America's under the weather
Every senator, especially the ones with presidential aspirations, should read Kim Stanley Robinson's Sixty Days and Counting, probably the most hopeful book of the year. The novel is the third in the series that began with Forty Days of Rain, in which the nation's capital is flooded in a Hurricane Katrina-like event. In the follow-up, Fifty Degrees Below, the weather becomes increasingly erratic and the capital all but freezes.
However, the weather isn't the only troubling thing in Robinson's series. Frank Vanderwal, a California scientist on loan to the National Science Foundation in Washington, meets a woman who discloses that her undercover government agency has plans to subvert an upcoming presidential election. In Fifty Degrees Below, Frank passes this information to others, hoping against hope that the election-riggers can be stopped.
Sixty Days and Counting collects everything about weather and politics that Robinson presented in the first two books and sews the elements together like a map to a better future. Frank, who sustained a head injury while obtaining the election-rigging information, is struggling to decide what to do should he stay in D.C. or return to his home in San Diego? Wait for his mysterious undercover woman to return or follow up on his attraction to his boss? Or should he just go and have his head examined? While Frank vacillates, newly elected President Phil Chase takes up the challenges of global warming, China's economic overdrive and even an assassination attempt.
Robinson has long been one of the most thoughtful and future-positive science fiction writers, and in this novel he tops his previous bests. The page-turning near-future of Sixty Days features an appealing governmental belief in science to mitigate the damage we are doing to our own world. None of that gets in the way of the plot, though, which kicks along in higher and higher gears until it is running (using a hybrid engine, to extend the metaphor) at top speed all the way to a cleaner, brighter tomorrow.