Forty Signs of Rain: Too Real for Its Own Good?

I wouldn’t say that Forty Signs of Rain is a genre-blending book, but that’s only because I’m not sure I could define the exact elements of each genre involved and where blending occurs. It is a story that rests in its own category and presents a realistic portrait of it’s characters and arcs without following any strict stylistic rules.

Sometimes, this lack of constraints ends up hurting the novels literary pursuits. The plot stalls at some points and jumps abruptly to others. Frank seems to be confused about whether he is an emotionally attached observer or a passionate activist and while this makes sense in the context of human complexity it makes it hard to identify with him. Anna and the rest of the characters all seem to behave similarly, they’re passionate about the research they do, the change they want to see, and the dangers that may occur, but they are always composed to some degree.

The behavior makes sense and the homogenous personalities also seem fitting for a group of people with shared goals and interests. It is realistic and even intuitive and that’s the problem. Characters sometimes take drastic measures (repelling from rooftops and tracking down women that they barely know) but these measures are methodical. If the characters were given dramatized personalities that differed from each other, the book may have seemed a little more cohesive and the pacing may have been more natural and intuitive.

Character consistency does help the plot in a lot of ways that make the themes more prominent and the actual events more tangible. The hard science of the novel and the detached nature of it’s scientists show the problems that the real world has with climate-related policy. The people who are most aware of the dangerous consequences are unable to bend and sacrifice their analytical methods. While, the opposition is untethered to rigor and validity and able to use rhetoric and manipulation in ways that the scientific community either can’t or won’t.

The problem is that we have no idea what the exact outcome of our excess will be and all of our warnings are given theoretically and without the full conviction and vigor that is consistent with today’s political arguments. There is little poetry in the explanations of atmospheric damage and rising sea levels. We aren’t moved to action because we haven’t felt fright or dread on an emotional level. We know what will happen and why we should change, but that kick of pure instinct just hasn’t happened.

Frank would most likely agree with all of the above sentiments which is one of the reasons that I really like the book and don’t consider it’s narrative roadblocks as true mistakes. It is the book that it needs to be and while this approach may not yield the best literature or the most effective tool of propaganda, it makes for a cohesion on an intellectual level that the genre of science fiction needs.

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