I am a fan of Kim Stanley Robinson’s writing – see my reviews of Aurora and 2312. His habit of pushing the envelope regarding the structures of his novels, as well as his intelligent take on what is going on, and what is likely to happen, makes him required reading. I have included the complete blurb, even the hype which I normally delete, because it makes it clear what this isn’t, as much as what it is. For this isn’t some disaster, post-apocalyptic adventure. It’s far more original and thought-provoking…
BLURB: 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.
REVIEW: I initially struggled with this near future, cli-fi novel – I’m all too aware of what we’re not doing and where it’s likely to lead. So at times, the first quarter of this hefty tome made for harrowing reading – especially the terrible heatwave in India. Fortunately, Stanley Robinson isn’t interested in depicting apocalyptic outcomes – he’s far more interested in exploring ways Humanity can find ways out of the crisis we’ve boxed ourselves into. And this book, discussing our broken global fiscal system and uncontrolled capitalism, brings into being a Ministry For the Future, headed up by a gutsy lady, Mary Murphy.
She is the main protagonist in this sprawling, multi-viewpoint book that jumps across the globe, looking at a wide variety of possible fixes to sequester carbon, get our global temperatures headed back downwards, repair our eco-systems and rewild swathes of the world. While it doesn’t tip into a horrorfest of a destroyed civilisation, neither is it some wafty, unrealistic take on human nature – the bankers running the world’s finances are all but frog-marched into doing the right thing, for instance.
And if you’re wondering how the above turns into a tight, pacey story the keeps the pages turning – it doesn’t. Stanley Robinson doesn’t subscribe to providing the usual ingredients – while I quite like Mary, she isn’t innately appealing – too driven, self possessed, and frequently angry. But there’s no real overarching narrative, as the story keeps jumping from one scenario to the other and a few sections are just pure self indulgence – nope, I don’t want to read a first-person narrative from anything at a cellular level…
So why didn’t I hurl this one across the room for such nonsense? Partly, because the man can write. The prose is always punchy and readable. But mostly because the ideas he posits for possible fixes just keep coming… and coming… and coming. I’m fervently hoping that right now, there are committees not dissimilar to The Ministry For the Future – with futurists providing all sorts of ideas, scientific, sociological and societal to get us out of the looming climactic and environmental catastrophe we’re heading for. And that Kim Stanley Robinson is a member of at least one of them. Because if we are to get through the rest of this century as a species, we certainly need the kind of encompassing raft of changes Stanley Robinson advocates in this ambitious, thought provoking book. Highly recommended for anyone interested in looking at how to get the world out of the mess we’re in… While I obtained an arc of The Ministry For the Future via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.