The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson
When I read this book about a week ago at first I had no idea that it would be a balm for the fear of the future that I feel all the time. The title is prosaic and uninviting on the surface but the idea of an agency that has as its responsibility the protection of future people and future living beings became larger as I read deeper into the book. I’ve read and admired Kim Stanley Robinson before but never understood that the sanity of his writing could give me such a journey as this. It is clever and learned to say that there is no one like so-and-so as a writer, but in this case there is a completeness to the fact. Robinson writes about whole planets and their evolution but not in the sense of a Stapledon, from an impossible height. His scope is simply planetary. He immerses himself in people, accepts the horrors of their situation, and methodically, painstakingly, sometimes ploddingly, explores the ways that they – we – cope with what happens to us. In this case he is writing about the subject that is central to all of us, the fact that climate change will drastically alter our near future. He begins with a heatwave that kills twenty million people and moves forward into a complex, world-spanning reaction that is detailed over years and decades. He narrates a way forward into what seems impossible. His vision is neither rosy nor bleak. Step by step the novel shows what might be possible if we take difficult, necessary, and sometimes odious action. Such is the sanity of his writing that when he touches on acts of violence and retribution there is a feeling of inevitability to it all. Because he is the author of his world he can manipulate it toward the end that he chooses, but even when he shows his hand I am still soothed and carried forward with him through the most difficult near future I can imagine. Whether it is a great book or not – and I do think it is – it was absolutely a book I needed to read.