Fifty Degrees Below, by Kim Stanley Robinson

Fifty Degrees Below cover
Fifty Degrees Below

Fifty Degrees Below is the sequel to Forty Signs of Rain, and continues Robinson’s story of abrupt climate change in the near future. In Fifty Degrees Below, we’re facing the first couple of winters of a slide into a new ice age (like the Younger Dryas–see my post on Forty Signs of Rain for links to more information about abrupt climate change).

In Fifty Degrees Below, Washington, D.C. is hit by no-fooling Arctic temperatures, temperatures that few people outside of northern Canada, Siberia, or Antarctica know how to deal with, and that stick around for months. The winter seems to have finally convinced people that now is the time to try and reverse the effects of mass industrialization and consumerism, and try and get a grip on abrupt climate change. (I would have said global warming, but apparently, in the world of fiction, global warming is going to lead to an ice age. I am not sure of the science because I am not a climatologist, meteorologist, or hydrologist.)

At this point, I think I’ve given up trying to impose a traditional plot structure on this series. It’s starting to seem like Robinson is trying to model this story on the way things happen in real life. What I mean is that there are a lot of characters, each of whom have a piece of the narrative, who may or may not be working together or even towards the same goal. It’s reminding me a lot of when I read Robinson’s Mars Trilogy. There were unifying elements, but it was very hard to summarize the plot.

In a way, you could say that everything that has happened in these books is peripheral. And I’m really enjoying that. There have been a lot of times when I’ve read a book, and the hints about what is going on in the background are as interesting or are more interesting than what’s happening to the plot. This might be a further sign of my Wikification, because I want to pursue all the tangential plot elements, back stories, and histories that the narrative introduces.

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