“Forty Signs of Rain” by Kim Stanley Robinson (Spectra, 2004)

Forty Signs of RainStarStarStar

This is a series about global warming and what it might do to our planet, except it isn’t set in the distant future, like The Day After Tomorrow; this series is set a decade in the future at the most.  While no date is given, the world is much like ours with its citizens enjoying the frivolities of life, the administration cares nothing about the planet, the Arctic is breaking up and melting while pieces of Antarctica are falling off into the ocean.  Our main characters are Charlie Quibler, a Senate environmental staffer, and his wife Anna who works for the National Science Foundation.

Four fifths of the book are spent with the characters and their ordinary lives with their children.  Charlie is a stay at home dad, working with a phone and an Internet connection, looking after young Joe who needs constant supervision, while Anna works hard every day in her office.  As the book progresses the reader learns of our current reality: melting of the ice caps, rising sea levels, and increase in weather activity.  In the last part of the book, the storms come to Washington DC with severe rainfall, there is flooding, the Potomac overflowing and soon the streets become flooded rivers and boats become the only form of transportation.  The book ends with Charlie traveling home by boat with a great finishing line: “Are you going to do something about global warming now?” he says to his Senator.

What makes Forty Signs of Rain, especially for a science fiction novel, more enjoyable and realistic than most books I’ve read is the author makes his characters constantly doing ordinary things like meeting new people, interacting with them, cleaning the house, shopping, the father looking after the children.  The details of ordinary life that you and I go through every day are in this book and presumably the others in the series; it makes it very human.  Robinson was mostly setting the stage in the book, making it seem much like ordinary life, and then with the onslaught of global warming, things are kicked into high gear and I can’t help but think when this big change or catastrophe is going to happen to us.  With the Fall of constant hurricanes hitting the southeastern United States most notable with Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and with the severely cold winter we’ve had here in California, as well as record breaking warm temperatures on the east coast for this time of year, I can’t help but wonder if we are not already in high gear.  Perhaps these books will serve as a guide for when things really start to go bad with global warming.  Next in the series if Fifty Degrees Below.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on January 21st, 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.

Kim Stanley Robinson will be interviewed in episode 28 of Bookbanter available March 15.  Check out the Bookbanter website for more information.