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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Forty Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson

Forty Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson. New York: Bantam Books, 2004. ISBN: 0-553-80311-5

I first came across this book's sequel, Fifty Degrees Below (2005), and because Kim Stanley Robinson is an author I admire, and many of whose previous books I've enjoyed, I decided I should get hold of the first book in the series and read it. When the book finally came (I requested it from another location through my local library), I wasn't too impressed. “Why did I want to read this?” I thought.

Nevertheless, from the instant I started reading, I was hooked! Trapped, caught, enjoying every page, every nuance, every scrap. Why? Because of the writing! Robinson is a superb writer. He makes you care about his characters, right from the first page. You actually enjoy reading about their daily, relatively humdrum lives, and you enjoy spending time with them.

This book makes me remember why I enjoyed his Mars Trilogy so much, back in the 1990's: Red Mars (1993), Green Mars (1994) and Blue Mars (1996). Red Mars won the Nebula, and Green won the Hugo! Well deserved.

The book is about scientific ecological issues and politics, too. Most of the action takes place at the NSF (National Science Foundation) in Washington D.C. where two of the main characters work, or in the offices of an environmentally friendly senator, for whom the husband of one of the NSF characters works as a science adviser.

Not much really happens in the book until the final chapter. A group of ex-Tibetan monks arrive to lobby for their wee island nation off the coast of India. A doctoral student doing interesting genome research out in California submits a grant request to the NSF. But all the while, events are building. Global warming is about to make itself felt in a big way.

Forty Signs of Rain takes place in the very near future. The only technological change I noticed was that people talk to their phones. “Call Rob.” they say, and the phone complies. That technology is actually available now, albeit not perfect, and certainly not universally deployed. Everything that happens in this story could be happening just a few short years from now.

This book is really more a novel about science, than it is a science fiction novel per se. If that makes any sense. Even so, it comes highly recommended. From me, at least. Try it, you'll like it!

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