SF bookshelf

Jeff Vandermeer’s latest deserves at least a short review but it has a lot in common with Slow River, a re-issue in the SF Masterworks series, so I thought I should write about that at the same time. Slow River in turn connects to an intriguing anthology of newer short SF, so here we go.

Hummingbird Salamander

Vandermeer book cover Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff Vandermeer (2021, Harper Collins) was described on the back cover as, “An intellectual mindf*ck disguised as a thriller,” and by the time I finished it I was inclined to agree.

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The Arbornaut

Arbornaut coverPart of my reason for writing about Tahune Airwalk (previous post) was its connection to a book that came my way recently, The Arbornaut by Meg Lowman (Allen & Unwin, 2021).

Lowman is a field biologist whose unique contribution to botany was to realise that trying to understand the biology of trees by looking only at their trunks was futile and developing ways of getting up into the trees’ crowns to study them – first by using a slingshot to set up climbing ropes, then by coming up with the idea of a high footbridge through the rainforest canopy.

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The Windup Girl

Paolo Bacigalupi book cover Another meta-review?

The Ministry for the Future was the last book I treated in this way. It, too, was a dystopian vision but other than that the two books have little in common, except that both have been very highly recommended by all sorts of people.

The Wind-up Girl is twelve years old, not one, and was a first novel, not the latest of many from an acknowledged master. Perhaps more importantly for the reader, the Ministry is somewhat nerdy and the Girl is a cracking thriller.

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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”