The Ministry for the Future

Book cover image Kim Stanley RobinsonThe Ministry for the Future

Kim Stanley Robinson

Hachette, October 2020.

The Ministry for the Future is a year old but it took me most of the year to discover it and read it, and now, with COP26 imminent, I feel an urgent need to share it with as many people as possible.

Sadly, I can’t find the time to give it the attention it deserves so I am resorting (as I have before) to a meta-review: extracts of reviews by writers who say between them what I would have liked to have said myself.

The conclusion of this short review by Mark Yon for SFFWorld.com will serve as an introduction to the longer pieces:

Whilst it could be said that Ministry for the Future is a political agenda dressed-up as fiction, my abiding feeling at the end is that it shows hope – a sensible and rational way out of the mess we live in – and reflects a heartfelt belief that sensible people, wanting to do the best for as many people as they can, can work in difficult situations to make the world a better place. And at the moment, with all of the political and environmental chaos going on around us, it is therefore the novel we need.

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Beyond Climate Grief

book cover imageBeyond Climate Grief

Jonica Newby

NewSouth, 2021

Jonica Newby, best known as a presenter for the ABC’s science show Catalyst, fell into depression a few years ago when the fate of her beloved alpine landscape in a warming world suddenly hit home.

After a break to rebalance she decided to use her skills to “science the shit out of it” to work her way back towards normality. As she did so, she met many climate scientists who were struggling with the same grief at the inexorable loss of their own special places, and with psychologists who could explain how best to deal with the emotional burden.

She began writing in October 2019 and was soon forced by the horrific bushfires of that summer to expand her project to include managing immediate trauma. This book is the result. To be clear, it is not about climate change or climate science (Newby knows, and we know, enough about that already) but about how we can best cope with the ongoing and seemingly inevitable collapse of the natural world we love.   Continue reading “Beyond Climate Grief”

Kotler: Last Tango in Cyberspace

cover of Last Tango in CyberspaceLast Tango in Cyberspace

Steven Kotler, 2019

Last Tango In Cyberspace is near-future hard SF. Its protagonist, Lion Zorn, freelances as a trend-spotter, looking for ‘the next big thing’ for industry. His contract with a pharmaceutical company seems to be about designer drugs but a deeper agenda gradually emerges, and it is one which aligns the novel with Green Path’s concerns about wildlife conservation and animal rights.

That could easily make it over-serious but in fact it’s very smart, fast-moving and often funny. It’s hard to say much more without giving away spoilers, so I’m merely going to recommend the book, especially to those who enjoy William Gibson’s work.

Kotler was new to me but has a decent record as a journalist and nonfiction author, and this is his second novel. His first seems to have owed too much to The Da Vinci Code to be worth tracking down, but his third should be worth looking out for.

People in Australia before the Europeans arrived

In the middle of last year I compiled Where Did We Come From?,  a  sequence of articles and links about the evolution of our own species from the time we diverged from other apes up to the last few tens of thousands of years.

The last few articles in that sequence focused on Australia, and later additions crept ever closer to our own time. In the interests of making all the material more manageable, this post is its Australian content with some further additions. As before, it is arranged chronologically.

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Colly Campbell – The Capricorn Sky

book coverThe Capricorn Sky

Colly Campbell (author page)

Stringybark, 2020

There’s a lot to like in The Capricorn Sky but unfortunately there’s more than a little to dislike, too. Let’s get the negatives out of the way first.

It’s Campbell’s first novel (nothing wrong with that) and it’s self-published. The book’s unpolished design (fonts, text spacing, etc) sends up the first warning signals and suggests immediately that it has missed out on the benefit of experienced editorial eyes and hands. Furthermore, Campbell has chosen to write in an invented future English in which hyphenated words are replaced by camelCase, “qu” by “qw” (qwite, qwiet, etc), and there are other neologisms and re-spellings. He probably intended that it would help place the action where it’s set, at the end of this century. It’s a tactic which can work well in the hands of an experienced writer (Burgess’s Clockwork Orange and Hoban’s Riddley Walker come to mind) but this reader, for one, found it merely distracting.

And that’s a pity, because Campbell has set a good story in a worryingly plausible future North Queensland.

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