Kim Stanley Robinson's latest novel, Forty Signs of Rain, is a convincing story of weather disasters in the not-too-distant future. Already a Hugo and Nebula award winner for The Years of Rice and Salt and his Mars trilogy, Robinson pulls his latest tale straight from the headlines. As a result of global warming, the Arctic ice shelf is melting at an alarming rate and millions of coastal dwellers are in danger.
At the center of the action are Charlie and Anna Quibler, a typical Washington, D.C., power couple. Charlie is a stay-at-home dad who works part time as a science advisor to a popular senator, and Anna is a full-time researcher for the National Science Foundation. Charlie and Anna are struggling to get the government to take global warming seriously while the administration's only concern is surviving the next election.
Anna's co-worker, Frank, is a scientist who prides himself on his emotional detachment, but he loses his comfortably distanced view of the world when he meets a group of Buddhist diplomats from a low-lying island nation. The monks blow Frank's mind by pointing out that a single-minded devotion to one aspect of life (such as science) makes the mind unbalanced. Frank is unexpectedly open to this life-changing idea.
Forty Signs of Rain is all about balance, whether it's love or work, spirituality or politics. There are flood warnings throughout (beginning with the Biblical reference in the title) but the blinkered D.C. politicians won't pay attention until the rising water is lapping at their doorways. Robinson skips between the domestic, scientific and political spheres without missing a beat and delivers a hot-topic page-turner that leaves the reader gasping and stranded at high tide, eager for the next book from this science fiction master. Gavin J. Grant writes from Northampton, Massachusetts.