By the time Phil Chase is elected president, the world's climate is far on its way to irreversible change. Food scarcity, housing shortages, diminishing medical care, and vanishing species are just some of the consequences. The erratic winter the Washington, D.C., area is experiencing is another grim reminder of a global weather pattern gone haywire: bone-chilling cold one day, balmy weather the next.
But the president-elect remains optimistic and doesn't intend to give up without a fight. A maverick in every sense of the word, Chase starts organizing the most ambitious plan to save the world from disaster since FDR-and assembling a team of top scientists and advisers to implement it.
For Charlie Quibler, this means reentering the political fray full-time and giving up full-time care of his young son, Joe. For Frank Vanderwal, hampered by a brain injury, it means trying to protect the woman he loves from a vengeful ex and a rogue "black ops" agency not even the president can control-a task for which neither Frank's work at the National Science Foundation nor his study of Tibetan Buddhism can prepare him.
In a world where time is running out as quickly as its natural resources, where surveillance is almost total and freedom nearly nonexistent, the forecast for the Chase administration looks darker each passing day. For as the last-and most terrible-of natural disasters looms on the horizon, it will take a miracle to stop the clock . . . the kind of miracle that only dedicated men and women can bring about.
Inside-the-Beltway policy wonks and government scientists strive to save the world from environmental collapse in the well-written third installment (after 2005's Fifty Degrees Below) of this hyperrealistic, near-future SF series. The Gulf Stream-slowed by global warming-has been restarted and nuclear-powered naval ships stand by to generate electricity for frigid coastal cities. Phil Chase, an ecologically minded Democrat from California in the Al Gore mold, has won the presidency, due in part to the efforts of NSA scientist Frank Vanderwal and his spook girlfriend, Caroline Barr, who helped foil a right-wing attempt to fix the election. But only time will tell if the world has both the scientific know-how and the political will to reverse the ongoing rush toward an ecological precipice. Combining surprisingly interesting discussions of environmental science with Robinson's trademark tramps through nature and an exciting espionage subplot, this novel should appeal to both the author's regular SF audience and anyone concerned with the ecological health of our planet (Mar.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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February 28, 2007
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Excerpt from Sixty Days and Counting by Kim Stanley Robinson
By the time Phil Chase was elected president, the world's climate was already far along the way to irrevocable change. There were already four hundred parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and another hundred parts would be there soon if civilization continued to burn its fossil carbon-and at this point there was no other option. Just as Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected in the midst of a crisis that in some ways worsened before it got better, they were entangled in a moment of history when climate change, the destruction of the natural world, and widespread human misery were combining in a toxic and combustible mix. The new president had to contemplate drastic action while at the same time being constrained by any number of economic and politic factors, not least the huge public debt left deliberately by the administrations preceding him.
It did not help that the weather that winter careened wildly from one extreme to another, but was in the main almost as cold as the previous record-breaking year. Chase joked about it everywhere he went: "It's ten below zero, aren't you glad you elected me? Just think what it would have been like if you hadn't!" He would end speeches with a line from the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley:
"O, Wind, if Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"
"Maybe it can," Kenzo pointed out with a grin. "We're in the Youngest Dryas, after all."
In any case, it was a fluky winter-above all windy-and the American people were in an uncertain state of mind. Chase addressed this: "The only thing we have to fear," he would intone, "is abrupt climate change!"
He would laugh, and people would laugh with him, understanding him to be saying that there was indeed something real to fear, but that they could do something about it.
His transition team worked with an urgency that resembled desperation. Sea level was rising; temperatures were rising; there was no time to lose. Chase's good humor and casual style were therefore welcomed, when they were not reviled-much as it had been with FDR in the previous century. He would say, "We got ourselves into this mess and we can get out of it. The problems create an opportunity to remake our relationship to nature, and create a new dispensation. So-happy days are here again! Because we're making history, we are seizing the planet's history, I say, and turning it to the good."
Some scoffed; some listened and took heart; some waited to see what would happen.
As far as Frank Vanderwal's personal feelings were concerned, there was something reassuring about the world being so messed up. It tended to make his own life look like part of a trend, and a small part at that. A hill of beans in this world. Perhaps even so small as to be manageable.
Although, to tell the truth, it didn't feel that way. There were reasons to be very concerned, almost to the edge of fear. Frank's friend Caroline had disappeared on election night, chased by armed agents of some superblack intelligence agency. She had stolen her husband's plan to steal the election, and Frank had passed this plan to a friend at NSF with intelligence contacts, to what effect he could not be sure. He had helped her to escape her pursuers. To do that he had had to break a date with another friend, his boss and a woman he loved-although what that meant, given the passionate affair he was carrying on with Caroline, he did not know. There was a lot he didn't know; and he could still taste blood at the back of his throat, months after his nose had been broken. He could not think for long about the same thing.