cover image The Ministry for the Future

The Ministry for the Future

Kim Stanley Robinson. Orbit, $28 (480p) ISBN 978-0-316-30013-1

Bestseller Robinson (Forty Signs of Rain) again tackles climate change head-on in this gutsy, humane view of a near-future Earth careening toward collapse. Mary Murphy, head of the Ministry for the Future, a UN watchdog agency created as a result of the Paris Agreement, takes to heart the ministry’s mission “to advocate for the world’s future generations.” Mary spends her days promoting relief for the afflicted and wrestling with the financial powers-that-be to change the carbon balance before it tips too far. She must also be on the watch for ecoterrorists, even as she plans to use their attacks in her pitch for a carbon sequestration cryptocurrency to a group of influential bankers. Then Mary is abducted by the traumatized survivor of a heat wave that killed 20 million in India, who furiously cuts through the political weeds to demand change (“You’re killing the world and you want me to remember what words you used to cover your ass?”). Galvanized by his demands, Mary attempts to start a “black wing” working in secret within the Ministry for the Future to make larger changes than she can aboveboard—only to discover that such a group already exists. Robinson masterfully integrates the practical details of environmental crises and geoengineering projects into a sweeping, optimistic portrait of humanity’s ability to cooperate in the face of disaster. This heartfelt work of hard science-fiction is a must-read for anyone worried about the future of the planet. Agent: Chris Schelling, Selectric Artists. (Oct.)