I really liked this book a lot. I found the book to be incredibly engaging, especially since the characters were relatable and real. I liked that reading it was not a chore, and I actually finished it rather quickly. The parts I liked most about the book were indeed the characters, and not necessarily the actually plot. I found the plot to be rather humdrum in some places, in particular any time we got an “inside look” at NSF, something I never want again. I think that Kim Stanley Robinson does a really good job of setting up a Washington D.C. that is very familiar to us, but at the same time slightly different. He never gives us a date or a time for this story, so there is nothing to say that it isn’t tomorrow. The “near-future” genre of sci-fi that he chooses to work with is interesting to me, this genre allows the reader to feel a part of the story more so than someone reading a book about a time that they may never live through. It is very possibly, practical in fact that we will see climate related weather changes in our life times. That is what makes this book so gripping. There is an interesting interplay amongst the politics and science of the book, and that is interesting to read for someone who knows very little about both.
The book does not however, make science more fun, enjoyable, or entertaining. I found a lot of the scientists in the book to be big headed, and very annoying, for lack of a better word. They all seem to suffer from a complex of “what I’m doing is more important than what you’re doing, and everyone needs to listen to me”, they honestly would be better off not speaking sometimes. The science of the book is interesting, but only to an extent, and when I say interesting I know that makes it sound like it wasn’t boring, as they are opposites, but the science was interesting in the way that a documentary about the production of cheese is interesting, mildly at best. The science-stricken parts did not however turn me off entirely to the book because I liked seeing how different characters reacted to the same stimuli, or facts.
A rather interesting part for me was the wide variety of characters in this book. We have, to name a few, shaman from the island nation of Khembalung, senators, world-renowned scientists, power-couple Anna and Charlie, and Frank the asshole. These characters show a wide variety of opinions and views about the matters discussed in the book, and I’m rather curious as to why Robinson did not make a bigger deal out of the shaman. I found them to be fascinating, perhaps because this is a trilogy, but the information that Charlie uncovers about them towards the end of the book when trapped in his office is one of the most interesting parts of the story, and its forty pages before the end of the book. I would actually consider reading Fifty Degrees Below merely to find out whether or not Joe is a reincarnated shaman with magic powers, because that is certainly the impression I got from the ending of the book. The other characters are all contrasting kinds of scientific expression; we have Frank, the stubborn rationalist who is slightly misogynistic. We also have Anna, who is a wonderful scientist who also cares deeply about the issues at hand and the science behind them, and then we have Charlie, who is more of an extremist or radical, caring almost too much about the issue to actually affect change. These different types of personalities had to be purposeful because they are very well constructed to contrast each other and show the different perspective of the story from.
I think that this book connects most to class when we consider that there is nothing being done about climate change until it is actually at the president’s doorstep. This is what we have been saying in class all along. There will be nothing done until the president has to swim over to air force one to evacuate, and that is the sad truth. This book brings home a lot of the points we’ve discussed and captures the real issues of climate change very well.