The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson [9/10]

One of the most renegade novels I’ve read over the last couple of years, and one of the most stellar, “The Ministry for the Future” offers a weighty, panoramic, yet entertaining climate change tale of the near future. Kim Stanley Robinson is rightly lauded as a hard science fiction author and here he extrapolates one possible future for our planet in the Anthropocene Era. Robinson takes a polymath approach to his futurism, covering all aspects of the climate emergency – heat, wildfires, flooding, storms, food shortages, mass migrations – plus economic theory, climate justice, bitcoins, global geopolitics, and much more. His writing is playful, almost disconcertingly so at the outset, often diverging into idiosyncratic scenes from the viewpoint of an unusual object, once even a photon. Inevitably, facts need to be dumped again and again, as the world progresses through the decades of the 2100s, and as a reader, you’ll either be engrossed by the data or intrigued by Robinson’s take on it. Geoengineering is brilliantly tackled in a very hard sci-fi manner, but evocatively. All of this sounds ponderous but the novel bounces along primarily in the viewpoint of Mary Murphy, head of a new UN body called the Ministry for the Future, charged with evangelizing for future and present citizens within the unfolding climate catastrophe. She is a wonderful feisty, smart, Irish character, just the vehicle for the overall arc of the narrative, but the author also offers brilliant minor scenes from the perspective of refugees, peasants, scientists, and other participants. If you’re not yet convinced that The Ministry of the Future is both a major hard science fiction odyssey (I was reminded of John Brunner’s classic Stand on Zanzibar) and a storytelling feat par excellence, just sample the opening bravura scene set in drought stricken India.

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