Hurricane Fever is one of the largest literary disappoints I’ves suffered through in a long while. To be clear, the book is perfectly acceptable, action oriented, fast paced, and the setting and plot are solid if not exceptional in some parts. The focus on more action driven, pragmatic characters even manages to shield the novel from the preachy exposition of most other climate related works. The Caribbean setting and the boat centric travel of the book, show a world that is both geographically and socially adapted to a new climate which brings me to the disappointment.
Everything in this book is palpable and vibrant. The land masses the movements, even the buildings are easily internalized and projected, allowing the reader to place the characters in an environment that feels natural. With all of this close and intricate detail any well written character could be made fascinating with minimal effort. The smallest amount of personality would echo off of each new situation eventually filling the space with one phrase that is large enough to carry that character’s existence within the story. Basically, any regular character can be made interesting by this world. Even one note character would be memorable due to an infinite amount of unknowable changes and situations that can be provided by the book’s universe.
Sadly, the characters of Hurricane Fever sort of miss the singular note they were intended to play and become either plot fodder or props. I didn’t feel anything towards any of the book’s central figures, I didn’t hate them, I didn’t like them; they weren’t unique, bad, or funny. They were just words, descriptions without any emotion. Normally, I hate exposition, or long breaks in the plot where the characters spend hours discussing the most boring aspects of their lives as a means to be accessible, but Hurricane Fever needed something endearing to happen and for sincerity to result.
Is it possible to be a benevolent and powerful leader? Does acting against something evil automatically make the actions themselves good? When we rebuild from rubble to sky while we use the same designs. These are my mild Atwood induced philosophical questions. The Year of the Flood, from its title to one of its most memorable characters, floats in allegory. /
The question that keeps gnawing at my brain is how much freedom is there in religion and how much freedom can we give it? If the routine and life of a garden and a charismatic leader allow you to fend off the pain of everything else and provide you with both security and perceived safety do the sources’ intention matter? And most importantly, does a man’s allegiance fall to his kin or to his god. It’s the idea of separation and individualism that strikes me about both religion and by extension Atwood’s The Year of the Flood.
It is my belief that the Atwood doesn’t think that the God’s Gardeners are to be ridiculed. They are people facing an unbelievable challenge by trying to structure their world in some way. Adam One is a man who believes that he is providing this structure by means of divinity. However, there is no question of who is in charge and whose views are to be agreed with, so the structured area becomes more sanitarium than sanctuary. The religious answers become doctrine, and sentiments of caring become lessons and warnings.
Now the themes of religion, influence, and maturing may seem better suited to a low-budget indie film, but they are the backbone of the climate debate. More accurately they are the reason that we are having a debate about a fact as if will power can change physics. The immediate des ri
community, and acceptance creates a vacuum of doubt and defensiveness. In a way our cult is one of denial, many of us worry about our immediate goals and them. We build our arks to transport only our ideals. However, we build arks with mud because we despise the effort of fashioning wood and why we can’t argue our boats afloat.
I wouldn’t say that Forty Signs of Rain is a genre-blending book, but that’s only because I’m not sure I could define the exact elements of each genre involved and where blending occurs. It is a story that rests in its own category and presents a realistic portrait of it’s characters and arcs without following any strict stylistic rules.
Sometimes, this lack of constraints ends up hurting the novels literary pursuits. The plot stalls at some points and jumps abruptly to others. Frank seems to be confused about whether he is an emotionally attached observer or a passionate activist and while this makes sense in the context of human complexity it makes it hard to identify with him. Anna and the rest of the characters all seem to behave similarly, they’re passionate about the research they do, the change they want to see, and the dangers that may occur, but they are always composed to some degree.
The behavior makes sense and the homogenous personalities also seem fitting for a group of people with shared goals and interests. It is realistic and even intuitive and that’s the problem. Characters sometimes take drastic measures (repelling from rooftops and tracking down women that they barely know) but these measures are methodical. If the characters were given dramatized personalities that differed from each other, the book may have seemed a little more cohesive and the pacing may have been more natural and intuitive.
Character consistency does help the plot in a lot of ways that make the themes more prominent and the actual events more tangible. The hard science of the novel and the detached nature of it’s scientists show the problems that the real world has with climate-related policy. The people who are most aware of the dangerous consequences are unable to bend and sacrifice their analytical methods. While, the opposition is untethered to rigor and validity and able to use rhetoric and manipulation in ways that the scientific community either can’t or won’t.
The problem is that we have no idea what the exact outcome of our excess will be and all of our warnings are given theoretically and without the full conviction and vigor that is consistent with today’s political arguments. There is little poetry in the explanations of atmospheric damage and rising sea levels. We aren’t moved to action because we haven’t felt fright or dread on an emotional level. We know what will happen and why we should change, but that kick of pure instinct just hasn’t happened.
Frank would most likely agree with all of the above sentiments which is one of the reasons that I really like the book and don’t consider it’s narrative roadblocks as true mistakes. It is the book that it needs to be and while this approach may not yield the best literature or the most effective tool of propaganda, it makes for a cohesion on an intellectual level that the genre of science fiction needs.
Flight Behavior earns its name, whether it’s the housewife, Dellarobia, running towards a new man, the monarchs flying to a new home, or the comment on social class when poor Appalachian women is told to help the environment by flying less.
While the butterfly migration stands out as the frequent flyer, it is important to remember the other definitions of the word flight, the more fitting description of flight in the context of the fight, Flight can be an escape from the confines of unrelenting and imminent disaster.
Dellarobia flees her husband when her husband becomes or is recognized as an inescapable force of benign intent but infuriating character. She can see no other way to salvation besides the first one she finds and in her desperation marches towards an ill-advised affair. He monarchs face an unknown and changed weather that leads them to one area of safety, they have no idea that they’ve committed to death and believe that the path that they’ve taken will save them.
Civilization faces a similar problem. Many of us feel the hunger pains and search for the first sign of food without thinking of the consequences. When those pains are no longer there; we still remember them vivid as day. We also remember that the world can make you hungry again, we’ve seen or been the victim of a closed factory an outsourced department. The hunger is always there and the fear of that life is a prison.
Telling civilization to endure hunger and work to prevent something that we do not know seems reasonable when that hunger is for a new car or a new house. But, the hunger to keep the crumbling house together, the hunger of choosing whether stealing is justified if it’s to feed your child, those we can feel. How do you explain to someone that they need to vote against a new factory and a consistent income in favor of clean air that they’re too anxious to enjoy?
Flight Behavior brings the beauty of the temporary salvation into the conversation on climate change; it shows the reasoning behind our sins and the ignorance that caused them, along with the fear of losing everything. Then it shows the truth behind our fears. We’re running from an attack and into a busy street. We will hunger and hurt, but if we do not, we will not survive.
Ish is one of the few survivors of a world ending plague. He awakes in the hospital to a world where civilization has died out and left only scattered pockets of humanity. He must develop and adapt in order to become a leader and establish a new world for humanity. The land must be tamed the communities must be rebuilt and the wilderness that was once only a matter of curiosity must now be battled and tamed. It is one of the most common templates for an epic tale. Ordinary man meets extraordinary circumstance and becomes a hero because he must to survive. Eventually, said hero finds the love of his life in some odd place and they complement each other and allow the slight faults that each shows to be overcome and bring out the best in one and other allowing them both to survive and become better human beings whilst creating a better society.
Well, the thing about Earth Abides is that Ish isn’t necessarily the most heroically minded individual. When Ish meets his moments for extraordinary deeds he just treats them like he’s getting milk from the store. He’s apathetic to a near sociopathic level, treating everything as a thought experiment instead of a reality. He even says that he is an academic and spends most of his time exploring and observing with no real urgency.
Eventually, Ish stumbles into a new civilization and decided that it’s probably a good idea to do some sort of rebuilding/survival related activities. He also gets a wife in that he doesn’t like all that much, debates about whether he should reboot slavery, practices a little bit of eugenics and lets the power, water and pretty much every other useful tool left behind decay and break with the exception of his trusty hammer.
He could use his ecological knowledge to develop a superior society in a world devoid of scarcity that is a blank slate ready to be molded into an environmentally symbiotic wonderland where people and nature are one. He could use his limitless time and resources to read the thousands of books that explain how to maintain and utilize the tools that the world has left behind. He could read books on philosophy and create a society that is fair and devoid of the evils of man.
However, Ish just keeps stumbling along as if he’s working a 9-5 job doing the least amount of work possible.
Enough to keep everyone alive but nothing more. He attempts to teach the new generation literacy and other academic minded practices but ends up writing off the process and just teaches the one kid that he sort of relates to.
Eventually, we come to the end of some trials passed with a solid C- average and Ish hopes that the new civilization will be better than the one left behind. This is the same civilization that Ish could have shaped, taught, and guided. But, he doesn’t concern himself with these things just hopes that things will be better and moves on.
Ish is no hero but he is the perfect protagonist if your goal as a writer is to represent the nature and concerns of humanity during the time period. He relies on what he has and reacts when he must growing accustomed to whatever is left. He hopes things will change as an ideal but doesn’t fight to achieve any of the aspects of the ideal world he sort of imagines. He allows the forces that can take control to do so and basically just lives within those constraints.
While the story itself may be dry and boring, the realism of a culture that floats along the surface of a world that seems too powerful to control or affect in any substantial way is a true and unique in the world of fiction. While science fiction writers are known for their social and political satire, they tend to imagine the worst cast scenarios and their books serve as warnings against the evils of mankind and the doom that it heralds. Earth Abides is more scientific realism than fiction and while the action may not be particularly dramatic it’s incites are incredibly interesting.
Climate Changed is one of those concepts that plays itself out. The material, the medium, the subject, all move together in the best possible ways: Graphic novel to depict the reality of the situation without seeming hyperbolic, informed/researched topic established and defended against its more vocal opponents, and a story of personal growth and introspection to invest the reader. All the author has to do is load the gun and shot the fish that he’s managed to wrangle up into his barrel.
Well, the magic of ego, self-pity, or pessimism managed to knock the gun out of his hand causing it to misfire into an oxygen tank. Now we’re left with a bunch of free fish, the remnants of a promising barrel, a sinking ship, and a cantankerous artist trying to stay afloat. Although, that scenario might be a little too active to be compared to climate changed. Perhaps a better analogy would have the author staring at the barrel for a few hundred pages while he reads about the history of barrel making and ultimately decides that fish are impervious to bullets.
Every brilliant idea in Climate Changed is boiled down into its least palatable state and mashed together with a pessimistic outlook and a disdain towards purpose.
The material consists of well-drawn scenarios and informative pages that weave in and out of autobiographical portraits commenting on the book. However, these moments of clarity are drowned in huge walls of text that illustrate various experts explaining the concepts and complexities of global warming and climate change. If the reader is lucky enough they can even experience a few pages of the author drawing himself, thinking about the walls of text, that he has drawn and giving exposition on how it makes him feel. When he’s not reflecting on his own work (that he is in the process of making) he’s introducing the act of him coming up with the idea to do whatever it is he is about to do. The Katrina, Fast Food, and economic portions are fantastic, but the sheer volume of redundancy that separates them makes it almost impossible to read that far into the story.
Any hope that the author had of exploiting the unique venue of graphic novels to create a more satisfying end is lost after the first 100 pages. We get an insightful frame story that shows how little the author (and by proxy the reader) knows about global warming. A solution is made: let’s take the same infographics that we’ve been seeing for years, coupled with the same dry explanations we’ve been ignoring for years, and punctuate them with illustrations of events and consequences that we’ve been sharing and forgetting for years. In the end, we’re left with a compartmentalized collection of the highlights of climate change.
Now if you’re an optimist you’re still hoping that the author is growing as a person and a narrator during his quest for knowledge. I mean he gave us a problem and went into detail about its causes and what needs to be done, he’d have to go out of his way to avoid coming to some sort of conclusion or statement that reflects the past 430 pages of work.
Well optimists you are correct, he indeed does literally go out of his way into a forest atop a remote hill and declares that change is almost certainly an impossibility. He doesn’t see anything that we as individuals can do to help.
Hold on though, this is some postmodern, neo-new artistic type stuff, the ideas and results and content must be layered. Right? I mean who would write a 430-page book about something that is wrong in the world and have no intent or purpose behind it. Maybe he’s commenting on how defeated we are and the problems that this attitude causes? Yeah, that’s it, giant metaphor meant to document the struggle to not act in comparison to the logic of acting towards a solution. Well, maybe that was complex but at least he got us to think and change by creating something he truly believed would help.
Actually, no, the author in a later interview says that he doesn’t believe his book or any form of media can change anything in the world. So, no layers, just a spread out piece of narcissistic sadness printed on 430 pages of ironic former trees.
Possible Alternative Titles: An Inconvenient Truth Part Deux: We’re Pretty Much Screwed
The Time Machine is what happens when a writer attempts to establish a new genre without much of a reference point. The ideas are all there and ready to be arranged, but there’s no guideline to determine what the arranged ideas will do and whether they’ll all work.
The eponymous device is given a clunky explanation that doesn’t make sense if you spend more than 30 seconds thinking about what you just read. . The whole scene is Socrates-lite with 1-dimensional characters constructed to be cannon fodder for the chapter of pure exposition. All we know of them is their professions and whatever robotic responses they have to the “scientist’s” theories on physics. Each new voice says something that allows an easy rebuttal (in this case ‘rebuttal’ means geometric word salad from, a manic man who would have trouble make a vinegar and baking soda volcano.
The idea of Victorian intellectuals gathering to listen to themselves talk about things they half understand is based in reality but I’m skeptical about approx. 4-8 people sharing one brain.
HG Wells was a degree wielding biologist who knew his way around a little bit of Darwin. Which explains the Darwinist views of the Narrator. What isn’t explained is why the narrator’s theories make it seem like he skimmed The Origin of Species on the toilet a couple times. He seems to just blend clumsy misunderstood passages from the book together with some Gulliver’s Travels in the same way that one would blend a cheeseburger and a milkshake.
So we have a protagonist who thinks that 800,000 years ahead is a good beta test for time travel and decides to prepare fewer provisions than a suburban family driving to Orlando. It’s important to note that this man is our only source of information on the complexities and details of an Earth far different than the one we know. So when he informs us on the habits of life forms that he believes used to be human (because um…science?) it’s important to remember that we are dealing with a man who decided ivory embellishments were more important than food or fresh water.
However, if we can look past all that, we get a pretty interesting social critique that doesn’t come to any easy conclusions. One race has become communal and placid to near atrophy. The audience isn’t sure why this happens, but we’re told that it may be because of too much relaxation and Jimmy Buffett CD’s or something like that. Combine this with the frame story and you get a nice critique of the upper class and the death of necessity.
Then we get a more primal life form that eats the other guys because apparently no one thought that animals or agriculture should exist, and they need caloric fuel to fiddle with things for no discernable reason.
Then Crabs, followed by a blob and a dying sun that somehow doesn’t burn our protagonist to a cinder.
So, simple story, social commentary that Jon Swift would find heavy handed, illogical and destructive “genius” protagonist, and a future that makes no sense. One may begin to question why anyone would even own this book. Until they read any book, watch any television show, or catch any movie made about the future in the post-Wells world of art. We’ve added the character development, some plot, and science to the work, but we still used HG’s guide to Sci-fi.
The only reason I feel the need to relentlessly pick on The Time Machine is because praising the ingenuity would be redundant in a world built around the ideas of the book. The idea that technology can go too far, or that it can stop too short wasn’t something people had been writing about and the use of the days technology to great a fantastic tomorrow are revolutionary. The mixture of tradition and modern literature makes for an entirely new experience that is underwhelming because of how successful its offspring have become.
Wells wrote a mediocre book that’s full of extraordinary promises that would later be fulfilled by thousands of other authors.