cover image The Deluge

The Deluge

Stephen Markley. Simon & Schuster, $29.99 (944p) ISBN 978-1-9821-2309-3

In this brilliant dystopian epic from Markley (Ohio), spanning from 2013 to 2040, a range of characters attempt to avert catastrophic climate change, sometimes at great personal risk, and with varying degrees of success. There’s geologist Tony Pietrus; climate justice activist Kate Morris; Shane Acosta, a sophisticated ecoterrorist; and Ashir al-Hasan, chief of staff for the Senate Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. The plot begins in familiar terrain, with scientists sounding the alarm that time is running out. Speculative elements emerge with the meteoric ascent of Morris, whose organization, A Fierce Blue Fire, has made global warming the sole litmus test for its political support. The charismatic Morris also dreams up investment opportunities to benefit neglected and poverty-stricken regions. Interstitial segments, including a newspaper article written by AI about Shane’s truck bombing of an Ohio power station in 2030, add to the sense of frightening plausibility. Meanwhile, the bureaucratic al-Hasan comments in a memo on the “inanity and profiteering that surround the legislative process,” while Pietrus, whose work on methane clathrates is quietly incorporated into government models, remains divisive and marginalized. Markley makes this anything but didactic; his nuanced characterizations of individuals with different approaches to the existential threat make the perils they encounter feel real as they navigate cover-ups and lies. It’s a disturbing tour de force. (Jan.)