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Wonkette Book Club Part 2: Hope To Do Some Good, No Matter How F*cked Up You Are
Kim Stanley Robinson's The Ministry For The Future, Week 2
We're now into our second week with Kim Stanley Robinson's 2020 climate novel, The Ministry for the Future , which started off with that apocalyptic imagining of a deadly heat wave in India and is now building some of the many plot lines that will play out as the UN's Ministry for the Future — darned if we're looking up the official name Robinson gives it — sets out to make sure that there's a survivable human future to inhabit for generations not yet born.
We meet Mary Murphy, the head of the office, and her staff, and get glimpses of what happened to Frank May, the American who was the sole survivor in the fictional city where everyone died in the heat. He's got PTSD and a murderous streak, it turns out, but when it comes down to it, the Indian climate activists/terror cell the "Children of Kali" don't want an addled foreigner in their ranks, and working on his own, Frank can't bring himself to shoot a "climate criminal" who was definitely part of the business regime that continues to strangle the world with greenhouse emissions.
We're also getting a lot of brief glimpses of how the unfolding climate catastrophe is tearing people and countries apart, plus lots of information on economics and science. I like how the chapters skip around that way, even if at times it's sometimes a bit clunky — it's almost like an epistolary novel, only with many other prose formats beyond letters.
So let's talk! You guys were so terrific in our first discussion last week (having the first chapter free on the publisher's website helped!), so I'm looking forward to what you think of the novel as it unfolds. I have a few discussy questions for your Disqus-y discourse, but don't feel compelled to only talk about them; there's a LOT in this book. Yeah, spoilers are kind of a given, too. This is not a suspense novel anyway.
1: What do you think of Frank's unfolding story so far? He tries to be a terrorist and fails, but then succeeds when he wasn't trying to kill someone important, instead just bludgeoning an obnoxious nouveau riche guy, who, as Frank said, was part of the problem but not a major player. What do you think of Frank's attempt to convince Mary to embrace violence? This will be a running question in the book, so while theWonkette comments policy remains in effect, yeah, let's talk about the efficacy of possible violence in the climate fight, in the novel, and what you think may unfold in the world. No, this is not carte blanche permission to fantasize about torturing oil executives, you sick bunnies.
2: India says "fuck it" and takes its own action, using tanker aircraft to spray sulfur particles high in the atmosphere, cooling the planet for about four years as a major volcanic eruption would. It's a breakdown of the Paris process, and India says "hell yes, we're owed this much because 20 million people died." How likely do you think rogue efforts like that might be in the real world?
3: Whaddya think of the novel's structure so far? It works for me, and most of the different perspectives seem plausible, although we'll soon get to a goofy chapter that's a bit too cartoony for my tastes.
4: Here,go read this New York Times gift linky about a study that attempts to model how a multi-day power outage during a heat wave would affect several US cities, particularly Phoenix. Holy shit. This was more of a comment than a question.
5: How are you thinking about climate? What do you do to avoid despair or to recharge your supply of activist energy?
OK, that's good for starters! I'll be checking in all weekend to see how the discussion goes, I'm really jazzed about the interest this book has generated!
Your assignment for next Friday is to read through Chapter 50, a bit less than the goal for this week. Please feel free to say in the comments (which we do not allow) whether the reading pace is too fast, too slow, or just Goldilocky.
And if you haven't read the book or finished the "assigned" reading, always feel free to join the conversation. It's not a class and there won't be a quiz. Also, no worries about spoilers, since for the most part this is an idea-driven book, not a plot-driven one.
The one rule I am going to enforce strictly for this post is that, to keep the conversation focused, I will remove any off topic comments and ask you to save 'em for the open thread in less than a half hour, yeesh, hold your water please. I'd honestly like to keep the conversation going all weekend, and if you wanna come back and say more, please do so!
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