disasters that pass for current events. Unfortunately, even Kim Stanley Robinson's outstanding writing abilities cannot make much progress against my anxieties in 2021. New York 2140 definitely had a stronger positive impact on me back in 2017. Partly, it's the implication that his books are becoming more and more direct in their message because things are getting worse and worse. Will he write another like this but more so in a couple of years, if COP26 languishes? 'The Ministry for the Future' is adamant that there is still time to avoid runaway climate change and save civilisation. I would very much like to believe that, but am really struggling to at the moment. Lockdown life on Plague Island really doesn't lend itself to positivity. Still, I know that such narratives are important. Maybe I need to construct a personal narrative of becoming less anxious first, then I might be able to think about the climate change situation more clearly.
Profile Image for Lauren .
1,701 reviews2,299 followers
August 16, 2022
"The Invisible Hand never picks up the check." (pg 411)

• THE MINISTRY FOR THE FUTURE by Kim Stanley Robinson, 2020.

Robinson offers a near-future kaleidoscope of a world decimated by climate change and its ramifications. He constructs a 360° approach to getting un-fucked, utilizing a multi-pronged approach using science, economics, and general ingenuity.

KSR's identified spheres: finance/economics, policy/diplomacy, science/engineering, & humanitarian aid specifically to climate/resource refugees.

~600 pages cannot be summed up in this paltry post. The book follows a narrative progression with a few central characters, but would be best described as a mosaic of stories - chapters are short but plentiful, including transcripts of interviews, riddles, short vignettes of life affected by climate change, displacement, etc.

Synthesized points:

• Violence and revolution - at what point does the struggle turn violent for change to occur? Will change only come with bloodshed?

• Geo-Engineering / Scientific Advancement - turning this notion on its head & stating that we've been re-engineering the earth for a long time (detrimentally), can we switch to make sustainable outcomes? Explored here: glacier remediation and regeneration, wildlife corridors / rewilding land resources, human population consolidation in urban areas, alternative transport models such as dirigibles, hyperloops, and hydroplanes

• Policy - we share the same house, but nation-states make their own rules in each "room" of the house. Some locations are disproportionately affected. What if a country (in KSR's scenario, India with a "wet bulb" heat wave) unilaterally makes a decision to move forward with their own plans, since others continue in inaction. Asymmetrical policy - as we have now IRL.

• Late-Stage Capitalism death throes - I was most "out of my element" here with the discussion (did a lot of supplemental reading) of central banks, Keynesian economics, crypto and blockchain, and the creation of a public "carbon coin" that rewards sustainability + sequestration.
Capitalism has never been natural or rational, could this economic model be?

For the scientists, activists, wonks, armchair philosophers - there's just so much here.

Nutshell wrapup of a book I can't "unsee", but of course, SO much more to digest in this book.

Any recommendations of books, articles, podcasts, and experiences from personal and professional life welcome. Quite eager to learn more about everything I've discussed above, and related material.
Profile Image for Misty.
291 reviews145 followers
February 19, 2021
So I can’t decide if I’m just not hip enough to have enjoyed this, or if perhaps I’m too hip to have enjoyed it. At any rate, I just really did NOT appreciate the experience. I’m sure if I had had the energy I could have deconstructed the whole thing, looking for patterns in the chapter rotation, symbols in the obscure and allusions in the dialogue, but honestly, the structure was so chaotic and messy that it just didn’t feel worth the effort. Far too much pontificating and not enough storytelling for me.

Read for the intellectual gymnastics; avoid if you’re looking for a bit of mindless escape.
Profile Image for Kateblue.
565 reviews
November 20, 2020
I hate to say it, but everyone should read this book. I give it one star because I really hated it. Nevertheless, I think everyone should read this book.

No, it is not about time travel, which is what I was hoping for. It's about climate change. I almost didn't make it through. It's really depressing. I was going to stop at about 30%, but then completed it by skipping LOTS of paragraphs. Eventually, it gets somewhat hopeful, but I don't see that happening IRL. Even at the end, though, there's stuff that's depressing.

It's not really even a novel. It is a bunch of short stories, technical discussions, overlong setting descriptions, and ideological harangues, which are strung together by means of two longer stories. The two people in the stories eventually meet but don't really interact that much even after that.

One, Frank, we meet on the first page, and I got really interested in him. He's the only character I cared about the whole way through. (Caring about characters is necessary for me liking a book, and there weren't really any in this book for me to care about.) But I didn't get a real feel for Frank until much later on. I thought he was

Also, I really thought that the author would eventually reveal that Frank's

Another problem with this book is that it is SO much telling instead of showing. Even when the characters interact or give their opinions or there is discussion of their work, it's mostly telling instead of showing. Frank's part, starting on the first page, was really engaging. Though , it got me interested in the character and kept me reading.

Alas, that level of writing rarely returned except in some of the chapter-long short stories. The one in LA. was particularly good. But the short stories were also confusing because it was often hard tell from their beginnings if there were a separate little story, or if they were about people we had met before, because the characters were written in first person and sometimes it was hard to tell for a couple of pages that this was going to be a little self-contained story and impossible to tell if we had met them before, like some of the stories.

Anyway, I'm really sorry I read this book. What a downer! But I think everyone should read this book. Overall, it has made me more depressed about climate change Which is why everyone should read this book. Maybe it can spur us to action, which is I'm sure his rationale for writing it.

But as usual, reading Robinson's writing is just SO much WORK! If he really wants to sell his thoughts to engage people--to thereby sell his ideas/solutions to climate change, then he needs to write a more engaging book. This is NOT a bestseller!

I did find my favorite new word, though. Kleptocrat. Go look it up.
Profile Image for Ryan.
977 reviews
May 2, 2022
If you look at pictures of American cities a hundred years ago, they don't look much like the cities we see today. But if you look at the General Motors Futurama exhibit from 1939, you'll see a vision for the cities we encounter today. In The Ministry for the Future, Kim Stanley Robinson attempts to create a futurama exhibit of the next century that will take humanity through climate change.

The story initially juxtaposes two characters, Mary and Frank, to nudge readers out of their climate complacency.

Mary and her band of bureaucrats are initially shown after work at the Ministry for the Future drinking cocktails as they bemoan the state of the world. They are symbolic of today’s greens. When the War for the Climate starts, Mary realizes she has only been working in a discursive war of rhetoric. If she took climate change seriously, what more would she do beyond indulging her existential despair?

Frank is a survivor of a massive heat wave that takes place in India—millions die around him when the temperature rises so much that A/C cannot keep up and instead crashes the electrical grid. He is very serious about climate change and begins taking direct actions, including violent ones. Other groups, meanwhile, launch drones in flight paths to stop commercial flight powered by conventional jet fuel. When jets start falling, people mostly stop flying. Other acts of sabotage raise the cost of operating coal plants.

Who is doing more to protect the well being of future generations, Mary wonders?

There are many problems with Frank's strategy. But one is that it's very difficult to have a society in such an unstable world. KSR, however, looks at the inequality and environmental damage of today's society to argue that its imbalances undermine the integrity of society. To achieve a better equilibrium, KSR has Mary pursue a carbon coin policy. Carbon coins are a crypto currency that, so far as I can tell, come from the real world. KSR envisions them alongside blockchains and wants them to become a sort of longterm investment that rewards people for keeping carbon in the ground. If fossil fuels can be made to become underwater assets, then the smart investment would become these carbon coins. Later, people are rewarded for sequestering CO2 in their soil. I wasn't convinced that these carbon coins would take off in the world I live in; on the other hand, the world surprises me every day.

I worry that the idea that violence can be condoned to generate change is beginning to pop up again at the edge of environmental discourse. It is not hard to find “human extinction” rhetoric from greens and in fact there's even a group called Extinction Rebellion that carries out non-violent actions now. People today are dying of air pollution, and I suspect KSR is right to point to heat waves as a threat of mass deaths in the near future. In a recent episode of the Ezra Klein Show, Matthew Yglesias argues that climate change is terrible, but it’s not as bad as Extinction Rebellion claims because if it were then we would condone bombing coal factories. We don't condone such actions, Yglesias thinks, for instinctively correct utilitarian reasons. (There are also studies that suggest the most successful movements are non-violent.) In Ministry for the Future, KSR asks whether a heat wave that kills of millions of people might radicalize a not insignificant segment of the population. Although I'm not sure it will lead to a green revolution in India—it seems just as likely to cause people to double down on coal, I think—it doesn’t seem crazy to think it could cause people to decide that they should sabotage coal plants.

What else follows from this shift? Many of the chapters are about various forms of geoengineering. India goes rogue and releases sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere, a form of solar radiation management. Scientists begin pumping melt water out from under glaciers to allow them to settle back onto rock, thus slowing their movement into the ocean. Nordic countries pump snow into the Arctic to stop heat from being absorbed by the deep blue sea (ice reflects light back out of the atmosphere relative to the ocean). Direct air carbon capture technology becomes efficient enough to do at a larger scale. My sense is that most greens hold their nose when they think about geoengineering, perhaps because people that like geoengineering often also see in it an excuse to keep burning fossil fuels, or perhaps because greens see the planet as quasi-sacred. But, again, it doesn't seem crazy to me that mitigation and adaptation efforts will involve some attempt at geoengineering. Oddly, there is no highlighting of the private sector promoting EVs or other technologies.

There are some useful lessons here. First, The Ministry for the Future reminds us that many changes compound in unexpected ways. Second, it nudges climate discourse, which is often focused on the next four years, ten years, or twenty years, to a longer frame. Finally, it takes the goal of reducing atmospheric CO2 seriously enough to game out for a popular audience how that might happen internationally. Generally, we do discuss greenhouse gas emissions in a sort of "we'll have more electric cars and then [waves hand]" sort of way--that won't be nearly enough to get us to net zero and into the drawdown. KSR reminds readers how often our actions are just a "war of discourse."

*Update 2021*

Writing from the middle of the June 2021 Heat Dome effect, I have thought constantly about the opening sequence of Ministry for the Future, which outlines the deadly heat wave in India. Here, we're not beyond our capacity to endure the heat, but it is more than 15 degrees C hotter than average and I can feel my skin stinging if I stand in the light. The heat is unbearable, and I find that I'd be willing to do almost anything to make it go away, including having a plane fly just in front of the heat dome and seeding rain or just dumping water on it. Any reduction in heat would be worth it. These are not rational thoughts, but they are the thoughts I have in the midst of this heat. So I am more inclined to agree with KSR's suggestion that an extreme and deadly heat wave could radicalize an individual, group, or government.

Where I live, the climate is usually temperate, so a lot of people have no AC to cool their homes or workplaces. These AC units have sold out anyway. There are also mudslide warnings because glacial ice is melting faster than we are used to. I'm writing from one of the richest areas in the world, so my expectation is that deaths here will be low, but I am already reading reports of increased calls to the ambulance to deal with heat stroke. And now we are all worried about forest fires.

(Update again: the coroner's report suggests we had well over 200 in the province but they will revisit that number later, likely upping it rather than lowering. Update: We're now over 700 deaths, two days later. A town, Lytton, appears to have burned to the ground after three days of record breaking heat. Other towns have been evacuated. Forest fires have started and the front page news story is of a man who watched his parents burn to death before they could be evacuated.)

A final note: I have this anxious dread that I cannot escape this heat and by extension global warming. It is an awful feeling.

Update Spring 2022: This novel opens with a web bulb heatwave/ power outage in India. That appears to be close to happening now in India and Pakistan. Temperatures are as high as 50 and I'm seeing some reports that there are power outages and coal shortages/ high prices. In these conditions, air conditioning is very close to a survival requirement, especially for older people. These reports are alarming, but I've read it's not very humid and have yet to read any reports on casualties. Still, The Ministry for the Future was published in 2020, we are at roughly one degree C above average temperature, globally speaking.
January 30, 2021
I have no idea who the intended audience of this book is, but it definitely wasn’t me. It is a rambling, disjointed technocrat/fintech bro wet dream that offers very little detail into the majority of the climate solutions while also giving us almost nothing in the way of plot or character development. I appreciate the attempted Utopic vision, but wish it came along with either an actually useful blueprint for how it can be achieved or compelling storytelling. Instead, it had neither.
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,551 reviews310 followers
January 23, 2023
I'm stalled at about 2/3 in on this KSR near-future climate-fiction doorstop. I've probably read more of it than I ordinarily would, due to a couple of short trips where that was the only book I brought. Mistake! Anyway, this is the author in full-blown didactic mode. I think he's well-read in current climate science, but of course this is fiction, so he needs DRAMA. Anyway, here are some observations and objections. I'm making no effort to avoid spoilers.

1.) The book is (mostly) well-written and (at the start) compulsively readable. It opens with a true killer heat-wave in India's Uttar Pradesh state, which ends up killing around 10 million people! One of the MCs, an American charity volunteer, barely survives, badly damaged both physically and mentally. He becomes a deeply unlikable character later in the book. Note that I found this a severe strain on my WSOD! NO evidence whatsoever of temps that warm, in past periods when CO2 was MUCH higher than the absolute maximum in the foreseeable future!
OK, it's Fiction! But still . . .

2.) Another MC is the head of the titular Ministry. She is somewhat more likable, but not someone I would care to spend time with, in fiction or RL. The supporting characters are just spear-carriers, but intermittently interesting. The author is an old pro . . .

3.) KSR assumes that near-term climate change will be far worse than the least-likely projections of the UN IPCC climate models, which themselves have been widely criticized as unrealistically pessimistic. Well, so what? It's *fiction*, and his scientific guesses are good enough for fiction, right? Right?? See 1) above.

4.) As the book proceeds, the author chooses statist, left-wing, socialistic solutions to pretty much every economic and social problem he predicts from radical climate change. No problems with that as fiction -- but here in the real world, socialism has a long and uniformly dismal history of never, ever working. Not once! The MftF folks think that central planning using advanced computers can out-perform market solutions. OK, it's fiction -- but good luck with that, or most of the other statist interventions the novel proposes! In my professional opinion, of course.

5.) A main driver of Climate Action in the book is terrorism. One or more terrorist groups get hold of advanced military swarming drones, and use them on one terrible day to destroy every passenger airliner then in flight. As you can imagine, this is very effective in discouraging future air travel! Additionally, the same drones are used to attack commercial shipping. The novel specifies that the terrorists are careful to sink these ships near shore, and in places where the wrecks can become reefs for sea-life. Nice of them! The favorable treatment of mass-murder in the book is, well, disconcerting.

So. Lots of tedious long-winded political tracts here. OTOH, the Antarctic stuff is good, and is clearly based on his long visit there as an NSF guest writer some years ago. All of that is good stuff. The Swiss stuff is mostly good too. So, as I generally do with problematic books, I will set this one aside for awhile, and see if I have any urge to resume reading before it comes due. Perhaps I should add that I am a retired geologist with a long-term interest in climate change, and am well-read on the topic. Extreme climate change has indeed been proposed as a cause for a couple of the mass-extinctions in the geological record, including the very worst, the end-Permian mass extinction some 252 m.y. ago. As you can imagine, reconstructing the causes of events deep in the past is not easy!

So. I gave up and returned the book. It's more of a climate-action tract than an actual novel -- though parts are good. And it goes on and on and ON. Not recommended. As always, your mileage may vary.
Profile Image for Peter Baran.
514 reviews33 followers
July 12, 2020
Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy is a core piece of my science fiction development. Slow burn Utopianism, set generationally (despite some significantly long lifespans) he managed to balance the speculative aspect of science with the corresponding political and social changes. He juggles a broad canvas over the books, and despite terrorism, disasters and war, ends with a terraformed Mars which felt broadly plausible from where we were in the early nineties (and it was a lot of fun getting there with each book coming out after a summer of University for me)..

The Ministry For The Future is not dissimilar in being a near future bit of terraforming, except here Robinson is terraforming Earth itself for survival. There has always been an ecological aspect to his work, which seems to culminate here in a speculative roadmap to how we get out of the shit we have made for ourselves. It starts in 2023 with a deadly Indian heatwave, and ends about thirty years later, and it is true that his Utopianism has not been destroyed. But it is damn difficult to get to the place of potential safety he gets to and his view is that we won't get there without significant natural disasters, murder and economic and political overhaul. Indeed what is interesting here is not just some of the scientific solutions (draining the bottom of glaciers to stop them slipping into the sea, dying the sea a more reflective colour), but how much of this is economics. That the engine for the the destruction of the human biosphere is mainly driven by capitalism, corporations as machine for growth and profit with no other considerations, and national banks who live to defend currencies no matter what.

The Ministry For The Future is an unusual narrative, and not unlike the Mars Trilogy it only loosely has a protagonist (Mary Murphy - head of said Ministry) and there are chapters told from the point of view of a photon, a carbon dioxide molecule and time itself. Robinson is being playful, his prose often sparse, list like to get across the minutes of the meetings with bankers being had. Morally it is extremely ambivalent. It is clear that he believes that without significant direct action (here, mysterious terrorists randomly shooting planes out of the sky and sinking supertankers), that capitalism will not stop polluting. He cannot see salvation without the destruction of cash, Facebook, and the acceptance of mass refugee emigration. At the same time he is in awe of all the people working in this field already, the hundreds of proliferating projects, some of which might come to fruition. And whilst it is a plausible world map, he is - despite the murder - still a Utopian. As such the book slowly draws to a satisfying but low-key end point romance (Mary Murphy never gets much of a personality beyond trying to save the world, but she is rewarded with a boyfriend at the end). This is not a book to come to for a central personal narrative, the lead character is the biosphere with permaculture and train travel as suitors. But its collage of twenty or so short stories which slip into the flow, state of the world explorations of the African Union taking back mines, or a truly horrendous (but surprisingly undeadly) flood in LA makes the world building work. It believes that humanity can save the world, even that science can do a lot of that heavy lifting, but not without everyone playing a part, though with a sacrifice which is shown to be not that great (again some interesting economic theories come into play). It feels like one last big bit of work, what does the futurologist do in their twilight years. but both made me feel a little better about the world, and reminded me I do have to bloody well do something about it.

[NetGalley ARC]
Profile Image for Lou (nonfiction fiend).
2,771 reviews1,618 followers
October 8, 2020
The inimitable Kim Stanley Robinson returns with The Ministry For the Future, a damning indictment and terrifyingly prescient exploration of the chaos wrought by climate change, both now and in the near future if we continue as a collective to live in ignorance. With increasing urgency, KSR depicts a startling but ultimately hopeful outlook of our next three decades on earth using his skill for acute observation whilst exploring in a gripping and engrossing manner the issues of climate change, technology, politics, and the human behaviours that drive these forces. He has built such a richly-imagined and intricately thought-out world that you cannot fail but to be immersed in it and to marvel as its creation.

People complain that it's a political thesis wrapped inside a fictional novel, but instead of feeling indifferent or even angry towards this (as some seemingly have been), I admire someone with a large following and platform using it to share their fears, ideas and eventually their hopes regarding the survival of the human race as a species, our planet and its ecological system. This is a much more optimistic read compared to some of his past post-apocalyptic stories and with less catastrophising. The timely, powerful and relevant moral message I came away with was that our future is still a sustainable one if as a species we put in enough work to turn this around instead of merely turning our backs. A vitally important must-read for those who are invested and interested in not only our survival but in us thriving, too. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Orbit for an ARC.
Profile Image for Lark Benobi.
Author 1 book1,724 followers
September 9, 2022
a fantastic multivalent work that brings climate change into focus in all of its furious inevitabilities. It feels scarily true, however speculative. It moves like an agile drone from close third-person tragedy to bullet-point-like mini-essays about ethics, wet bulb temperatures, glaciers, economics, and some people may dislike it for this many-angled examination of the sixth extinction but it felt perfect, perfect for the task at hand. The only time I felt hopeful while reading was when I learned that after the coming climate catastrophe the biosphere will repopulate its niches and recover, albeit in a very changed way, in as little as 20 million years.
Profile Image for Andrea McDowell.
564 reviews304 followers
September 15, 2021
*132nd Climate Book*

A few years I was working with a consultant to define a path towards decarbonization in our municipality, and there was a particular phrase he used when presenting his results to decision-makers and the public: "It's geophysically possible," he'd say, slowly and with emphasis. "I don't know if it's politically possible."

It's a phrase that sometimes gets my back up: it had damn well better be politically possible, or hundreds of millions of people will die and human civilization may not survive. Still. When reading this book, it came to mind over and over again.

KSR's pathway to climate salvation is, potentially, geophysically possible. I see comments in other reviews that portions of his prescription are not possible, from these reviewers' perspectives, but let's give it the benefit of the doubt. But politically?

No fucking way. It's not even a maybe. I've been working in government for most of my adult life and nothing about this plot is even remotely conceivable.

Before I get into that in too much more detail, more about the novel proper:

I hadn't intended to read it, but Christiana Figueres recommended it on her podcast (Outrage and Optimism), and also it was on the currently-available-audiobooks list at my local library, so I thought I'd give it a shot. Figueres is the architect of the Paris Accords, which are constantly referenced in this novel as a turning point for humanity, and it's a story that seems broadly consistent with her message, so I'm not surprised at her recommendation. But I did not love it.

It is, first of all, a KSR novel. That is, it is very long, composed of many long passages of blatant exposition on scientific and technical matters thinly veiled in narrative conceits, with a bare bones plot spun out over many decades in between the exposition passages. It's a necessary construction for the kinds of stories KSR likes to tell, but it also appeals to a particular audience. If you like exposition, pull up a chair and pour yourself a cup of tea. If you like plot, look elsewhere.

Secondly, while he tried to make this a feminist story, he mostly failed, and in a way that felt to me utterly infuriating. His protagonist Mary, head of the Ministry for the entire novel which spans several decades, is painfully naive and ignorant. She must be schooled by all the men around her in just about everything, even the most basic functions of government and politics and climate science (you know, her job, which she presumably must have been very qualified for to be hired as the head). Even a random kidnapper sits her down and educates her about the severity of the situation, to which Mary can only repeatedly stammer, "we're doing what we can," while reacting to all of the kidnapper's facile suggestions with surprise. None of these were new or surprising; anyone employed at any level in any kind of environmental agency or organization has already heard all of them, and has almost certainly hotly debated them with colleagues. Yet Mary apparently knows none of them. Her subordinates must educate her about the basics of finance and economics as they pertain to carbon and fossil fuels. Every man she has a conversation with educates her about some novel or writer or artist or scientist she's never heard before. One might think that over the course of the novel this would be reversed somewhere, and Mary would educate them back, but no. Passive recipient she remains until the bitter end.

The writing itself is a passably serviceable science fiction style of plain, unobtrusive prose, and is fine. The voices of some of the secondary characters, particularly in the exposition sections, are often distinct and compelling. It takes a lot to hold one's interest over a 20 hour audiobook, particularly one composed largely of exposition, but it did; I listened to it over the course of a few days while working on another stitching project, and even the mini-chapters dedicated to photons and what-nots speaking for themselves kept me listening.

But back to my main point: if we indeed manage to decarbonize on a timescale that allows for the continuation of human civilization, this isn't how it will happen.

Climate change is barely present. There are a few mega-disasters to set the scene and make the point that Climate Change is Real and An Actual Problem, but otherwise, it never intrudes, and the situations in the novel rarely if ever intersect with any climate impacts. There are no unusually hot days in a Swiss winter making the characters uneasy, no plants growing or animals migrating outside of their typical season, no shortages of produce due to droughts in global food-growing regions, no expansion of disease vector ranges, no global conflicts over water or land. No one drowning in a flooded elevator or basement apartment. No one using medical devices dying due to power failures. Frank should be in a world where is in constant contact with other people suffering from climate PTSD; instead, he's the only one.

With few exceptions, all of the people in this novel are rational. When 20m people die in an Indian heat wave, India goes to war against climate change. It spurs a democratic transformation of India into global powerhouse of human rights and climate solutions. This reflects a common assumption that "once people start dying from climate impact they'll take it seriously and change." But there is no evidence of this in human nature. Look at Covid in the US: hundreds of thousands of people have died from covid; there is a free and effective vaccine widely available; yet there are mass protests against using this vaccine, some of which have led to violence. On climate, in Alberta for instance, even years after the fires that burned Fort McMurray to the ground, Albertans were largely resistant to even making their existing homes more fire-resistant; Alberta remains the province most committed to climate denial and most opposed to any climate action that risks the tar sands oil production. In BC, where historic heatwaves killed hundreds of people over a week this summer, the Conservatives--promising to reinstate the last Conservative government's carbon reduction targets of 30% by 2030, completely inadequate by scientific standards--are in a decisive lead over any party committed to climate action.

We like to think that eventually something so terrible will happen with the climate that there will be no deniers left and our governments can act decisively, but I don't think so. It's quite possible that it will get worse, not better; scared, angry people are more likely to vote Conservative, and conservative parties are less likely to support climate action. Moreover, scared, angry people are more likely to turn populist and fascist, with all the nasty consequences, including closed borders and increased conflict. The world passport idea was a nice narrative touch, but in a future marred by increasing climate crises, I can't see it happening.

Once progress is underway, there are no reversals. A 'carbon coin' is introduced globally, and amazingly, it stays. It isn't fought over for decades; there are no squabbles over minutiae of how it will work and who will administer it; no elections bring governments to power committed to opposing it. India goes to war against climate change, and stays there; no new governments are elected on a regressive platform. When Mary has one of her Significant Meetings, usually with bankers, the bankers are always of one common mind and she only has to convince them once as a group for a new policy to be implemented--and then stay implemented.

Again, I've been doing this work in these environments, though not at that level, for a long time. This is never how it works. You propose a decent measure at a meeting, and then spend the next five years arguing about it. Supporters leave to get new jobs in other companies; detractors come along slowly, and then take a different job where the policy no longer applies; key staff get sick, go on maternity leave, go back to school. A new government or Council is elected with new priorities and your committee or task force is scrapped and you have to start over. Your department is reorganized and you are now reporting to someone new who has no idea what you're talking about. Funding is cut and everyone is scared for their jobs and just keeps their head down for a while. You move a project along and hold the required public meeting and only opponents to the project show up, making it look hugely unpopular, and causing decision-makers to retract their support or water it down. You get to a decision-point and your contact in finance or procurement or communications changes, and you have to run everything by their replacement, and they want to change everything.

Scientific progress is much too convenient. The Indians try their hands at geo-engineering, and thank gods, there are no unpleasant consequences. Because.

There are no wars. None! There are already wars due to climate impacts; somehow in the future, with worsening consequences, that's all just over? How? Not one single country will, between now and the end of this century, elect a populist climate denier willing to mobilize their army to keep the oil wells flowing and the coal mines open? We have people staging violent riots over vaccines. Workers in climate fields are already subject to violent abuse online and in public; this is just going to ... go away? How? Current Canadian politicians championing climate action already receive constant death threats and need security details; somehow a UN Minister in charge of climate action for the whole world lives merrily and carefree as a private citizen for a decade or more before an assassination attempt lands her with a security detail.

[edited Sept 15 to add: today I read a recent report stating that 2020 was the most violent year ever for environmental advocates, with 227 globally killed for their activism. https://www.npr.org/2021/09/13/103657... And let's not forget assholes targeting Greta. An energy services company in Alberta sold bumper stickers threatening her with rape: https://globalnews.ca/news/6605199/al... Yet somehow the global spokeswoman for the Ministry of the Future is fine for years and only has two threats on her over decades?]

There are, however, eco-terrorists, who decisively target airplanes, guilty CEOs, and cattle farms; lots of people (and presumably cows) die, but it's ok because they were all bad people. And everyone around them just kind of rolls over and says, ok, huh, I guess oil really is over, yay solar! What? I mean ... what? You wipe out Exxon's CEO, and rather than hiring a new CEO who gets the president on the phone and demands support from the army, and then buys their own army to keep themselves and their families safe, while funding PR campaigns about how "we can't let the terrorists win, so buy a bigger car and use more gas," they just go into hiding. These guys have in real life already bought armies and killed activists in many countries. [eta: see above] Why does that stop this time?

Just Transition or no, this is not going to happen without some conflict. Smart policies will help, sure, and whatever groundwork can be laid to improve support now will mitigate and minimize that conflict. But this is going to be brutal.

The Ministry for the Future is less a novel and more a technical document outlining a possible transition pathway, modelled on a human-adjacent species with all of our convenient traits and none of our inconvenient ones.

In so much as it inspires hope or action, I'm all for it; my fear is that it will inspire apathy and complacency. Hurray! Regular people don't need to worry or do anything at all! We can just wait for a UN agency to have some difficult meetings with bankers, and a few climate tragedies to inspire a surprisingly effective and well-funded eco-terrorist campaign, and all will be well. We will still be having whisky on air flights, though not powered by jet fuel.

No one who has spent the last 18 months witnessing people bug out and turn violent when asked to wear a piece of cloth over their mouth while shopping for deodorant should be under any illusions that fundamentally rewiring the entire basis of global human society and economy will be straightforward or low-conflict.

That said, his intentions are good, and the technical side is pretty well done, so: 3 stars.
Profile Image for Lena.
1,139 reviews237 followers
January 10, 2021
“Easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism: the old saying had grown teeth and was taking on a literal, vicious accuracy.”

What we are doing is not working.

This book is filled with good ideas about how to make the wrenching change from nationalist capitalism to a global carbon aware civilization.

Everyone needs to read this book.

One of his ideas is YourLock, a non-profit Facebook with a Credit Union. Currently there is a web based non-profit Credit Union dedicated to providing Green Energy Loans: Clean Energy Credit Union.
Profile Image for Eliot Peper.
Author 12 books322 followers
October 13, 2020
The Ministry for the Future follows the scientists, diplomats, and activists working across decades and continents to forge a future you might actually want to live in from the shattered remains of a civilization on the brink. I love so many things about this novel—its sprawling future history, its rigorous picture of institutional change, its structure of feeling, its cascading collisions of big ideas—but what resonates most deeply is that this is a book about and for practical, determined people working to make a messy, complicated world better.
Profile Image for Steve.
917 reviews134 followers
December 23, 2020
Yup, I'm recommending this one as a, gee, that's pretty much a perfect book for end of 2020 (consumed, by this reader, during the waning days of the chaotic rule of the defeated, seemingly mad President, who denied climate change, rolled back environmental regulation, and withdrew the US from the Paris Agreement, ... and before the inauguration of the first President who has little choice but to make climate change one of (the transition's, and, come January, the) nation's highest priorities).

Is the book climate change dystopia? Maybe. I'll defer to others on genre and shelving. To me, it felt like Oreskes & Conway's sublime, pocket-sized, thought-provoking tour de force, The Collapse of Western Civilization, expanded from novella to full-length novel, with some human elements (and slightly more optimistic elements) built in. Frankly, we need more books like these not only on the shelves, in our libraries, in the classroom, and on assigned reading lists, but in book clubs and discussion groups and in airports and train stations ... and kitchens, etc.

But I concede that I'm giving it five (Machiavellian) stars for the same reasons that I'm going to be recommending it ... and probably buying extra copies.... And that's because stories are powerful, and for the broader reading public, fiction (even sci-fi or dystopia) is easier to digest than non-fiction. And if this book makes people read and think about climate change ... and if it moves the needle of public cognizance ever so slightly, then it's a public good and Robinson deserves our thanks. Sure, Wallace-Wells' powerful and compelling Uninhabitable Earth sold well for its genre, but no amount of teeth-pulling will result in that book being widely consumed by the public. To the extent that, say, Jahren's The Story of More is more accessible or less jarring or easier to digest, its reach (or market penetration), nonetheless, is even more limited. And, despite its poignant elegance, and even with what seems like a tsunami of literary appreciation and a Pulitzer nomination, Rush's Rising is, at best, a niche market book. So, I'm going to recommend this to anyone who is open to reading it (and, alas, isn't daunted by its size, heft, weight, etc.).

This isn't Kim Stanley Robinson's first rodeo, and, truth be told, I'm a slow, but, increasingly, less reluctant fan. I realize I'm in the minority on this, but I didn't love Red Mars, and so it was quite some time before I got to Green Mars, which I enjoyed much more, but not enough to rush out and dive into Blue Mars. And I never got around to the California books/triptych. This was far and away my favorite of his (at least so far).

I could emphasize the nits - it's probably 100+ pages too long, some of the diversions and interjections are too cute by half, some of the voices and perspectives don't resonate as well as others, and (at least for me) Robinson does better with story than people - but that's not the point. It's the right book at the right time. And I willingly add my voice to the chorus of folks recommending it.
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