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From the visionary, New York Times bestselling author of New York 2140 comes a near-future novel that is a gripping exploration of climate change, technology, politics, and the human behaviors that drive these forces. 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, From the visionary, New York Times bestselling author of New York 2140 comes a near-future novel that is a gripping exploration of climate change, technology, politics, and the human behaviors that drive these forces. 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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From the visionary, New York Times bestselling author of New York 2140 comes a near-future novel that is a gripping exploration of climate change, technology, politics, and the human behaviors that drive these forces. 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, From the visionary, New York Times bestselling author of New York 2140 comes a near-future novel that is a gripping exploration of climate change, technology, politics, and the human behaviors that drive these forces. 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. 4 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. 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.

  5. 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.

  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

    Aidan Craigwood

    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.

  8. 4 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.

  9. 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]

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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).

  13. 5 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.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

    Find this review at Forever Lost in Literature! The Ministry for the Future is a stark look at a realistic and chillingly credible climate emergency situation. The story starts in 2025 when The Ministry for the Future is established to help the world combat climate change and when India experiences an extreme heat wave that kills twenty million people, which comes as a stark and tragic warning of how disastrous things have become in the world. This isn't technically a horror book, but with how ee Find this review at Forever Lost in Literature! The Ministry for the Future is a stark look at a realistic and chillingly credible climate emergency situation. The story starts in 2025 when The Ministry for the Future is established to help the world combat climate change and when India experiences an extreme heat wave that kills twenty million people, which comes as a stark and tragic warning of how disastrous things have become in the world. This isn't technically a horror book, but with how eerily realistic and plausible it seems, it definitely gives me some pretty terrifying vibes about what life could be like if things took a turn for the worse in a dramatic way. One thing I really appreciated about this book was the international focus Robinson employs. Rather than have a US-centric story as many scenarios tend to follow, the base of operations is set up in Europe and there were constant inclusions from other countries and continents across the globe. In fact, it is India that ends up being one of the more dominant players and instigators for creating change and ends up being on par with the other big countries in terms of power and voice. Robinson successfully created a well-rounded look at how these environmental changes could affect all areas of the globe in varying drastic ways. The entire book is told in varying POV chapters from different people's experiences with the new restrictions and climate changes that occur. One of the more interesting ones follows a man who was an eyewitness to the Indian heat wave and subsequently suffers from extreme trauma as a result of his experiences. It was interesting to watch him attempt to re-adapt to life after this traumatic event, as well as everything he was involved with after the fact. There are quite a few other varying people we follow, and a few surprising one-off POVs as well (such as the sun and photons--yes, I said photons), which I thought added a nice creative literary flair. There were a lot of times in this book where I felt as though I were reading some nonfiction book or treatise, and I'm not sure if I loved it or not. Part of me loved it because it made it feel even more realistic and like an important warning for out future, but it also wasn't necessarily the most enjoyable from an entertainment standpoint at all times. Nonetheless, it was still near-constantly interesting and I found myself continuously stopping to look up certain facts or figure to find out if things were true or not (and turns out, a lot of it was!). Robinson is known for his well-researched and thought out stories and that is no exception in this book. This book feels like a warning, but it's still a story that can be enjoyed and the different avenues of possible ways to safe/change things provide some really interesting content. It asks a lot of questions about what could happen and how we could fix things, as well provides insight into the different solutions and possibilities that could occur. Definitely a thought-provoking and worthwhile story that I do recommend for anyone interesting in the environment and international relations. Overall, it's four stars from me!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jameson

    Kim Stanley Robinson is a super talented writer and full of ideas. That being said, I had a hard time with this title as it drags on for large sections and doesn’t seem to have any real narrative other than climate change and effects of that on humanity short and long term. Excellent writer, but gets bogged down too much for me.

  16. 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.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Trevelyanwright

    The future history novel is a very specific type of science fiction: relying on a narrative rather than a plot. It’s desperately unfashionable and since Wells and Stapledon novelists have made their histories implicit and revealed through action and plot rather than attempting to write a ‘history of the future’. Kim Stanley Robinson’s work, especially his Mars series, might be seen as tiptoing into this arena. Now with The Ministry of the Future he’s dived straight in. The ecological and politic The future history novel is a very specific type of science fiction: relying on a narrative rather than a plot. It’s desperately unfashionable and since Wells and Stapledon novelists have made their histories implicit and revealed through action and plot rather than attempting to write a ‘history of the future’. Kim Stanley Robinson’s work, especially his Mars series, might be seen as tiptoing into this arena. Now with The Ministry of the Future he’s dived straight in. The ecological and political themes that have always driven his work are now front and centre as he tracks the history of the earth over the next thirty years. The novel starts with an apocalyptic event: an extreme heat event in India that kills millions. Virtually the only survivor is Frank, an American aid worker. He is one of only two characters who have what could be called a storyline. The other is Mary, an Irish politician who is chosen to head the titular Ministry, brought into being in Switzerland to advocate for the generations not yet born in decision-making that affects the planet’s sustainability. Their paths cross when Frank, radicalised by his experience, kidnaps Mary to impress upon her that respectful lobbying and polite advocacy is not enough. And this is KSR’s central theme: that what politicians, business leaders and international organisations are currently proposing is not enough. So what might be enough? The Ministry of the Future is a future history that looks back to track how a vast cast of characters across the globe could plausibly arrive at a course of action that was enough. He puts this ending upfront, shifting the narrative from focusing on whether to how. The future history format frees Robinson from even pretending to use his research for anything more creative than informing.This novel will leave most readers knowing much more about carbon sequestration, glacial movement and methane production than they did at the start. A vast cast: refugees, Presidents, scientists and even non-humans voice a collective oral history of how the world moved, at great cost, from heading towards catastrophe and extinction to sustainability. This may be the only novel where the photon and the market are chapter narrators. And it’s the operation of that market that Robinson sees as lying at the heart of the climate emergency: from offshore tax havens and globalisation to the actions of central banks he sees the economic game is firmly rigged against the implementation of any meaningful change through the current channels. Mary - with Frank as her prompter and conscience - has a central role in finding new channels, from trying to persuade world central banks to adopt the carboni, a new global currency that would reward carbon capture; to sanctioning a ‘don’t tell, don’t know’ campaign of terrorism by others within her Ministry. Might the death of a few thousand business leaders and populist politicians be the ‘enough’ that will lead to the necessary change? Here they are seen as committing crimes against humanity: their actions not just robbing, but killing, future generations before they are born. Read this as a novel and I suspect the lack of action and characters could be frustrating. Read it as a roadmap of our future and it challenges us to think about how much we would be prepared to do: and whether that might be enough.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Juliano Dutra

    Ordinarily, i would give 2 stars for the quality book's narrative and plot. The third star is for the importance of the theme, especially in the current times of negation of global warming. But I found that the extrapolation - consequences - of climate change is vague and simplistic. As I mentioned, the thematic of the book is fundamental nowadays, but for those who are already concerned and looking for good sources on the subject, it ends up being a pile of infodumps - even more than you could Ordinarily, i would give 2 stars for the quality book's narrative and plot. The third star is for the importance of the theme, especially in the current times of negation of global warming. But I found that the extrapolation - consequences - of climate change is vague and simplistic. As I mentioned, the thematic of the book is fundamental nowadays, but for those who are already concerned and looking for good sources on the subject, it ends up being a pile of infodumps - even more than you could expect from a book this - , which drags the narrative for large sections.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bryan

    “Revolutions no longer include guillotines” KSR is one of the best science fiction authors alive. His newest book offers something in rare supply these days, a hopeful future. How can we adapt to meet the challenges of climate change, growing nationalism, and the very real grasp of the kleptocratic billionaire ruling class? Everyday people. The sands are shifting and we will have to make sacrifices but his newest book shows how power might break away from traditional structures and how we may for “Revolutions no longer include guillotines” KSR is one of the best science fiction authors alive. His newest book offers something in rare supply these days, a hopeful future. How can we adapt to meet the challenges of climate change, growing nationalism, and the very real grasp of the kleptocratic billionaire ruling class? Everyday people. The sands are shifting and we will have to make sacrifices but his newest book shows how power might break away from traditional structures and how we may forge a positive path forward. This won’t be without violence, tragedy, and our way of life radically changing but this book plays with the assumption we won’t become a wasteland. It’s a much needed reprieve. Additional thoughts: This is less a book and more weird yet positive story with like 30% infodumps. Fascinating infodumps. The Davos scene is wild. Drones changing the military forever A heat wave that kills 10s of millions Carbon currency “The Narcism of small differences. More regard for yourself than your allies or the problems you both face.” Midwest cities completely being reclaimed by the wilderness

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dan Trefethen

    In a review of “New York 2140” I said that Robinson reminded me of Victor Hugo, the famous public intellectual of France who sought to influence public policy with his novels, and inserted chapters into the books that stepped outside the action and spoke directly to the reader. Stan Robinson goes back to that method here, in a long book with short chapters (106 chapters in 576 pages). He jumps back and forth between following a plot line involving the head of the titular Ministry and providing in In a review of “New York 2140” I said that Robinson reminded me of Victor Hugo, the famous public intellectual of France who sought to influence public policy with his novels, and inserted chapters into the books that stepped outside the action and spoke directly to the reader. Stan Robinson goes back to that method here, in a long book with short chapters (106 chapters in 576 pages). He jumps back and forth between following a plot line involving the head of the titular Ministry and providing informative background on ecology, finance, politics, and all manner of relevant things. This may seem jarring, but the separate chapters are so short that they read like mini-essays on a topic, then we're back to the plot. Channeling Victor Hugo, Stan describes for us what is bound to happen over the next few decades due to climate change, and through his Ministry outlines steps that can be taken to mitigate it (mainly by nation-states and central bankers, because that's how the world works). The 'fixes' he comes up with are a blend of technology and policy, mainly financial and monetary policy. Pumping water out from under glaciers to nail them back down to the land underneath is a cool idea (pun intended), but his more ingenious ideas have to do with policy and finance: Creating a 'carbon coin' that pays to sequester carbon, not just tax it; create a blockchained alternative to digital money that removes dark pools of money and takes huge amounts of capital out of the hands of bankers; and formally connecting large swathes of wilderness to help stop the crisis in animal extinctions. I'm rating this book highly because we need to consider massive and unusual methods to reverse the damage we've caused and to keep the world's social and economic orders from collapsing. I don't see this book as a utopian novel about climate change, because utopia implies an end state; we will not reach an end state in our lifetimes on this issue, but Robinson shows how we can rethink our approach to climate change and begin to stave off the disaster that looms ahead. The United States needs a Victor Hugo, and Stan is stepping up to the role. Highly recommended.

  21. 5 out of 5

    PvOberstein

    This book is about being a bystander to the greatest revolution in human history. Let me back up. This book is about Mary Murphy, the head of the titular Ministry for the Future. The book’s premise is that, in the near-future, the MftF is created out of an inspired interpretation of the Paris Agreement, with the mandate of advocating on behalf of the future generations of humanity. Which means coming up with a solution for climate change to safeguard the lives of generations yet unborn. This is a This book is about being a bystander to the greatest revolution in human history. Let me back up. This book is about Mary Murphy, the head of the titular Ministry for the Future. The book’s premise is that, in the near-future, the MftF is created out of an inspired interpretation of the Paris Agreement, with the mandate of advocating on behalf of the future generations of humanity. Which means coming up with a solution for climate change to safeguard the lives of generations yet unborn. This is a concept that had solid grounding in the real-world – there are plenty of lawsuits on behalf of the children who will inherit a ruined planet – and is a wonderful premise for a story. What would a U.N. body with the sole purpose of safeguarding the future of humanity, actually do? The impetus for all of this comes in the book’s opening chapters, some of Kim Stanley Robinson’s absolute best writing, when an unprecedented heat wave strikes Uttar Pradesh, India. With wet-bulb temperatures of 35°C for weeks on end and a power blackout knocking out all air conditioning, around twenty million people die in one of the worst natural disasters in history. Except, of course, it was not a natural disaster, not really, but the end result of centuries of carbon emissions, of industry slowly smothering the Earth. As a vision of a possible future to come, it is bone-chilling, haunting. Shortly thereafter, a direct action/terrorist/sabotage/climate justice organization called the Children of Kali come into existence, intent on righting the wrongs of the world. In sort of a mirror image of John Galt’s capitalist piracy in Atlas Shrugged, the Children of Kali begin a bloody guerrilla war against the capitalist forces of Earth, blowing up airplanes and sinking cargo ships and infecting bovines with mad cow disease. Much of this appears to be covertly supported by a dark ops wing of the MftF – though exactly what it does, Mary Murphy never figures out – and made possible through swarm of untraceable and unstoppable micro-UAVs. >While this shadow war is being waged, Mary and the legal side of the MftF begin pushing any number of social policies with the goal of stopping climate change. The biggest of these are the carbon-coins (or carboni), which are basically quantitative-easement credits paying people for either not burning carbon or for sequestering it out of the atmosphere. Meanwhile, large-scale geoengineering project are undertaken to reclaim lost ground, the biggest of all being a massive pumping operation in Antarctica designed to stem rising sea levels. If you’ve read any of KSR’s novels (and I’ve read… most of them), you’ll recognize his familiar tropes. There’s post-capitalism, environmental paramilitaries, communal living, spiritually bonding with Nature, reinsurance companies, Antarctica, mass protests, Swiss culture, and planetary engineering. It seems to take place in the same universe as Red Moon (the American bank strikes and the march on Beijing both happen contemporaneously), but it harkens back to the Mars and Science in the Capital trilogies, with their extended explorations of how humanity can reinvent itself to live in a more harmonious fashion. So why did I say this book is about being a bystander? Because its biggest flaw is that Mary Murphy – through whom we see most of the major plot developments - seemingly does very little to drive events. The very dirty work – the blowing up of airplanes and the killing of oil executives – is carried about by other characters, mostly off-screen. If there were ethical, or even practical, issues about the validity of their actions, Mary never has to wrestle with them. Indeed, most of the action in the book seems to be driven, as much as anything, by a sort of worldwide collective awakening to the idea that we need to manage the planet better. Almost every chapter contains a statement that, somewhere in the world, everyone started doing the right thing. The BJP/RSS are discredited in India, which quickly discards Hindutva and the caste system. Alright, the book begins with a pretty traumatic shock to India, I can see how that leads to dramatic changes. Students across America go on strike and refuse to pay student loans to banks, leading to a massive financial crisis. Okay, we don’t have any signs of that occurring now, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility. Everyone in China decides to march on Beijing and demand that the Chinese Communist Party completely reform itself, and the Politburo immediately agrees, installing a generation of young and progressive leaders. Huh? As much as I want to agree with this book, I found myself getting constantly annoyed at its tendency to just gloss over political realities. Yes, if everyone did wake up one morning and decided they wanted to impose a worldwide wealth tax or turn the middle of America into a nature preserve, that would certainly solve a lot of problems. But how on Earth are you going to get people to actually do that? Laying my cards on the table – I’m a pessimistic about our ability to solve climate change, at least in the absence of some sort of geoengineering moonshot. As easy as it is to blame corporate executives and corrupt politicians, I think the bigger issues are wider than that. Outside of the far-left, I think that there are very few people who would voluntarily subject themselves to a decade-long economic implosion and the ensuring decrease in quality-of-life, even if it was absolutely necessary for the long-term survival of our species. We’ll make marginal improvements here and there – higher efficiency standards, incentives for renewables, weatherization and wildlife preserves – but how many people are going to agree to giving up vehicle ownership, making all their financial transactions public, and be relocated from houses in small towns to apartments in unfamiliar cities? Even if you did have politicians bold enough to go forward with these policies, how on Earth would they ever survive re-election? (This review was written in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which is not exactly inspiring your reviewer with confidence in humanity’s ability to behave rationally. Even when there’s a literal pandemic that could literally kill you right now, what percent of Americans are refusing to wear a mask on, like, principle?) Too much of the book seems to rest on wishful thinking. There is, somehow, no political pushback to any of these ideas in the United States, there’s not even a reference to how Congress managed to outlaw tax havens and dark pools and wealth over $50 million. Is it possible? Maybe you we can get another FDR, a Wilsonian Moment, an October Revolution. But almost all of these things in the book seem to just… happen. The Democrats and Republicans must have set aside their differences and ended the American vetocracy, or something. (Also, if I’m going to nitpick, the ‘unstoppable/untraceable UAV silver bullets’ just never sat right with me. Early in the book there’s “The Crash” where micro-swarms of UAVs take down something like 70 airplanes at the same time. This apparently scares the world into giving up on air travel and moving to, like, dirigibles. Bull effing shite is all I can say. It seems entirely fanciful that this wouldn’t drive the national security state into an Orwellian frenzy that’d positively dwarf the post-9/11 world, with the entirety of the military-industrial complex cheering it on. No, we wouldn’t stop flying, we’d put CCTVs on every street corner, legislate backdoors into every form of communication, and use A.I. and social credit monitoring and whatnot to make a true surveillance panopticon. Also also, he’s definitely giving China too much credit. Capitalism has its flaws, yes, but it’s not like USSR or the PRC were champions for environmental protection and human dignity. The techno-totalitarianism in Xinjiang does not fill me with confidence that the Hong Kong protests will suddenly spread across China.) One of the few characters we see take meaningful action is Frank May, who survived the heat wave in Lucknow and becomes obsessed with averting a climate catastrophe. He stalks and threatens Mary Murphy early in the book, which helps set her on her course of using the MftF to well-exceed its conventionally-understood mandate. I was curious if the name Frank was meant to be in some way an allusion to Frank Chalmers, the Machiavellian schemer of Red Mars. (Yes, it’s a common name, though both Franks are coincidentally from Florida, and Chalmers is certainly one of KSR’s best-known creations) If so, I can’t say it was a favorable one. Frank Chalmers, as magnificent a bastard as he is, is nevertheless fascinating to follow because we see him get stuff done. We watch him play American and Russian and Arab factions off one another to try to build the Mars he wants (“he was engaged in about fifty conferences simultaneously; it was like those people who play chess blind in a room full of opponents”). Apart from some arguing with central bankers over the creation of carboni (who are independent but, no, not that independent), Mary seems to just drift about, watching events unfold and hiking through the Alps. The writing, though, is some of KSR’s best in years, drifting between conventional linear POVs like Mary and Frank, anthologies of short stories, meeting minutes, abstract conversations, and Tolkienesque riddles in the dark. (Though Stan is getting into the bad habit of writing conversations without quotation marks.) There is such a breadth of ideas in this book that it’s like mainlining Vox explainers directly into your nervous system – everything from painting the polar icecaps to reengineering wetlands to alternative financial systems. Even if I quibble with how any of these would be implemented (and, uh, see above), you can’t not take away something new from it. It is also a love letter to the city of Zurich, which is lovingly explored just as Washington, D.C. was in the Aughts. tl;dr – Both the Mars trilogy and the Science in the Capital series do much of the same thing MftF does. The former are more grounded in the mundane realities, the nuts-and-bolts, the petty politicking. MftF is much shorter on actual details, but goes farther in actually imagining what a post-capitalist world could look like. Take that for what you will.

  22. 5 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.

  23. 4 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Salam Tims

    Kim Stanley Robinson (KSR to sci-fi readers) is a master novelist with a penchant for realistic (no space opera, faster-than-light starships, or galactic empire) science fiction dealing with humanity's prospects over the next few centuries. Much of his work deals with the space exploration and settlement. His Mars trilogy—RED MARS, GREEN MARS, and BLUE MARS—is an epic imagining of how humans might claim, fight over, and “humanize” a new world. I loved the Mars books and consider his novel 2312 t Kim Stanley Robinson (KSR to sci-fi readers) is a master novelist with a penchant for realistic (no space opera, faster-than-light starships, or galactic empire) science fiction dealing with humanity's prospects over the next few centuries. Much of his work deals with the space exploration and settlement. His Mars trilogy—RED MARS, GREEN MARS, and BLUE MARS—is an epic imagining of how humans might claim, fight over, and “humanize” a new world. I loved the Mars books and consider his novel 2312 to be one of the best depictions of human colonization of the solar system I’ve read. His writing can be categorized as “hard” sci-fi in that it is all grounded in realistic projections of current science and technology. Beyond STEM disciplines, his work also draws upon extensive research in social and life sciences. He is a polymath and a humanist. He has turned his attention to climate change on Earth in two novels: NEW YORK 2140 and most recently THE MINISTRY FOR THE FUTURE (TMFTF). Some critics have found fault with the former work as too optimistic. I doubt that many will say the same about his latest. TMTF is grimly realistic, sometimes horrifying, in its depictions of climate change and its probable impact on humans and human institutions over the middle decades of this century, which he rightly describes as an evolutionary “bottle neck” and possible extinction event for most life on Earth, including humans. It reads like collaboration between the late sci-fi master, John Brunner (STAND ON ZANZIBAR, THE SHEEP LOOK UP) and climate activist Bill McKibben (DEEP ECONOMY: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, EAARTH: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, THE END OF NATURE). I have no doubt KSR has read both authors, as have I. The structure and style of the novel—multiple character points-of-view, interwoven story lines and vignettes—is very much like Brunner’s work. Like McKibben’s books, it is peppered (maybe “seeded” is a better term) with densely factual non-fiction segments that are tutorials on numerous subjects, including: the probable near-term consequences of climate change —physical, political, social, and economic—and what can aptly be called “tutorials” on geology, meteorology, monetary theory, capitalism. A recurring theme is that socio-economic inequality lies at the root of climate change and drives our resistance to do anything about it. You will not come away from this book rooting for the 1-10% of humanity that owns 80-90% of the world’s wealth and virtually run its governments. You may also come away ashamed and embarrassed at how the political economy of the U$A is the worst offender driving climate change and likely last adapter of any moves to halt and reverse it. Don’t let any of this put you off! The book is ultimately albeit cautiously optimistic. It describes the many ways that science and technology can be harnessed to slow the movement of the world’s glaciers into the seas, and to reduce and even draw down the build-up of carbon that is cooking our oceans and atmosphere. It describes how the power of the world’s national banks might be harnessed to issue “carbon coins” that encourage and empower those technologies. It describes how the world’s suffering masses, not its ruling class, ultimately rise up in myriad movements to force change. It’s also a page-turner—though you may be tempted, as I was, to skim some of the denser exposition of economic theory. I “whipped through” its 563 pages in less than two-weeks of bedtime reading. I strongly recommend reading it and hope it will find its way into a TV miniseries, though I’m not holding my breath on that. Check it out!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Kim Stanley Robinson's angry optimism at its best. Maybe KSR's masterpiece, even more so than the Mars trilogy, 2312 and Aurora? It's really a huge book of ideas. Every couple of pages he'll drop, in a single sentence, ideas that would fill entire SF novels. KSR is respected but I still think he's vastly underrated by modern SF fans. On the one hand, he refuses to flatter the hard sf fantasists who think human space travel is necessary/inevitable, and on the other hand he's not writing character Kim Stanley Robinson's angry optimism at its best. Maybe KSR's masterpiece, even more so than the Mars trilogy, 2312 and Aurora? It's really a huge book of ideas. Every couple of pages he'll drop, in a single sentence, ideas that would fill entire SF novels. KSR is respected but I still think he's vastly underrated by modern SF fans. On the one hand, he refuses to flatter the hard sf fantasists who think human space travel is necessary/inevitable, and on the other hand he's not writing character driven works that would appeal to the YA readers. In Ministry especially, character is just a device to explore the ideas he's interested in. He really nails the angry optimism that's driven so much of his work. In a way I kept thinking of this as a rebuke to the storytelling strategy of a lot of modern sci-fi and horror, stuff like Night of the Living Dead where the real obstacle isn't the external threat but the inability of humans to work together. KSR's not ignorant of the multitude of ways in which reactionary forces and general ineptitude can sabotage the project of building a better world in this century, he's just focusing on what can be done. It's also a huge rebuke to people who think utopian writing is by nature boring.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Paul Sparks

    I would like to say that I found this book deeply insightful and full of hopeful revelation into climate changes, I think I may have Pandemic fatigue as I am tired of reading and hearing of what is causing damage and likely to end the species, some may find thus book timely I found it laborious, I will try and read it again in a few years but now is the not the time

  29. 4 out of 5

    Pedro L. Fragoso

    "The Gini coefficient, devised by the Italian sociologist Corrado Gini in 1912, is a measure of income or wealth disparity in a population. It is usually expressed as a fraction between 0 and 1, and it seems easy to understand, because 0 is the coefficient if everyone owned an equal amount, while 1 would obtain if one person owned everything and everyone else nothing. In our real world of the mid-twenty-first century, countries with a low Gini coefficient, like the social democracies, are genera "The Gini coefficient, devised by the Italian sociologist Corrado Gini in 1912, is a measure of income or wealth disparity in a population. It is usually expressed as a fraction between 0 and 1, and it seems easy to understand, because 0 is the coefficient if everyone owned an equal amount, while 1 would obtain if one person owned everything and everyone else nothing. In our real world of the mid-twenty-first century, countries with a low Gini coefficient, like the social democracies, are generally a bit below 0.3, while highly unequal countries are a bit above 0.6. The US, China, and many other countries have seen their Gini coefficients shoot up in the neoliberal era, from 0.3 or 0.4 up to 0.5 or 0.6, this with barely a squeak from the people losing the most in this increase in inequality, and indeed many of those harmed often vote for politicians who will increase their relative impoverishment. Thus the power of hegemony: we may be poor but at least we’re patriots! At least we’re self-reliant and we can take care of ourselves, and so on, right into an early grave, as the average lifetimes of the poorer citizens in these countries are much shorter than those of the wealthy citizens. And average lifetimes overall are therefore decreasing for the first time since the eighteenth century." Is Kim Stanley Robinson inexorably becoming, book-by-book, the most important writer alive? Is there any other writer of literature with the same intellectual depth and relevance of themes approached? The future of humanity, and the inescapable imperative of founding hope in humanity, even in these darkest times of potential climate apocalypse, are the soul of his latest books. "Aurora" used interplanetary travel to ascertain that there are for us no other home but this blue planet, so we better take care of it. "New York 2140", an absolute masterpiece, reflected on the ways our life will need to adapt when the seas rise, always with an undercurrent of hope on the ingenuity and decency of most people. "Red Moon" is an important text on the emerging superpower, on the irrepressibility of liberty and the cold fact that the moon is a barren territory, not any kind of alternative to the Earth. (How far as we came since the Mars Trilogy...) The "Ministry for the Future" is a continuation of this process. It's climate-fiction on a grand scale, being a "novel" presented as an extremely complex mosaic, full of unexpected point-of-views (including the point-of-view of geological phenomena, for instance...), left-leaning (i.e., "socialism", "social justice", "representation", "human dignity", "humanist"), with prominence given this time to Switzerland and India, and also arguably, a measure of justification for target assassinations, violent political manifestations and terrorism (all acceptable, it turns out, if carried on for the public good, the "public good" being the salvation of the planet by any means necessary, namely guaranteeing the sustained lowering of the average temperature and the carbon footprint). There's also some terraforming and solid considerations about money, politics and power. There's a rich tapestry of characters, situations and welcome optimism. But! Kim Stanley Robinson is never a specially evocative writer (think Jay Lake, Lucius Shepard, Robert Jackson Bennett; or Marguerite Yourcenar, Pierre Lemaitre, Camilo Castelo Branco), but here the literary quality of the writing is even more basic than usual, the characters are interesting but not all that appealing, the flow of events too disconnected. It gets there, but the journey is not particularly brilliant. And also, I emphatically do not like Switzerland. However, it still is a very important, essential even, book on our times and the times to come. "There is no single solution adequate to the task. And so what can we expect to see? Failure. But assuming success, just for discussion’s sake, what shape might that take? The shape of failure. Expand on that please? A success made of failures? Yes. A cobbling-together from less-than-satisfactory parts. A slurry, a bricolage. An unholy mess. Will this in itself create problems? Of course. Such as? Such as the way like-minded people working to solve the same problem will engage in continuous civil war with each other over methods, thus destroying their chances of success. Why does that happen, do you think? The narcissism of small differences. That’s an odd name. It’s Freud’s name. Means more regard for yourself than for your allies or the problems you both face. Well, but sometimes the differences aren’t so small, right? The front is broad. But don’t you think there’s a real difference in for instance how people regard the market? There’s no such thing as the market. Really! I’m surprised to hear you say this, what can you mean? There’s no more of a real market behind what we now call the market than there is gold behind what we call money. Old words obscure new situations."

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    It’s a topic that Kim has addressed before, but I don’t think that it has ever been more relevant. After showing a world devastated by climate change in his ‘...and Counting’ trilogy, not to mention a submerged New York in New York 2140, Ministry for the Future is another tale suggesting a near future world under stress and approaching environmental catastrophe. From the publisher: ‘Established in 2025, the purpose of the new organisation was simple: To advocate for the world's future generations It’s a topic that Kim has addressed before, but I don’t think that it has ever been more relevant. After showing a world devastated by climate change in his ‘...and Counting’ trilogy, not to mention a submerged New York in New York 2140, Ministry for the Future is another tale suggesting a near future world under stress and approaching environmental catastrophe. From the publisher: ‘Established in 2025, the purpose of the new organisation 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.’ Kim has often highlighted such events before, but I think that the first chapter of The Ministry For The Future is perhaps his grimmest yet. Set in 2025, it tells of a heat wave in India as seen by American Frank May, which kills twenty million people. It is bleak, unremitting and devastatingly grim, yet told in an affectingly subdued way that gets a message across – this is our world and it is now. The result of this catastrophe is a lot of blaming and finger-pointing between different countries. India begins to seed the atmosphere to reduce the temperature, something the outcome of which is unknown and also flies in the face of international agreements. Led by Mary Murphy, The Ministry for the Future, an new international agency set up with Zurich, Switzerland, has the job of trying to ensure health and safety for the future of the world, steps in to try and defuse the situation and try to find a way to make progress. Mary Murphy and her team travel around the world to try and discuss with a broad range of people how to do this. In doing so, she also comes across Frank, who, traumatised by the fact that he has survived the Indian catastrophe, looks to terrorist environmental groups to try and help bring about environmental change. Not every choice is easy, nor every solution workable, but through the book Kim discusses thoroughly possible ways forward.   Ministry for the Future is an ambitiously big book, though with short chapters. It has a broad global sweep, travelling from India to Europe, to Brazil to Argentina and even Antarctica, deals with weighty topics intelligently, and is full of ideas that reflect difficult choices ahead.  Admittedly, there are places where it can be a little dry – the book covers such broad topics as the role of tax in global society, the Paris Climate Agreement, the creation and function of the International Monetary Fund, Jevons Paradox and Modern Monetary Theory, for example – the point is that many aspects are examined and made readable in order to suggest ways to show the challenges and then make progress that are rarely easy but refreshingly positive. Whilst the issues discussed are not new, Kim’s low-key style reminded me of Arthur C Clarke’s writing, in that people talk their way around things at look at many options before making decisions. I found it to be one of the more accessible and readable KSR novels of late. Whilst it could be said that Ministry for the Future is a political agenda dressed-up as fiction, my abiding feeling at the end is that it shows hope – a sensible and rational way out of the mess we live in, and reflects a heartfelt belief that sensible people, wanting to do the best for as many people as they can, can work in difficult situations to make the world a better place. And at the moment, with all of the political and environmental chaos going on around us, it is therefore the novel we need. It does not give easy solutions but it does give well-considered ones. Thoughtful, literate, intelligent, and most of all positive – Ministry for the Future is not the global catastrophe story some might suggest but it is a tale from one of our genre’s most moral novelists. A book to make you think, and realise that humans can do anything, if they want to.

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