Kim Stanley Robinson’s new speculative fiction novel, The Ministry for the Future, is revelatory. The breadth of imagination, depth of scholarship on climate change science, and international movements to organize nations to respond to it–plus a complex plot and range of characters–I finish reading each chapter with renewed awe. That includes the one-page, sometimes one paragraph, chapters with a voice for the market, history, and even a carbon atom. With each of these unique stopping points, the author offers us an invitation to rethink our place in the whole huge planetary system, or how we make history, or the long, long arm of time in which we are but a flash.
Robinson has written at least 26 other books. Yes prolific. And successful. He has won numerous awards and been on the New York Times bestseller list for most of his books.
The Ministry for the Future is an agency created at The United Nations Conference of the Parties in 2024 to operate independently to protect the futures of unborn generations and all the living plants and animals without a voice to advocate for the future. [For reference the upcoming Conference of the Parties (COP) is scheduled for Glasgow in November. It is COP26. I am currently reading the book during COP48 (2043).]
The novel is contemporary and that makes it relevant. Robinson is charting the possible course of humanity over the next couple decades. That makes it a page-turner. The author delves into the monetary system, global movements in Africa, Europe, and smaller island nations. Shit happens as the saying goes. Each time there is breakdown of a system or a climate catastrophe, or millions of people who refuse to repay their student loans, possibilities open up or, there is at least a potentiation for something good. Sometimes several things, like a market crash coupled with political movements in Africa, and climate imperatives result in a shift in the global mind so that people opposed to certain ideas now consider them. It moves like a train without a conductor but its path seems sure. And we are all passengers (human and nonhuman) and collectively our presence, thoughts and actions are steering it.
The first line in the book. “It was getting hotter.”
It’s probably unwise to review a book while still reading it, but folks, I think it is so important that I needed to stop reading to alert you, and to beg you to read it. Then we should talk!
Scroll to the bottom of this page for the YouTube video review of The Ministry by the Bioneers. Or link here.