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Wonkette Book Club: Chaos, Capitalism, And Saving Humanity From Itself
We're gonna read The Ministry For the Future
Heya Wonkers, the Wonkette Book Club is back, finally! Over the next few weeks, we're going to read Kim Stanley Robinson's influential 2020 climate change novel, The Ministry for the Future , which proudly proclaims right on the cover that it's among Barack Obama's favorite books of the year.
Pretty easy to see why. It's a Big Ideas novel whose first chapter takes you gently by the throat and says "Pay attention. This is important." And it is. Set in the very near future (the novel opens in the last years of this decade and goes forward several decades), Ministry for the Future imagines how humanity might finally make the changes it needs to make in order to get global warming under something like control. Spoilers: it isn't easy, and the catastrophes of an ever-warming world aren't at all downplayed. But without giving away too much, the tone by the end is one of hard-won hope. Humanity, what's left of it, survives. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.
I'm planning to have our book club posts weekly, starting next Friday, and to get started, I think we should actually read just the first chapter, because even though it's fairly short, it's a LOT. The scenario is not only plausible, but extremely likely: A massive heat wave hits India, in a perfect storm of deadly atmospheric conditions that end up killing millions. It's the kind of disaster that's very likely to hit the warmest parts of the world in the next decade or so.
I'm going to suggest you just go ahead and get a copy of the book and read Chapter One, although I'll warn you that it is haunting and gruesome, and it will stay with you (I summarized it in this recent story if you want to decide whether to take the plunge.)Update: Or as I say, you canread Chapter 1 right here at the publisher's website free for nothing. I'll add that the subsequent chapters are far more aimed at how we might tackle this monster we've made.
EDIT/UPDATE: After a glance at the comments, I hope I haven't scared off too many of you! The first chapter is devastating, but this isn't Cormac McCarthy. As the novel goes forward, the novel gets into the thorny business of actually trying to address the crisis. It's not relentless gloom, but also not Pollyanna-ish "cool tech will save us" either. No flying cars, no giant robots, no technology that we don't already have.
If you want to read beyond that first chapter, go for it, there is never a penalty for reading ahead. We're not that kind of book club, for heaven's sake. And for that matter, you're entirely welcome to participate in the chat if you haven't done the reading, this isn't a class.
Also, after you've read the chapter, check out this interview with Robinson at Slate, too. Lisa Simpson-style overachievers are encouraged to read this more in-depth interview with Robinson at the MIT Press Reader. Terrific observation by Robinson:
I think it’s very important to emphasize science fiction’s double action, as both prophecy and metaphor for our present. As prophecy, SF is always wrong; as metaphor, it is always right, being an expression of the feeling of the time of writing.
So there's your homework for a week from now: Chapter One, and one or both interviews. You shouldn't have too much trouble finding a copy of Ministry for the Future; used and library copies are fine, or if you wanna get it through our Amazon linky here, Yr Wonkette will get a tiny cut of the sales.
I haven't yet scheduled out how long we'll be reading this sucker; I'm thinking we should be able to finish it off in three or four weeks tops, since after next week we'll go a lot faster than one chapter at a time. I'm looking forward to book clubbing with you all!
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