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Established in 2025, the purpose of the new organization was simple: To advocate for the world's future generations and to protect all living creatures, present and future. It soon became known as the Ministry for the Future, and this is its story. From legendary science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson comes a vision of climate change unlike any ever imagined. Told entir Established in 2025, the purpose of the new organization was simple: To advocate for the world's future generations and to protect all living creatures, present and future. It soon became known as the Ministry for the Future, and this is its story. From legendary science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson comes a vision of climate change unlike any ever imagined. Told entirely through fictional eye-witness accounts, The Ministry For The Future is a masterpiece of the imagination, the story of how climate change will affect us all over the decades to come. Its setting is not a desolate, post-apocalyptic world, but a future that is almost upon us - and in which we might just overcome the extraordinary challenges we face. It is a novel both immediate and impactful, desperate and hopeful in equal measure, and it is one of the most powerful and original books on climate change ever written.


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Established in 2025, the purpose of the new organization was simple: To advocate for the world's future generations and to protect all living creatures, present and future. It soon became known as the Ministry for the Future, and this is its story. From legendary science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson comes a vision of climate change unlike any ever imagined. Told entir Established in 2025, the purpose of the new organization was simple: To advocate for the world's future generations and to protect all living creatures, present and future. It soon became known as the Ministry for the Future, and this is its story. From legendary science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson comes a vision of climate change unlike any ever imagined. Told entirely through fictional eye-witness accounts, The Ministry For The Future is a masterpiece of the imagination, the story of how climate change will affect us all over the decades to come. Its setting is not a desolate, post-apocalyptic world, but a future that is almost upon us - and in which we might just overcome the extraordinary challenges we face. It is a novel both immediate and impactful, desperate and hopeful in equal measure, and it is one of the most powerful and original books on climate change ever written.

30 review for The Ministry for the Future

  1. 4 out of 5

    Claudia

    I don’t know what happened that I didn’t like his last two novels, New York 2140 and Red Moon, but this one is the KSR that I love: bold, intriguing, with surprising and daring ideas. It’s in the spirit of Science in the Capital trilogy, but much better and more audacious in its purpose. It’s year 2025. In January, a new organization is established with the purpose to ensure a safe climate for future generations. Less than two months later, a heat wave struck India and killed 20 million people. Eve I don’t know what happened that I didn’t like his last two novels, New York 2140 and Red Moon, but this one is the KSR that I love: bold, intriguing, with surprising and daring ideas. It’s in the spirit of Science in the Capital trilogy, but much better and more audacious in its purpose. It’s year 2025. In January, a new organization is established with the purpose to ensure a safe climate for future generations. Less than two months later, a heat wave struck India and killed 20 million people. Everything changed after that. The story is told from multiple - more or less anonymous - points of view, eyewitnesses of the following events from all over the world, for the next 20 odd years. There are also a few page-short chapters told from the PoV of some totally unexpected onlookers (view spoiler)[a code, the market, a photon, history itself, and one which requires the reader to find it out (view spoiler)[I think it’s the DNA (hide spoiler)] . It reminded me of the story told by a coin in Orhan Pamuk’s My Name Is Red (hide spoiler)] . It also follows the path of Mary Murphy, the head of the The Ministry for the Future, the decisions she took to make sure the future will still be available for the next generations and Frank May, the sole survivor from the heat wave that struck Lucknow (oh, the irony…) Being set so near to our present day, it does not read like a fiction. It expands on today’s political, economic, and social climate and follows a very plausible future path, from my point of view. The eclectic mélange of narrations makes it even more realistic. There are chapters that literally gave me goose bumps and made me stop reading to ruminate upon. It will seriously make you think about the future, because until it gets better, will get worse. It may be tiresome from time to time, due to the extensive talks or info regarding economic tools, but I looked at them as lessons; not always pleasant, but useful and important. I think it’s one of those books which should be read by everyone, because it tries to raise awareness about the climate change which is upon us. People, if not affected by something, tend to disregard the problem. Reading this it'll be impossible not to be affected or at least, to raise you some question marks: what if this will happen? Maybe not to this extent, but it will for sure to a certain degree. It’s one of his best works, not to be missed. >>> ARC received thanks to Little, Brown Book Group UK / Orbit via NetGalley <<<

  2. 5 out of 5

    Anissa

    For half of this, I thought I'd rate this around 2.5 stars but around the 56% mark, I felt like the story hit its stride (or I acquiesced to it). I began enjoying it more and couldn't put it down. By the book's end it had me feeling so hopeful that I felt that for me, this was more a 4-star event. So strong 3-star for the whole thing. I expect infodumps but found an excess of them, even for KSR. There are two main characters, Frank a survivor of the opening heat wave that kills 20 million people For half of this, I thought I'd rate this around 2.5 stars but around the 56% mark, I felt like the story hit its stride (or I acquiesced to it). I began enjoying it more and couldn't put it down. By the book's end it had me feeling so hopeful that I felt that for me, this was more a 4-star event. So strong 3-star for the whole thing. I expect infodumps but found an excess of them, even for KSR. There are two main characters, Frank a survivor of the opening heat wave that kills 20 million people and Mary who is the head of the Ministry for the Future. Characterization is scant for others and it's serviceable at best for Frank and Mary. This is not a surprise but it just goes further to remind that I don't come to KSR's books for the characters. Because of the varying POVs in the chapters, this book often didn't feel much like a novel for a good bit. There was more economics than this reader was looking for, to the point of eye-crossing at times. On the upside, there's also some simply brilliant wit & voice displayed. My favourite, when a carbon atom narrates a chapter. And I definitely smiled when two characters discussed Maigret briefly. I don't know that I'd recommend this to anyone unfamiliar with KSR's writing (admittedly this can be a slog for the initiated). I'm just glad I enjoyed this more than Red Moon. It starts off well, is a bit of a slog for a third but finishes very well. Favourite quotes: "Easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism." Favourite provocative passage: "In the United States, the National Students’ Union website showed that thirty percent of the union members had now responded YES to the union website’s standing poll asking them if they were in so much financial distress caused by their student debt that they would like to see the union initiate a fiscal non-compliance strike, by not paying their next debt payment. On joining the union, members had agreed to join any strike requested by thirty percent of the membership, so now the union coordinators called for a strike vote to be sure, and got an eighty percent yes vote, with ninety percent participation. None of this was surprising; student food insecurity, meaning student hunger, was widespread, also student homelessness. So the strike began. Student debt was a trillion-dollar annual income stream for the banks, so this coordinated default meant that the banks were suddenly in cash-flow hell. And they were so over-leveraged, and thus dependent on all incoming payments being made to them on time to be able to keep paying their own debts, that this fiscal strike threw them immediately into a liquidity crisis reminiscent of the 2008 and 2020 and 2034 crashes, except this time people had defaulted on purpose, and precisely to bring the banks down. The banks all rushed to the Federal Reserve, which went to Congress to explain the situation and ask for another giant bail-out to keep liquidity and thus confidence in the financial system itself. There were calls from many in Congress to bail out the banks, as being essential to the economy, and too connected for any of the big ones to be allowed to fail. But this time the Fed asked Congress to authorize their bailing out the banks in exchange for ownership shares in every bank that took the offer. This was either nationalizing finance or financializing the nation, in that now it was clearer than ever that the country was in effect run by the Fed. And since Congress ran the Fed, and people voted in members of Congress, maybe it was all beginning to work, somehow, because of this strike. Definancialization of a sort. End of neoliberalism. Favourite hopeful passage: "That there is no other home for us than here. That we will cope no matter how stupid things get. That all couples are odd couples. That the only catastrophe that can’t be undone is extinction. That we can make a good place. That people can take their fate in their hands. That there is no such thing as fate.'

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bart

    This is it. The final big KSR novel. I dreaded starting it, to be honest. Yet another climate book: don’t we know that story? His two previous ones were letdowns: New York 2140 was okay, but ultimately transparent, and Red Moon even formulaic: Stan seemed to have run out of steam. I think Robinson’s decision to stop writing long novels liberated him. And so his final big one is both a synthesis and a departure, and most importantly: totally unapologetic KSR, and a feast as such. It’s also a para This is it. The final big KSR novel. I dreaded starting it, to be honest. Yet another climate book: don’t we know that story? His two previous ones were letdowns: New York 2140 was okay, but ultimately transparent, and Red Moon even formulaic: Stan seemed to have run out of steam. I think Robinson’s decision to stop writing long novels liberated him. And so his final big one is both a synthesis and a departure, and most importantly: totally unapologetic KSR, and a feast as such. It’s also a paradox, a book that is “desperate and hopeful in equal measure”, as the dust jacket has it. Some might think it not enough of a novel – a long essay perhaps. Some might think it boring, or preachy. I think none of that applies. I think it’s brave, fast-paced, and subdued. It’s a story for sure, and it builds on the legacy of that other great science fiction novel: 1930s Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon. I loved The Ministry for the Future. The only criticism I can muster might be that Robinson’s hope might be non-sequiturish, so to say. Aren’t we doomed anyway? Who knows? Who will tell? “There are many realities on a planet this big.” In the remainder of this review – about 3000 words – I will elaborate on all of the above, backed up by quite a few fragments from various recent interviews with KSR. It’s a joy to have a writer being so open & explicit about his thought process. (....) Full review on Weighing A Pig Doesn't Fatten It

  4. 4 out of 5

    Aidan

    Tl;dr: I want to believe. But I find KSR’s answers to the challenge of global warming vague and unconvincing, so much so that this attempt at a hopeful, needle-threading future has left me more worried about the next century than when I started reading it. ————— It is a truth universally acknowledged that a sci-fi writer in possession of a utopian plotline must be in want of that quote about the end of the world being easier to imagine than the end of capitalism. I think KSR gets a good 5% of the Tl;dr: I want to believe. But I find KSR’s answers to the challenge of global warming vague and unconvincing, so much so that this attempt at a hopeful, needle-threading future has left me more worried about the next century than when I started reading it. ————— It is a truth universally acknowledged that a sci-fi writer in possession of a utopian plotline must be in want of that quote about the end of the world being easier to imagine than the end of capitalism. I think KSR gets a good 5% of the way in before he paraphrases it here. And sure, a bit of a cliche, but it could be a great declaration of intent, a signpost that this novel won’t just indulge in apocalyptic visions (which he summons to terrifying and moving effect in the opening chapter) but try to chart a course between Scylla and Charybdis towards a better future. The problem is that KSR doesn’t actually have a very good idea for how we get there, so he cheats. Repeatedly. Relentlessly. Remorselessly. Scylla actually has an allergy to ships, you see, and Charybdis is definitely super-scary but needs to wash its hair when the protagonists come by so we’re all good. It’s the equivalent of reading a right-on but fundamentally incoherent editorial in The Guardian — I really sympathise with the author’s politics and aspirations, but this isn’t the argument to be made for them. Now, before I lean in to technical nitpicking and complaining about heavy-handed authorial shenanigans, a quick word about The Ministry for the Future’s literary quality. Which is often good, sometimes great, but wildly, spectacularly uneven. There are moments — the harrowing opening chapter “somewhere near Lucknow”, a majestic description of the sun as godlike creator-destroyer, a fraught late-night traverse across an Alpine glacier — that are compelling and even transcendent. And there's a solid if slightly less spectacular novel buried in there about a traumatised disaster survivor trying to cope with a chaotic new century without losing his humanity. But these elements stand tall above a sea of infodumps barely disguised as lectures or bureaucratic notes, a lightly-sketched-in protagonist with inexplicable persuasive abilities (more on that later), and frankly jarring interludes where we hear from the personifications of photons, blockchain, history, the economy, and a carbon atom, amongst others. Some are OK. Some are not. It turns out carbon atoms are hyperactive, ditzy, and into molecular threesomes! Who knew? You do now, reader. But on to the plausibility issues. In the style of the infodumps above, I’m just going to list some of them out here. There’s a new global carbon e-currency which is guaranteed to increase in value but doesn’t create deflation or liquidity issues because, I dunno, blockchain? (At some point the monetary trilemma and all other macroeconomic concerns are memorably hand-waved away as [Žižek sniff] pure ideology, even if we end up majoring on MMT which I guess is fine). Unstoppable Mach 2 swarm missiles with seemingly unlimited range are used by shadowy extra-state actors but don’t problematically destabilise geopolitics in a way we need to hear about. An open-source replacement for all social media immediately overcomes the network effects of incumbents in about a week, effortlessly circumvents most of the Great Firewall, and doesn’t seemingly require armies of half-traumatised mods and admins to police its content. A UN agency undertaking a weeklong abduction of every single person in Davos isn’t discovered by national intelligence agencies even years later. Wholly unspecified carbon air capture technologies are ready and scalable in the next twenty years. Microwave power transmission is happening from space by the 2030s, which likely means those satellites are being designed and funded…about now? There’s a case study to be had in one of KSR’s coolest ideas, pumping meltwater out from under glaciers to re-ground them. Just drill a hole, and then pump the water out with minimal energy input because the weight of the glaciers means the water rises up almost all the way to the surface! But would it? Well, a) even contained reservoirs don’t bear all the pressure of their overburdens, so probably no, and b) if the meltwater is venting to the sea what pressure there is should be largely relieved by the flow, so double nope. And that’s just the surface-level problem with the idea. For instance, are meltwater pools even connected on a useful scale? What about channelisation under the ice? Is runoff even all that important in affecting glacial velocities? What’s the relative impact of (effectively unpumpable) warm sea water in driving changes in ice shelf pinning lines in Antartica versus (pumpable) surface meltwater runoff? It seems our current state of knowledge about all those questions isn't promising. At best, this seemingly nifty and concrete idea floats on a raft of best-case assumptions. And it’s one of the most superficially plausible and carefully discussed things in the book. Beyond the technological nitpicks, however, there’s just a seeming desire to wish away the less pleasant realities of the last twenty years. Unprecedented floods of refugees and global depression, fine, very plausible, but the political backlash is contained to, uh, some right wing tough guys making trouble in a park, not, say, even more brutal versions of the Lega, Vox, BNP, and FN rising politically? We’re repeatedly told nationalism is back in a big way, but it’s strangely impotent on the page. Seven thousand travellers die in a single day in an ecoterrorist strike against airlines and states do absolutely nothing of relevance to the plot in response except meekly draw down airplane travel? (Though to be scrupulously fair, huge but ineffective counterterrorist operations are mentioned at one point and then utterly dropped from the narrative). Never mind when the same thing happens with micro-drones threatening swathes of the world population with BSE infection if they continue to eat beef, or power plants being systematically attacked around the world without apparent consequence or backlash. Libertarian ranchers in the US leap at the chance to abandon farms and rewild the prairies, except for unpopular militias easily defeated by a Wild West calvacade. China/US or China/India geopolitical rivalry don’t even get a look in. You get the idea. What planet is this? Apparently one where the entire politics of reaction, cultural grievance and zero-sum realpolitik that have led to this moment no longer exist. One where the revolutions of 1848 weren’t crushed and replaced by 66 years of revanchism and brutal inequality ending in a catastrophic war. A better place, surely. One I’d like to live in. Just not, you know, the real world. Instead of wrestling with why global warming is hard to solve, Green Lanternism is left to run riot here, from central bankers being convinced to upend the global monetary system by a Paddington-style Hard Stare to the Swiss government being convinced to try and buck the global power structure by a Hard Stare to a showdown with ecoterrorists who have Stepped Over The Line that is resolved by...you get the idea. All you have to have to save the planet is willpower, and apparently the psychic mojo of the Hypnotoad. So where does this leave us? This is a painfully earnest, occasionally graceful book that will hopefully inspire like-minded people to action. Maybe even useful action! I suspect it'll be loved by many. And those are all good things. Just pray civilisation doesn’t need anything like the sequence of improbable coincidences, spectacular breakthroughs and authorial meddling KSR seems to think we do.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    You know, the first time I saw the title and the cover, I thought this would be a far-future SF, not a near-future prediction. I'm happy to be wrong. I'm even happier to have loved this novel from the first page to the last. Indeed, over the last 8 years of new novels, I've loved everything that KSR has written, being duly impressed about his improvement with characters and his truly fantastic grasp of science, politics, history, economics, and future speculation. Indeed, my only complaints have You know, the first time I saw the title and the cover, I thought this would be a far-future SF, not a near-future prediction. I'm happy to be wrong. I'm even happier to have loved this novel from the first page to the last. Indeed, over the last 8 years of new novels, I've loved everything that KSR has written, being duly impressed about his improvement with characters and his truly fantastic grasp of science, politics, history, economics, and future speculation. Indeed, my only complaints have ever been about his characters who usually feel a bit more like vehicles for stories and especially IDEAS more than people, but for this book, it wasn't the case. I was brought to tears several times. However, I need to be very clear on this: KSR's strength is absolutely and utterly in ideas. I feel like I just read an accessible novel that outlines all of the biggest real-thought on climate change and possible solutions while having it all put through the meat-grinder of real-politics, real-people, and enormous ongoing tragedies. The book starts out with millions dying of heat in India. It picks up with angry people worldwide demanding change and butting heads, devolving into assassinations, new politics, massive setbacks, economic upheavals, MORE climate disasters hitting the affluent people, more chaos, new legislation, MORE political upheaval, more dead, and economic systems that are both familiar and much more complicated than most of us have ever really researched TODAY. I mean, some of us have. Bitchains, UBIs, carbon monetary systems (not as in burning it, but drawing it out of the atmosphere), and the eventual re-greening of the Earth. And it's a lot more complicated and gloriously explored than anything I can get into with a simple review, but the BOOK does a fantastic job of outlining a gloriously chaotic near-future that would, in other times, be considered a bonafide classic. The book, frankly, is rich, deserves immense respect, lots of thought, and public discourse. Maybe most of us are burned out by the seeming impossibility of getting a New Green Deal, one where the new jobs come directly from creating a sustainable future. But maybe what we really need are the ideas firmly planted in our heads, complete with plans, backup plans, backup-backup plans, and awareness of all the ways it could all go wrong (and will) so we're not blindsided when we lose four billion people (minimum) in the next 30 years. This novel should be THAT talking point. For how tragic it is, it's FULL of great thought and, dare I say it, HOPE.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    This might be about great big ideas, but without a decent narrative or memorable, well-developed characters I simply don‘t care. If I want to read essays about possible solutions for climate change, I do that. And if I want to dive into blockchain or speculate about economics and virtual currencies, I talk to my colleagues at work. Throwing in the odd chapter with minuscule plot and barely there characters doesn‘t make this a readable novel for me. Mary and Frank were not bad and I liked the Ant This might be about great big ideas, but without a decent narrative or memorable, well-developed characters I simply don‘t care. If I want to read essays about possible solutions for climate change, I do that. And if I want to dive into blockchain or speculate about economics and virtual currencies, I talk to my colleagues at work. Throwing in the odd chapter with minuscule plot and barely there characters doesn‘t make this a readable novel for me. Mary and Frank were not bad and I liked the Antarctic setting, there just wasn‘t enough of all that. Hence, boredom. I started skimming a third into the book and finally DNFd at 56%. Not for me. I received this free e-copy from the publisher/author via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review, thank you!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    A short guide on how to enjoy reading The Ministry for the Future: 1. Be aware that it occupies a peculiar spot between fiction and non-fiction. The book features individuals, it even drives home a powerful point about individual engagement, but it is not focused on personal stories. While some chapters do go on at length about personal trauma, others are literally meeting minutes. Reams of fictional near-future history. Details on geoengineering techniques. The infamous infodump. If it is an aqu A short guide on how to enjoy reading The Ministry for the Future: 1. Be aware that it occupies a peculiar spot between fiction and non-fiction. The book features individuals, it even drives home a powerful point about individual engagement, but it is not focused on personal stories. While some chapters do go on at length about personal trauma, others are literally meeting minutes. Reams of fictional near-future history. Details on geoengineering techniques. The infamous infodump. If it is an aquired taste, it's a taste well worth aquiring. 2. Do not expect a scientifically rigid proposal for solving the climate crisis. KSR is an amazingly informed and engaged author and there are a number of intriguing and well-researched ideas in this book, touching on geoengineering, policy work, economics and more. Some might even work - while others would be picked apart by a domain expert. Personally I err on the hopeful side, plus they're fun to read. However, that doesn't really matter. Whatever its ultimate realism, the book fosters an understanding that solutions (plural) to climate change and global inequity are possible, that they can be imagined, that--look--this could be one way it plays out, however unlikely, that, yes, there are unknowns, but we can't really afford to let that paralyze us. 3. Do not mistake it for a dystopian novel. It starts out sobering, then proceeds with a grim determination that turns into determined hopefulness. Not utopian either; there's no starry eyed insistence on the ensured triumph of rationality and enlightenment (and if such is possible, it will be hard-earned). But despite the cautionary mention that humans usually believe they will be alright all the way to the end, KSR ultimately commits to optimism. 4. Do consider it a rallying cry. One among the many-but-not-yet-enough. I hope it finds its target in spite of considerable cynicism.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Andreas

    Synopsis: It’s 2025, the founding year of the Ministry of the Future which is an agency established in Zürich, Switzerland, to ensure health and safety for the generations to come. A heat wave crawls over rural India just before the yearly monsoon, killing twenty million people, and everything changes. The story follows Mary Murphy, head of the new ministry, and tells her troubles founding the ministry, bringing banks and governments to political agreements over climate issues, and her long way t Synopsis: It’s 2025, the founding year of the Ministry of the Future which is an agency established in Zürich, Switzerland, to ensure health and safety for the generations to come. A heat wave crawls over rural India just before the yearly monsoon, killing twenty million people, and everything changes. The story follows Mary Murphy, head of the new ministry, and tells her troubles founding the ministry, bringing banks and governments to political agreements over climate issues, and her long way to retirement. Her live is interleaved with that of Frank May, the sole survivor of the heat wave. Review: This clifi is a very typical Kim Stanley Robinson novel: Less of a plot, more of a speculative extrapolation. Where his New York 2140 featured the rising sea level, his new novel focuses initially more on the direct impact of higher temperatures with the dire killing of people who cannot flee into cooled buildings, because there are none. This is not the only place which KSR lets the reader visit, but also beloved Antarctica with updated climatic implications since his great novel of 1997. Another central showplace is the city of Zürich. As I lived there for a year, I can assess, that KSR’s lovely descriptions of the town are top notch, and I once again fell in love with this place. The author wouldn’t be himself if he wouldn’t introduce some radical protagonists into his story who try to change the way our capitalistic world works. In this case, the trauma of the heat wave radicalized Indians who call themselve the “Children of Kali”, a Hindu goddess of Destruction. He envisions them to destroy the whole aircraft business by bringing planes down using an army of small drones directed into the flight paths of the planes. The message is obvious: stop flying, and the industry follows. But they don’t stop there. Robinson offers an optimistic view into the further future, one where humanity can overcome the climatic change using terraforming technologies, a reformed capitalism disempowering the connection between banks and governments by issuing a blockchain certified carbon coin, and wiping away crappy Facebook by implementing a people owned and operated new Internet. He finds many angles which are needed to save our children’s world, some may be naive, others could be counterargued. But together they form a holistic view that could work – something that I’m missing in so many dystopian clifis of these days. I can fully recommend this Near Future Hard SF for everyone who doesn’t focus on plot or character but wants to see a solution oriented future of climatic change.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    If the earth becomes hot enough then, the oceans will boil. That doesn't actually happen in the book, so I don't need a spoiler tag. I still feel a vague urge to put one on it. It's got a strong start, but I was weary of it long before the end. If the earth becomes hot enough then, the oceans will boil. That doesn't actually happen in the book, so I don't need a spoiler tag. I still feel a vague urge to put one on it. It's got a strong start, but I was weary of it long before the end.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Oleksandr Zholud

    This is a fresh, 2020 cli-fi SF by Kim Stanley Robinson (KSR), which reads more like a manifesto than a fiction novel. I read is as a part of monthly reading for November 2020 at SFF Hot from Printers: New Releases group. The story starts with a great human-made catastrophe: it is mid-2020s, a heat wave hits India and kills more people than 4 years of the WW1, as well and animals and damages the biosphere. Among a few survivors is a foreign volunteer Frank, who sustains a psychological trauma du This is a fresh, 2020 cli-fi SF by Kim Stanley Robinson (KSR), which reads more like a manifesto than a fiction novel. I read is as a part of monthly reading for November 2020 at SFF Hot from Printers: New Releases group. The story starts with a great human-made catastrophe: it is mid-2020s, a heat wave hits India and kills more people than 4 years of the WW1, as well and animals and damages the biosphere. Among a few survivors is a foreign volunteer Frank, who sustains a psychological trauma due to the calamity. At the roughly the same time, in 2025, the Paris Agreement Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change decides to make a Subsidiary Body, a supranational agency charged with defending the environment and all living creatures present and future who cannot speak for themselves. It was unofficially named “the Ministry for the Future” and it is headed by the other protagonist, Mary. The further story follows their lives (and many others) and their efforts to save the world. The novel is ‘classic’ KSR, infodump-heavy story well known to funs by his earlier works, e.g. Red Mars. The info covers a broad range of topics, including but not limited to: economics, environment protection, natural habitats, monetary policy, socialism, saving polar caps, income redistribution, market failures, alternatives to air travel, etc. However, in this book his political activism took over his writer’s talent. Both protagonists aren’t very interesting characters and the story is a bit predictive – not even reading the book, I guess most people assume that ‘good guys’ will win and the danger of environmental collapse will be turned over. At the same time as a cookbook filled with possible solutions it definitely shines. I have to admit, policies advocated by KSR are often too left-wing for me. I’m from the ex-USSR, I know the faults of socialism. I dislike his adoration of Russia and China, two quite aggressive authoritarian states. It maybe less profound than pro-Chinese Red Moon, but nevertheless saying ‘they are fine because the USA is not a paragon of virtue’ is wrong. Situations with Tibet, Yugurs, Hong Kong, Taiwan for China or with aggressions of Russia in Georgia (2008) and Ukraine (2014) as well and internal suppression of ‘the other’ from LGBTQ+ to political opponents should make both regimes international pariahs, and their leaders, with their cults of personality – personas non-grata. Of course, some alt-right may accuse the author of selloff to authoritarians, but it is not so: he mentions 1989 Tiananmen Square and HK protests, which is enough not to get published in China, as well as after Putin Russia… I’m an economist by trade and while I agree with some of his arguments in that sphere (as well as with the fact that environmental problems are very real and urgent), I think he gets quite a few points wrong. Say, for example, he mentions bancor proposed by Keynes on 1944 Bretton-Woods conference: John Maynard Keynes, the chief British negotiator, also suggested at Bretton Woods that they found an International Clearing Union, which would make use of a new unit of currency to be called a bancor. The purpose of the bancor would be to allow nations with trade deficits to be able to climb out of their debts by calling on an overdraft account with the ICU that would allow them to spend money to employ more citizens and thus create more exports. Nations making use of their overdraft would be charged 10 percent interest on these bancor loans, which could not be traded for ordinary currencies, or by individuals. Nations with large trade surpluses would also be charged 10 percent interest on these surpluses, and if their credit exceeded an allowed maximum at the end of the year, the excess would be confiscated by the ICU. Keynes thus hoped to create an international balance of trade credit which would keep countries from becoming either too poor or too wealthy. The story is true, but ‘keep countries from becoming either too poor or too wealthy’ is wrong – say the USA has trade deficit since 1976 – it hasn’t become poor in these 44 years… moreover, Keynes suggestion was made in a very specific situation, when private credit markets and economies in general were everywhere subordinated to the exigencies of war finance, while in his earlier works, written in what was much closer to our current globalized world he made quite different proposals. There are several more claims connected to the economics, which I find dubious. I still liked to read them discussed in some depths. It is not a SF as much as environmental manifesto, a book on a very important topic but not an easy of smooth read. Nevertheless, it is actually an utopia, even if it doesn’t seem so at the start.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    This book follows the progress of the titular Ministry of the Future established as a United Nation body with a mission to "speak for the future". It's told from the viewpoint of several characters in and around the organization as it moves from its initial rather ineffectual roots to being the driving force against climate change across the globe. So this is a terrible book, and I'll get into why in a bit. I just want to point out the first chapter though, because it's powerful and brilliant. Wha This book follows the progress of the titular Ministry of the Future established as a United Nation body with a mission to "speak for the future". It's told from the viewpoint of several characters in and around the organization as it moves from its initial rather ineffectual roots to being the driving force against climate change across the globe. So this is a terrible book, and I'll get into why in a bit. I just want to point out the first chapter though, because it's powerful and brilliant. What it is, is the account of an aid worker in Northern India during the first heat wave in recorded human history to hit a heavily populated area with a wet bulb temperature that is incompatible with human life. It's powerful because it's only fiction in that it hasn't happened yet. The current trajectory of climate change says this is inevitable by the end of the 21st century. (For more on this I strongly recommend The Ends of the World: Supervolcanoes, Lethal Oceans, and the Search for Past Apocalypses). If only the rest of the novel matched the standard of its first chapter. The rest of the book is the now very familiar future history that this author believes should and will happen. That history is towards a technocentric marxist green global government. The author's calls for this to happen get increasingly strident (desperate?) with each book. In this one he goes a bit further than previous books, advocating for lethal force against polluters and over-consumers. Government-sponsored ecoterrorism in places. Generally speaking it comes off as unhinged, and requires that the reader forget how humans work. For instance, there's one memorable scene where a group of rural people sadly and quietly leave their small-town homes for the last time because all people who live a rural existence are being moved to high-intensity housing in cities, because that's better for the world in general. What? Sadly and quietly? What!? Why? Because they've been told by scientists what's best for them and the world, so they happily comply. Readers of all genders, may I present the year 2020 as a counterargument? This ridiculous piece of rose-tinted trash would be getting one star, and only gets two on the strength of the first chapter.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    I've been thinking a lot recently about the need to construct a narrative of recovery from disaster, in order to have any hope for the future. My thoughts centred upon the pandemic and how normality as we knew it will never return, but perhaps we can move from emergency into rebuilding something different. The first step towards doing the latter is imagining it as a possibility and envisaging one day not being afraid to leave my home. I am thus attempting to avoid despair despite the truly disas I've been thinking a lot recently about the need to construct a narrative of recovery from disaster, in order to have any hope for the future. My thoughts centred upon the pandemic and how normality as we knew it will never return, but perhaps we can move from emergency into rebuilding something different. The first step towards doing the latter is imagining it as a possibility and envisaging one day not being afraid to leave my home. I am thus attempting to avoid despair despite the truly disastrous state of the UK in January 2021. Racked by the new turbo-covid variant, hospitals overwhelmed, more than a hundred thousand dead in the pandemic and another thousand every day, the worst death rate in the world, in lockdown for the third time, economically crippled by brexit, ruled by a bunch of useless Tory goons who are responsible for it all. As I find Kim Stanley Robinson's books among the most hopeful I've ever read, 'The Ministry for the Future' seemed like it might help. At first, it was just the opposite. In order to illustrate the horrors of climate change, the book opens with a truly terrifying account of a heatwave in India that kills twenty million people in a fortnight. I was thus punched in the face by my existential terror of climate change, which has been crowded to the side by my existential terror of the pandemic in recent times. It was not pleasant to be reminded that while covid dominates our lives, climate change continues to inexorably undermine the survival of human civilisation. It therefore took me a while to get through the first fifty pages, despite their undoubted readability. Once I'd reacquainted myself with this existential dread, and with the help of escapism in large doses, I found the rest of the book compulsive. I do not think it's science fiction, or at least doesn't read as such. Although there are characters and a narrative, as well as technological extrapolations, it felt more like Francis Spufford's elision of fiction and non-. Except Spufford recounts history with judicious use of fictionalisation, whereas Stanley Robinson gives readers a detailed recovery narrative of the future. In New York 2140 he spoke directly to the reader, and in 'The Ministry for the Future' he does so still more insistently. This book sits you down, takes you by the shoulders, and says earnestly, "Listen to me. We are not doomed by climate change. There is hope for a better world. Do not despair." The title of the book refers to an agency set up in Zürich under the auspices of the Paris Agreement, with limited budget and no statutory powers, with the purpose of representing the interests of future generations. It is led by Mary Murphy, who uses the UN agency's soft power to influence governments, banks, and businesses. She is a powerful figure, but still essentially a figurehead and co-ordinator. Kim Stanley Robinson is absolutely the last author to intimate that one person can save the world. Her point of view allows the reader to see the many ways to tackle climate change: geoengineering, renewable energy, financial reform, rewilding, transformation of agriculture, transport decarbonisation, and postcapitalist economics. As ever in his novels, Kim Stanley Robinson has a very impressive grasp of the material, beyond any other author I've come across. I discussed this with a friend who is currently reading Blue Mars. He has the trick of extrapolating with considered conviction across an incredible range of disciplines in both the hard and social sciences. Presumably he draws upon a network of experts, identifying key concepts and explaining them with great clarity. I have studied and taught carbon emissions mitigation in academia, so do not praise this lightly. I've read plenty of novels with flimsy and unconvincing economics, in particular. Kim Stanley Robinson synthesises and summarises environmental economics with a succinct accuracy that I can't fault. My knowledge of hard science, engineering, and technology is more limited, but I found his extrapolations almost entirely convincing. I remain sceptical of blockchain, as there's so much baseless hype around it. Nonetheless, I am willing to entertain the possibility that it may be useful if set up and managed as public infrastructure rather than for shareholder returns. While impressively systematic and convincing, the depiction of technological change and geoengineering are not what make 'The Ministry for the Future' memorable. Obviously I appreciated the economics and the reckoning with bankers. What set this apart for me, from Kim Stanley Robinson's other novels as well other climate change fiction, is his depiction of the violent rage against the hyper-rich elite letting the planet burn. Mary shares protagonist duties with Frank May, who barely survives the catastrophic Indian heatwave and suffers from severe PTSD. He is a fascinating character, the exact opposite of all the men in so-called climate change novels that annoyed me with their self involvement (cf Solar, The Lamentations of Zeno). Climate change has taken over his life and over decades the reader watches how this plays out. Unlike much climate change non-fiction (notably The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis), Kim Stanley Robinson acknowledges and reckons with probably the main impediments to tackling climate change: oil companies and the super-rich. Moreover, he examines the question, unmentioned in any climate change non-fiction I've read, of whether killing a few super-rich is morally right in order to preserve billions of people alive and unborn. The answer is not simple and this book doesn't pretend that it is. I found the intensity of Frank's anger very easy to sympathise with - I am constantly seething with murderous rage at the destruction wrought by billionaires. The role of violence and sabotage in turning the world away from climate disaster is carefully judged throughout. Violence is shown to not usually be justified, yet can be effective in desperate situations. Although the Children of Kali and their direct violent actions are only an occasional presence in the narrative, their inclusion is important. (view spoiler)[Likewise, Frank's peaceful death in a hospice was very moving and a significant thing to include. It parallels Mary's later retirement, but mainly felt like a powerful reminder that all lives end. His death is tragic because it is undramatic; not self-sacrifice for the greater good, self-destruction, or violent tragedy. He dies slowly of cancer, as many do. I found this an effective reminder of the scale of a human life, amid discussion of whole populations and vast projects stretching over a hundred years. (hide spoiler)] I don't think 'The Ministry for the Future' works particularly well as a conventional novel, as it doesn't spend nearly as much time with its characters as New York 2140 or the Mars Trilogy. Although I found Mary and Frank interesting characters, their lives were entirely defined by climate change. This is absolutely not a complaint! The book works brilliantly as a manifesto, polemic, and a narrative of possibility. I cannot be the only person who is consumed by fear and despair about the future right now, and needs convincing, analytical, hopeful narratives to counter the blizzard of disasters that pass for current events. Unfortunately, even Kim Stanley Robinson's outstanding writing abilities cannot make much progress against my anxieties in 2021. New York 2140 definitely had a stronger positive impact on me back in 2017. Partly, it's the implication that his books are becoming more and more direct in their message because things are getting worse and worse. Will he write another like this but more so in a couple of years, if COP26 languishes? 'The Ministry for the Future' is adamant that there is still time to avoid runaway climate change and save civilisation. I would very much like to believe that, but am really struggling to at the moment. Lockdown life on Plague Island really doesn't lend itself to positivity. Still, I know that such narratives are important. Maybe I need to construct a personal narrative of becoming less anxious first, then I might be able to think about the climate change situation more clearly.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    The inimitable Kim Stanley Robinson returns with The Ministry For the Future, a damning indictment and terrifyingly prescient exploration of the chaos wrought by climate change, both now and in the near future if we continue as a collective to live in ignorance. With increasing urgency, KSR depicts a startling but ultimately hopeful outlook of our next three decades on earth using his skill for acute observation whilst exploring in a gripping and engrossing manner the issues of climate change, t The inimitable Kim Stanley Robinson returns with The Ministry For the Future, a damning indictment and terrifyingly prescient exploration of the chaos wrought by climate change, both now and in the near future if we continue as a collective to live in ignorance. With increasing urgency, KSR depicts a startling but ultimately hopeful outlook of our next three decades on earth using his skill for acute observation whilst exploring in a gripping and engrossing manner the issues of climate change, technology, politics, and the human behaviours that drive these forces. He has built such a richly-imagined and intricately thought-out world that you cannot fail but to be immersed in it and to marvel as its creation. People complain that it's a political thesis wrapped inside a fictional novel, but instead of feeling indifferent or even angry towards this (as some seemingly have been), I admire someone with a large following and platform using it to share their fears, ideas and eventually their hopes regarding the survival of the human race as a species, our planet and its ecological system. This is a much more optimistic read compared to some of his past post-apocalyptic stories and with less catastrophising. The timely, powerful and relevant moral message I came away with was that our future is still a sustainable one if as a species we put in enough work to turn this around instead of merely turning our backs. A vitally important must-read for those who are invested and interested in not only our survival but in us thriving, too. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Orbit for an ARC.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Peter Baran

    Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy is a core piece of my science fiction development. Slow burn Utopianism, set generationally (despite some significantly long lifespans) he managed to balance the speculative aspect of science with the corresponding political and social changes. He juggles a broad canvas over the books, and despite terrorism, disasters and war, ends with a terraformed Mars which felt broadly plausible from where we were in the early nineties (and it was a lot of fun getting the Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy is a core piece of my science fiction development. Slow burn Utopianism, set generationally (despite some significantly long lifespans) he managed to balance the speculative aspect of science with the corresponding political and social changes. He juggles a broad canvas over the books, and despite terrorism, disasters and war, ends with a terraformed Mars which felt broadly plausible from where we were in the early nineties (and it was a lot of fun getting there with each book coming out after a summer of University for me).. The Ministry For The Future is not dissimilar in being a near future bit of terraforming, except here Robinson is terraforming Earth itself for survival. There has always been an ecological aspect to his work, which seems to culminate here in a speculative roadmap to how we get out of the shit we have made for ourselves. It starts in 2023 with a deadly Indian heatwave, and ends about thirty years later, and it is true that his Utopianism has not been destroyed. But it is damn difficult to get to the place of potential safety he gets to and his view is that we won't get there without significant natural disasters, murder and economic and political overhaul. Indeed what is interesting here is not just some of the scientific solutions (draining the bottom of glaciers to stop them slipping into the sea, dying the sea a more reflective colour), but how much of this is economics. That the engine for the the destruction of the human biosphere is mainly driven by capitalism, corporations as machine for growth and profit with no other considerations, and national banks who live to defend currencies no matter what. The Ministry For The Future is an unusual narrative, and not unlike the Mars Trilogy it only loosely has a protagonist (Mary Murphy - head of said Ministry) and there are chapters told from the point of view of a photon, a carbon dioxide molecule and time itself. Robinson is being playful, his prose often sparse, list like to get across the minutes of the meetings with bankers being had. Morally it is extremely ambivalent. It is clear that he believes that without significant direct action (here, mysterious terrorists randomly shooting planes out of the sky and sinking supertankers), that capitalism will not stop polluting. He cannot see salvation without the destruction of cash, Facebook, and the acceptance of mass refugee emigration. At the same time he is in awe of all the people working in this field already, the hundreds of proliferating projects, some of which might come to fruition. And whilst it is a plausible world map, he is - despite the murder - still a Utopian. As such the book slowly draws to a satisfying but low-key end point romance (Mary Murphy never gets much of a personality beyond trying to save the world, but she is rewarded with a boyfriend at the end). This is not a book to come to for a central personal narrative, the lead character is the biosphere with permaculture and train travel as suitors. But its collage of twenty or so short stories which slip into the flow, state of the world explorations of the African Union taking back mines, or a truly horrendous (but surprisingly undeadly) flood in LA makes the world building work. It believes that humanity can save the world, even that science can do a lot of that heavy lifting, but not without everyone playing a part, though with a sacrifice which is shown to be not that great (again some interesting economic theories come into play). It feels like one last big bit of work, what does the futurologist do in their twilight years. but both made me feel a little better about the world, and reminded me I do have to bloody well do something about it. [NetGalley ARC]

  15. 4 out of 5

    Misty

    So I can’t decide if I’m just not hip enough to have enjoyed this, or if perhaps I’m too hip to have enjoyed it. At any rate, I just really did NOT appreciate the experience. I’m sure if I had had the energy I could have deconstructed the whole thing, looking for patterns in the chapter rotation, symbols in the obscure and allusions in the dialogue, but honestly, the structure was so chaotic and messy that it just didn’t feel worth the effort. Far too much pontificating and not enough storytelli So I can’t decide if I’m just not hip enough to have enjoyed this, or if perhaps I’m too hip to have enjoyed it. At any rate, I just really did NOT appreciate the experience. I’m sure if I had had the energy I could have deconstructed the whole thing, looking for patterns in the chapter rotation, symbols in the obscure and allusions in the dialogue, but honestly, the structure was so chaotic and messy that it just didn’t feel worth the effort. Far too much pontificating and not enough storytelling for me. Read for the intellectual gymnastics; avoid if you’re looking for a bit of mindless escape.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Manuel Antão

    If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. Horizon Shift': "The Ministry for the Future" by Kim Stanley Robinson Is it fair to take Robinson’s point generally as an objection that 'setting up institutions or laws to protect the needs of future generations might not make any difference anyway'? Or would you go even further, to argue that 'there's no point doing anything about this'? If we assume the first of those two options, we could have a conversation about when and where law If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. Horizon Shift': "The Ministry for the Future" by Kim Stanley Robinson Is it fair to take Robinson’s point generally as an objection that 'setting up institutions or laws to protect the needs of future generations might not make any difference anyway'? Or would you go even further, to argue that 'there's no point doing anything about this'? If we assume the first of those two options, we could have a conversation about when and where laws and institutions generally have had an impact on behaviour.... And whether and when laws and institutions can/should lead, versus following (and that's a tricky area, of course).

  17. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    Sometimes 2* and sometimes (fewer) 4*. Really much of the book could have become essays for the New Yorker or something. I really couldn’t follow details about the carbon bitcoin but I understood the concept. More interesting to me was the creation of the natural corridors for wild animals- and the Half the Earth policy. There is a thin plot woven throughout. It could have been so much more. Still I appreciated the odd friendships between Mary and Frank, Mary and Art. Some of the other vignettes Sometimes 2* and sometimes (fewer) 4*. Really much of the book could have become essays for the New Yorker or something. I really couldn’t follow details about the carbon bitcoin but I understood the concept. More interesting to me was the creation of the natural corridors for wild animals- and the Half the Earth policy. There is a thin plot woven throughout. It could have been so much more. Still I appreciated the odd friendships between Mary and Frank, Mary and Art. Some of the other vignettes of unnamed people- such as the refugees who are given permanent citizenship in Switzerland and start a restaurant- are poignant. Many of the descriptions of the land-particularly the Alps- is lovely. But it’s not as coherent a book as it should be to make its point about how to tackle climate change.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lena

    “Easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism: the old saying had grown teeth and was taking on a literal, vicious accuracy.” What we are doing is not working. This book is filled with good ideas about how to make the wrenching change from nationalist capitalism to a global carbon aware civilization. Everyone needs to read this book. One of his ideas is YourLock, a non-profit Facebook with a Credit Union. Currently there is a web based non-profit Credit Union dedicated to “Easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism: the old saying had grown teeth and was taking on a literal, vicious accuracy.” What we are doing is not working. This book is filled with good ideas about how to make the wrenching change from nationalist capitalism to a global carbon aware civilization. Everyone needs to read this book. One of his ideas is YourLock, a non-profit Facebook with a Credit Union. Currently there is a web based non-profit Credit Union dedicated to providing Green Energy Loans: Clean Energy Credit Union.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    This was my first-time reading Kim Stanley Robinson. I confess I was warned about his penchant for digressing from the narrative in order to insert a nonfiction element. "The Ministry for the Future" is no exception and features many such asides. The story follows two characters: Frank May and Mary Murphy. Frank is a young American aid worker working in a part of India that experiences a severe, extended heat wave that eventually kills millions. Frank is one of the few survivors of this catastro This was my first-time reading Kim Stanley Robinson. I confess I was warned about his penchant for digressing from the narrative in order to insert a nonfiction element. "The Ministry for the Future" is no exception and features many such asides. The story follows two characters: Frank May and Mary Murphy. Frank is a young American aid worker working in a part of India that experiences a severe, extended heat wave that eventually kills millions. Frank is one of the few survivors of this catastrophe but is very much traumatized by the experience. The devastation of the heat wave triggers political upheaval in India and calls for dramatic steps to prevent a reoccurrence. Mary Murphy is an ex-diplomat from Ireland who heads the Ministry for the Future, a UN agency based in Zurich that was established to protect future generations from just these types of climate events. The two characters eventually encounter each other after which it becomes clear to Mary that it may be time for the Ministry to take more radical measures. A series of other events occur, some involving eco-terrorism, which eventually force the hands of those in power to cease kicking the can down the road and take some definitive action. The Ministry learns to adopt a carrot and stick approach with certain key parties (i.e., central banks). An interesting aspect of the book is the description of the myriad projects that are undertaken to tackle the problem. It is the incremental effect of these multiple approaches that slowly, over time, begins to render some positive improvements. As such, the book imagines a hopeful future. Overall, I enjoyed the book but did find myself losing patience with some of the non-narrative chapters at times. It was one of those liked it but did not love it situations. I did come away with a greater understanding of some of the potential approaches to fixing the global warming crisis. Cheers!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Eliot Peper

    The Ministry for the Future follows the scientists, diplomats, and activists working across decades and continents to forge a future you might actually want to live in from the shattered remains of a civilization on the brink. I love so many things about this novel—its sprawling future history, its rigorous picture of institutional change, its structure of feeling, its cascading collisions of big ideas—but what resonates most deeply is that this is a book about and for practical, determined peop The Ministry for the Future follows the scientists, diplomats, and activists working across decades and continents to forge a future you might actually want to live in from the shattered remains of a civilization on the brink. I love so many things about this novel—its sprawling future history, its rigorous picture of institutional change, its structure of feeling, its cascading collisions of big ideas—but what resonates most deeply is that this is a book about and for practical, determined people working to make a messy, complicated world better.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Yup, I'm recommending this one as a, gee, that's pretty much a perfect book for end of 2020 (consumed, by this reader, during the waning days of the chaotic rule of the defeated, seemingly mad President, who denied climate change, rolled back environmental regulation, and withdrew the US from the Paris Agreement, ... and before the inauguration of the first President who has little choice but to make climate change one of (the transition's, and, come January, the) nation's highest priorities). Is Yup, I'm recommending this one as a, gee, that's pretty much a perfect book for end of 2020 (consumed, by this reader, during the waning days of the chaotic rule of the defeated, seemingly mad President, who denied climate change, rolled back environmental regulation, and withdrew the US from the Paris Agreement, ... and before the inauguration of the first President who has little choice but to make climate change one of (the transition's, and, come January, the) nation's highest priorities). Is the book climate change dystopia? Maybe. I'll defer to others on genre and shelving. To me, it felt like Oreskes & Conway's sublime, pocket-sized, thought-provoking tour de force, The Collapse of Western Civilization, expanded from novella to full-length novel, with some human elements (and slightly more optimistic elements) built in. Frankly, we need more books like these not only on the shelves, in our libraries, in the classroom, and on assigned reading lists, but in book clubs and discussion groups and in airports and train stations ... and kitchens, etc. But I concede that I'm giving it five (Machiavellian) stars for the same reasons that I'm going to be recommending it ... and probably buying extra copies.... And that's because stories are powerful, and for the broader reading public, fiction (even sci-fi or dystopia) is easier to digest than non-fiction. And if this book makes people read and think about climate change ... and if it moves the needle of public cognizance ever so slightly, then it's a public good and Robinson deserves our thanks. Sure, Wallace-Wells' powerful and compelling Uninhabitable Earth sold well for its genre, but no amount of teeth-pulling will result in that book being widely consumed by the public. To the extent that, say, Jahren's The Story of More is more accessible or less jarring or easier to digest, its reach (or market penetration), nonetheless, is even more limited. And, despite its poignant elegance, and even with what seems like a tsunami of literary appreciation and a Pulitzer nomination, Rush's Rising is, at best, a niche market book. So, I'm going to recommend this to anyone who is open to reading it (and, alas, isn't daunted by its size, heft, weight, etc.). This isn't Kim Stanley Robinson's first rodeo, and, truth be told, I'm a slow, but, increasingly, less reluctant fan. I realize I'm in the minority on this, but I didn't love Red Mars, and so it was quite some time before I got to Green Mars, which I enjoyed much more, but not enough to rush out and dive into Blue Mars. And I never got around to the California books/triptych. This was far and away my favorite of his (at least so far). I could emphasize the nits - it's probably 100+ pages too long, some of the diversions and interjections are too cute by half, some of the voices and perspectives don't resonate as well as others, and (at least for me) Robinson does better with story than people - but that's not the point. It's the right book at the right time. And I willingly add my voice to the chorus of folks recommending it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Melpomene

    this is the most BORING book I've ever read; I fell asleep while reading some passages. I would have DNFed it if I had a choice. Where is the plot?! where are the characters?! If you want to write an essay on Global Warming, then write it as a FUCKING ESSAY. why are you insisting on doing it as a novel? who cares about your political message now? everyone will remember this book as a story with no plot and no character development! this is the most BORING book I've ever read; I fell asleep while reading some passages. I would have DNFed it if I had a choice. Where is the plot?! where are the characters?! If you want to write an essay on Global Warming, then write it as a FUCKING ESSAY. why are you insisting on doing it as a novel? who cares about your political message now? everyone will remember this book as a story with no plot and no character development!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Connor

    This is a big book. It's not often I read a book and come away with a list of things I want to look up and find out more about, but this book did that for me. It's moving and painful and hopeful and inspiring, and I found it utterly absorbing. What's it about? It's about everything, but primarily global warming. The horrors we are unleashing are laid out clearly. This is a call to stop and think and change. Kim Stanley Robinson places global warming firmly in the context of our neoliberal lifest This is a big book. It's not often I read a book and come away with a list of things I want to look up and find out more about, but this book did that for me. It's moving and painful and hopeful and inspiring, and I found it utterly absorbing. What's it about? It's about everything, but primarily global warming. The horrors we are unleashing are laid out clearly. This is a call to stop and think and change. Kim Stanley Robinson places global warming firmly in the context of our neoliberal lifestyle and expectations - continuous growth - as if cancer is the paradigm for our society. He pulls in everything - the lack of parity between developed and developing nations, potential technological solutions, the need to sort out global finances and the super-rich if we are going to get any change on this. He segues smoothly between the near past and the future, carrying you along, making this feel almost like reportage, rather than fiction. There are many voices here, all with their own stories. The main characters are Frank, a young relief worker, and Mary, the "Minister for the Future". Their paths intersect in an unexpected way in Zurich, but their stories weave around each other, they don't really merge. This is not an action-packed thriller. It's thoughtful and densely packed. It's one of those books I want to badger people to read. Thank you, NetGalley, for letting me read this one.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    If you look at pictures of American cities a hundred years ago, they don't look much like the cities we see today. But if you look at the General Motors Futurama exhibit from 1939, you'll see a vision for the cities we encounter today. In The Ministry for the Future, Kim Stanley Robinson attempts to create a futurama exhibit of the next century that will take humanity through climate change. The story initially juxtaposes two characters, Mary and Frank, to nudge readers out of their climate compl If you look at pictures of American cities a hundred years ago, they don't look much like the cities we see today. But if you look at the General Motors Futurama exhibit from 1939, you'll see a vision for the cities we encounter today. In The Ministry for the Future, Kim Stanley Robinson attempts to create a futurama exhibit of the next century that will take humanity through climate change. The story initially juxtaposes two characters, Mary and Frank, to nudge readers out of their climate complacency. Mary is a career bureaucrat who lands a job at the Ministry for the Future, an international body that represents the rights of future generations. She engages in a variety of meetings with her staff, with bankers, and with politicians. A curious scene is shown several times at the start of the novel: Mary and her band of bureaucrats meet after work to drink cocktails as they bemoan the state of the world. They are symbolic of today’s greens. When the War for the Climate starts, Mary realizes she has only been working in a discursive war of rhetoric. If she took climate change seriously, what more would she do besides drinking cocktails in a sort of existential despair? Frank is a survivor of a massive heat wave that takes place in India—millions die around him when the temperature rises so much that A/C cannot keep up and instead crashes the electrical grid. He is very serious about climate change. He begins taking direct actions, including violent attacks. Other organizations, for example, launch drones in flight paths to stop commercial flight powered by conventional jet fuel. When jets start falling, people mostly stop flying. Sabotage, meanwhile, raises the cost of operating coal plants. Who is doing more to protect the well being of future generations, Mary wonders? There are many problems with Frank's strategy. But one is that it's very difficult to have a society in such an unstable world. KSR, however, looks at the inequality and environmental damage of today's society to argue that its imbalances undermine the integrity of society. To achieve a better equilibrium, KSR has Mary pursue a carbon coin policy. Carbon coins are a crypto currency that, so far as I can tell, come from the real world. KSR envisions them alongside blockchains and wants them to become a sort of longterm investment that rewards people for keeping carbon in the ground. If fossil fuels can be made to become underwater assets, then the smart investment would become these carbon coins. Later, people are rewarded for sequestering CO2 in their soil. I wasn't convinced that these carbon coins would take off in the world I live in; on the other hand, the world surprises me every day. I worry that the idea that violence can be condoned to generate change is beginning to pop up again at the edge of environmental discourse. It is not hard to find “human extinction” rhetoric from greens and in fact there's even a group called Extinction Rebellion that carries out non-violent actions now. People today are dying of air pollution, and I suspect KSR is right to point to heat waves as a threat of mass deaths in the near future. In a recent episode of the Ezra Klein Show, Matthew Yglesias argues that climate change is terrible, but it’s not as bad as Extinction Rebellion claims because if it were then we would condone bombing coal factories. We don't condone such actions, Yglesias thinks, for instinctively correct utilitarian reasons. (There are also studies that suggest the most successful movements are non-violent.) In Ministry for the Future, KSR asks whether a heat wave that kills of millions of people might radicalize a not insignificant segment of the population. Although I'm not sure it will lead to a green revolution in India—it seems just as likely to cause people to double down on coal, I think—it doesn’t seem crazy to think it could cause people to decide that they should sabotage coal plants. What else follows from this shift? Many of the chapters are about various forms of geoengineering. India goes rogue and releases sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere, a form of solar radiation management. Scientists begin pumping melt water out from under glaciers to allow them to settle back onto rock, thus slowing their movement into the ocean. Nordic countries pump snow into the Arctic to stop heat from being absorbed by the deep blue sea (ice reflects light back out of the atmosphere relative to the ocean). Direct air carbon capture technology becomes efficient enough to do at a larger scale. My sense is that most greens hold their nose when they think about geoengineering, perhaps because people that like geoengineering often also see in it an excuse to keep burning fossil fuels, or perhaps because greens see the planet as quasi-sacred. But, again, it doesn't seem crazy to me that mitigation and adaptation efforts will involve some attempt at geoengineering. Here are some criticisms. The Ministry For the Future is not a very conventional plot / character driven novel. Even by KSR’s standards, there are a lot of digressions and essays—even some riddles. The chronology is mostly blown out, not so different from Last and First Men, which means that the characters are mostly just movers and their personalities are not so much more complex than “earnest + bureaucrat = Mary.” If memory serves, KSR has contributed to State of the World Reports, and I interpret him as using the form of a novel to provide a narrative context for those reports. He then uses speculative fiction to get people to think with more creativity about how we might respond to climate change. Though useful, the approach is maybe not so thrilling. The direct actions carried out by the people are rarely met by corporate retaliation, but it seems likely to me that fossil fuel companies would hire mercenaries in the world KSR envisions here. Last but not least, there is almost no role for or acknowledgement of companies like Tesla that are popularizing EVs. There are some useful lessons here. First, The Ministry for the Future reminds us that many changes compound in unexpected ways. Second, it nudges climate discourse, which is often focused on the next four years, ten years, or twenty years, to a longer frame. Finally, it takes the goal of reducing atmospheric CO2 seriously enough to game out for a popular audience how that might happen internationally. Generally, we do discuss greenhouse gas emissions in a sort of "we'll have more electric cars and then [waves hand]" sort of way. KSR reminds readers how often our actions are just a "war of discourse."

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tomislav

    Utopia and dystopia are not opposites. Generally, a dystopia is an imagined world in which there is great suffering or injustice. But when climate change is tending to make a world of environmental destruction a reality rather than an imagining, perhaps the real world is a dystopia. Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest science fiction novel is an anti-dystopia, dramatizing a speculative antidote to our dystopic reality. The story opens in 2025 with the story of Frank May, a young American aid worker, wh Utopia and dystopia are not opposites. Generally, a dystopia is an imagined world in which there is great suffering or injustice. But when climate change is tending to make a world of environmental destruction a reality rather than an imagining, perhaps the real world is a dystopia. Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest science fiction novel is an anti-dystopia, dramatizing a speculative antidote to our dystopic reality. The story opens in 2025 with the story of Frank May, a young American aid worker, who is with an NGO at a clinic in a small city in Uttar Pradesh, on the upper Ganges of India. An extreme weather event, high heat and high humidity to levels that threaten human survival begins, and the electrical grid completely fails. He stays behind while his teammates/roommates evacuate, sleeping outside on the roof. Overnight, the most vulnerable of his neighbors do not survive on their roofs, and other bodies are moved from inside to the rooftops. Frank manages to get a gas-powered generator going on his roof, with wires down the side of the building, and brings as many people into the apartment as it can hold, to be air-conditioned until his gas runs out. However, soon local thugs arrive to take his generator and air conditioner at gunpoint. The only option is to move the people into a nearby lake, already crowded, and submerge. But while cooler than the air, the water has actually risen above body temperature as well, and lack of drinking water causes people to drink from the lake. Many more are dying, children and older people first. Frank himself barely survives. In the end, the Indian Heat Wave kills millions and brings down the government. It's a powerful opening, but the story switches to Mary Murphy, the head of a UN-created agency known as the Ministry for the Future, authorized and justified by the signatory nations of the Paris Agreement of 2016, via the UN Framework Convention of Climate Change. Originally aspirational and self-enforced by each nation itself, the agreement has been gradually strengthened as the crisis worsened. Frank and Mary will eventually meet, under very unusual circumstances, and thus begins a life-long tenuous (non-romantic) relationship. As with all KSR’s writing, the book is long, and the narrative is thick with didactic excursions into diverse aspects of climate and society and science. It always takes me a long time to read his work; every few pages I catch myself with book on my lap, staring into space, thinking. I feel this is a good thing, but many readers express frustration at it. At the least, the reader should be aware what they are getting into with KSR. For example, Chapter 17 begins with “Taxes are interesting.” Really? But then they are. There are episodes of increased tension, such as when Mary is evacuated into the Alps for protection by Swiss security forces. But this is not KSR’s primary mode. The novel is science fiction, with speculation in the natural sciences, especially geo-engineering. The Indian Heat Wave results in the new Indian government undertaking Solar Radiation Management, unilaterally. There is a strategy proposed for the stabilization of ice shelf slides in Antarctica. There is organized reforestation and the creation of vast habitat corridors. The novel is science fiction, with speculation in the social sciences, especially economics. Frank May is being treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, for his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, among other problems – just as 21st century humanity is suffering from global PTSD, and in need of global CBT. But KSR’s primary and essential speculative concept is a new currency known as the Carbon Coin, where the value of each coin is set at the re-sequestering of 1 ton of carbon. This creates incentive that changes national and individual behaviors. I feel his portrayal of this, of Mondragon business organization, and the popular backlash after the Indian Heat wave are overly optimistic. How will it happen? Well, the people, they will rise up! The caste system will end! Misogyny will end! Income inequality will end! It will be difficult, but in the end, it will be good! It is a social transformation away from capitalism. I also have some concerns with an aspect of change, that KSR seems to be advocating here. Mary discovers at one point, that the Ministry for the Future has a division for dark ops, which she as leader has not been informed of for deniability reasons. She accepts that this is necessary, and actually calls for targeted acts of violence later. Some revolutionary acts in the novel are by this hidden side of the Ministry, and others are by explicitly eco-terrorist groups. The reader can never be sure which are which – just hope as Mary does that the deadliest are not hers. KSR narrates that these actions logically lead to changes in modes of transportation, and increase the rate of abandonment of fossil fuels. The violent acts raise the cost of targeted businesses, thus encouraging sustainable alternatives. It is slippery ground to reason out how much is ethically justifiable, and what are acceptable risks of collateral damage, that human beings are poorly capable of deciding. But the social force is thought-provoking. I am frustrated by those who think works like this cannot be science fiction, as if science fiction needs to exist in a box built only for entertainment. KSR is a writer to be taken seriously, and a science fiction writer at that.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kateblue

    I hate to say it, but everyone should read this book. I give it one star because I really hated it. Nevertheless, I think everyone should read this book. No, it is not about time travel, which is what I was hoping for. It's about climate change. I almost didn't make it through. It's really depressing. I was going to stop at about 30%, but then completed it by skipping LOTS of paragraphs. Eventually, it gets somewhat hopeful, but I don't see that happening IRL. Even at the end, though, there's st I hate to say it, but everyone should read this book. I give it one star because I really hated it. Nevertheless, I think everyone should read this book. No, it is not about time travel, which is what I was hoping for. It's about climate change. I almost didn't make it through. It's really depressing. I was going to stop at about 30%, but then completed it by skipping LOTS of paragraphs. Eventually, it gets somewhat hopeful, but I don't see that happening IRL. Even at the end, though, there's stuff that's depressing. It's not really even a novel. It is a bunch of short stories, technical discussions, overlong setting descriptions, and ideological harangues, which are strung together by means of two longer stories. The two people in the stories eventually meet but don't really interact that much even after that. One, Frank, we meet on the first page, and I got really interested in him. He's the only character I cared about the whole way through. (Caring about characters is necessary for me liking a book, and there weren't really any in this book for me to care about.) But I didn't get a real feel for Frank until much later on. I thought he was (view spoiler)[a middle aged American medical professional at the beginning. Why? Because he took a real leadership role when disaster struck and when he decided to shelter locals at the "clinic." Plus, he had physical problems/exhaustion even before leaving the clinic. All of this made him seem like an older man to me. But it turns out he was just a really young assistant at the clinic. (hide spoiler)] Also, I really thought that the author would eventually reveal that Frank's (view spoiler)[ PTSD was partly caused by guilt. At the lake, he drank water from a flask that was cooler than the lake water. He had taken it from the fridge, and he didn't tell the people he was sheltering about it. I figured that drink might have cooled him slightly and helped him be a survivor, and that he felt guilty about it and concealed it, adding to his PTSD. Maybe I skipped this when skipping so many paragraphs, but I tried to not skip his parts. I think it would have added dimension to his character had it been there. (hide spoiler)] Another problem with this book is that it is SO much telling instead of showing. Even when the characters interact or give their opinions or there is discussion of their work, it's mostly telling instead of showing. Frank's part, starting on the first page, was really engaging. Though (view spoiler)[horrific (hide spoiler)] , it got me interested in the character and kept me reading. Alas, that level of writing rarely returned except in some of the chapter-long short stories. The one in LA. was particularly good. But the short stories were also confusing because it was often hard tell from their beginnings if there were a separate little story, or if they were about people we had met before, because the characters were written in first person and sometimes it was hard to tell for a couple of pages that this was going to be a little self-contained story and impossible to tell if we had met them before, like some of the (view spoiler)[refugee (hide spoiler)] stories. Anyway, I'm really sorry I read this book. What a downer! But I think everyone should read this book. Overall, it has made me more depressed about climate change (view spoiler)[through seeing the author's ideas of the Herculean tasks required for even the precarious balance they achieved. I now think, more than ever, that it is too late. (hide spoiler)] Which is why everyone should read this book. Maybe it can spur us to action, which is I'm sure his rationale for writing it. But as usual, reading Robinson's writing is just SO much WORK! If he really wants to sell his thoughts to engage people--to thereby sell his ideas/solutions to climate change, then he needs to write a more engaging book. This is NOT a bestseller! I did find my favorite new word, though. Kleptocrat. Go look it up.

  27. 5 out of 5

    John Adkins

    The master of Cli-Fi or climate fiction returns with another story of scientists and politicians working to save our planet from years (centuries) of environmental neglect. The titular ministry is an international group rising out of the Paris Accords that takes a big picture approach to trying to save the planet, and is failing. That is, failing until a disastrous heat wave in India kills millions and the world is reluctantly energized to finally do something - though it may be too late. Robins The master of Cli-Fi or climate fiction returns with another story of scientists and politicians working to save our planet from years (centuries) of environmental neglect. The titular ministry is an international group rising out of the Paris Accords that takes a big picture approach to trying to save the planet, and is failing. That is, failing until a disastrous heat wave in India kills millions and the world is reluctantly energized to finally do something - though it may be too late. Robinson expertly navigates possible geo-engineering options and the political battles that will inevitably accompany them. As always, the reader is left with a feeling that they should do something about all of this in the real world and a hopefulness that the smart, dedicated folks that Robinson describes do actually exist and will be there to lead the way. I was supplied with an eArc of this book via NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    This was a marvelous book. While it may not appeal to everyone due to less emphasis on character- or plot-driven material, it will appeal to hard science fiction readers who enjoy novels of ideas (and ideas and ideas...). The book alternates between two main characters and short chapters told from the point of view of scientists, politicians, economists, farmers, refugees, military personnel, and less tangible narrators like photons and the sun. This is a near-future, literary science fiction bo This was a marvelous book. While it may not appeal to everyone due to less emphasis on character- or plot-driven material, it will appeal to hard science fiction readers who enjoy novels of ideas (and ideas and ideas...). The book alternates between two main characters and short chapters told from the point of view of scientists, politicians, economists, farmers, refugees, military personnel, and less tangible narrators like photons and the sun. This is a near-future, literary science fiction book to be enjoyed by readers of Greg Egan or (more optimistic readers of) Peter Watts.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Roger Whitson

    I'd read about Robinson's new novel and was nervous to begin reading. The summer had been particularly bad: a pandemic, wildfires, a crazy American election. And indeed the first chapter was harrowing and horrifying, a nightmare of deadly heatwaves that are sure to impact us soon. I'm anxious for what the future may bring. But Robinson's novel is also so full of hope, and in such a time as these, his voice is so urgently calling to us to "keep going," keep moving forward - even or especially whe I'd read about Robinson's new novel and was nervous to begin reading. The summer had been particularly bad: a pandemic, wildfires, a crazy American election. And indeed the first chapter was harrowing and horrifying, a nightmare of deadly heatwaves that are sure to impact us soon. I'm anxious for what the future may bring. But Robinson's novel is also so full of hope, and in such a time as these, his voice is so urgently calling to us to "keep going," keep moving forward - even or especially when the world seems dire. It was exactly what I needed to hear.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Camelia Rose

    The Ministry for the Future is a carefully imagined near-future hard sci-fi about climate change. The book starts in 2024 when a deadly heatwave kills 20 million people in India, ends sometime in 2050s. The story is centered around Mary, the head of the Ministry for the Future (an agency founded in 2025 by the UN to oversee the application of Paris Agreement), her colleagues, and Frank May, an aid worker and survivor of the Indian Heatwave. The book, however, is not about the characters' lives. The Ministry for the Future is a carefully imagined near-future hard sci-fi about climate change. The book starts in 2024 when a deadly heatwave kills 20 million people in India, ends sometime in 2050s. The story is centered around Mary, the head of the Ministry for the Future (an agency founded in 2025 by the UN to oversee the application of Paris Agreement), her colleagues, and Frank May, an aid worker and survivor of the Indian Heatwave. The book, however, is not about the characters' lives. There is no lone hero or heroine. It is about how human race survive the climate catastrophe and change the world for the better. The writing is average. A lot of short chapters, fragmented eyewitness accounts, some prose poetries. I rate it 4 star because of the optimism. The ending is so hopeful that I find myself crying. No, The Ministry for the Future is not a feel good book. On the contrary, it has many dark themes. (view spoiler)[ Here are some themes from the book (in no particular order): 1. Carbon Coin: not the cryptocurrency obtained by "mining" (a.k.a consuming electricity), but major central banks backed financial leverage to encourage/punish carbon drawdown/emission. The idea itself is from a real life engineer and a member of Climate CoLab. Here is a podcast explaining the idea 2. Geo-engineering: the right type and wrong type of geo-engineerings 3. Geo-terrorists attack fossil-fueled flights and cargo ships, murder fossil fuel company CEOs 4. New means of transport finally take off: electronic cars, new chipper sails, airships, high speed trains; even the US has a high speed train 5. Massive heat waves, draughts, floods across the globe; LA gets flooded very badly; continuous immigration crisis; The Super Depression of 2030s (worse than the Great Depression of 1930s) 6. Massive reforestation and wildlife conservation across the globe; population consolidation in places such as American mid-west. 7. A social network where personal data is blockchain-ed and controlled by its originator 8. China is still an authoritarian state, but it does well in its share of fighting climate change. The central theme is very clear: a global problem needs a global solution; time is running out. To overcome the society's inertia and shortsightedness, radical changes are either forced upon us or deployed by ourselves, and human loss inevitable. Towards the end of the book, a new universal religion is taking shape: not a religion of God and God's punishment, but a religion to view the earth (all humans, animals and plants) as an interconnected network, a kind of mother-earth worshipping, something beyond and above each individual. I would be appalled by the idea of using religion to unite the world, if I hadn't read Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. If you agree with Harari that liberalism is also a religion, you'd agree that having such as new religion is not a bad idea. At the end of the book, the biggest issue still far from resolved is gender equality, which is not surprising, considering how deep this issue is rooted. (hide spoiler)]

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