Forty Signs of Rain: Effective Boredom

             Forty Signs of Rain is a clearly well written novel about the scientific/ political landscape through which the issue of climate change must navigate. As far as my knowledge goes, this is a very realistic and scarily plausible account of what could happen in real life. As I read this book, I could not tell if it was intended to be a warning or simply a story told by a concerned author. Kim Stanley Robinson’s ability to combine plot, character development, and science is quite effective. In many instances, people who do not have much prior knowledge about climate change can be put off by overly scientific language. I cannot say that I disagree; often times scientific literature can be as interesting as reading an Ikea instruction manual. In many ways, books such as Forty Signs of Rain are exactly what the scientific community and the regular population needs. People need a solid blend of relateableness and raw facts. Robinson begins each chapter with a page or two of scientific information before continuing with the story. We get to know and like a wide array of people who have some sort of presence in the scientific/environmental field. In my opinion, this is the vessel that may potentially get people to the destination of understanding the seriousness of climate change. It can be truly difficult to describe this phenomenon because in reality we cannot know which forms it will take. It is because of this that the climate deniers can poke holes in the issue. They can say “see, even the experts don’t know what will happen.” This is exactly the kind of short sighted, simplistic mind state that is preventing us from achieving any progress. While it is true that we do not know how climate change will play out, we do know that it will affect the overall climate of Earth. In many cases people confuse the idea of climate with weather, when weather is really just a part of the overall climate. When people talk about impacting the climate, they are talking about how as humans we are directly influencing the very fragile chemical and systematic equilibrium of the Earth. The Earth in essence is its own living entity, and when you alter one aspect of it, say the chemical composition of the atmosphere, this throws out the overall balance, which can in turn affect weather, pressure patterns, overall temperatures, oceanographic flows, and many, many other aspects. In a way, the climate is like an ecosystem in that if an outside party does something to one particular species, it disrupts its entire dynamic. While impacting our climate is a rather broad and somewhat incomprehensible idea in and of itself, through books like Forty Signs of Rain we can all picture how it will affect everyone’s lives when the planet as we know it is out of balance. Forty Signs of Rain describes one such possibility, which is that eventually we will be forced to face extreme weather events, and this is an inevitable result of climate change. This is something that we are already seeing. While the book is set in the near future most likely, we are already starting to see such events.

I think that Kim Stanley Robinson wrote a very effective book. His point definitely gets across to the reader by the end. I do think, however, that it could have been about 200 pages shorter. After I finished reading the first 200 pages for class last week, my first thought was, geez, I just read 200 pages of a book and absolutely nothing happened. I truly thought if someone asked me what was the book about I could not have come up with an answer. From those first 200 pages, I think he talked about Anna’s breast milk and Charlie getting Joe to drink it more than anything else. I couldn’t for the life of me think of how this served any purpose to the overall story. Part of me wanted Kim to be a female author to reduce this level of oddness. Nonetheless, Kim turned it around in the second half. You realize that by the end, all of the boring droning done by Charlie and other characters was simply to illustrate how these things work in Washington. If one has a passion for a certain topic or issue he or she must do a bunch of horribly boring and tedious work to get any type of progress. I think that democracies such as ours are able to pass some truly evil bills and suspicious legislation because it is masked by dry, old politicians droning in what they would claim to be English but resembles more 18th century legal language on the CSPAN network. Most people could watch a politician try to pass a ban on breathing, and not even know that its happening let alone stay awake long enough to hear them say more than two sentences. I think that in the end Robinson created an interesting and realistic work. I also think that he is taking the stance that something terrible must happen first in order for people to care, but as a student studying this, I like to remain more hopeful in that we can take some real action soon.

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