Forty Signs of Rain, by Kim Stanley Robinson, takes place in what is referred to by the author as the “near future,” this differs greatly from the majority of the books we’ve read in this class, because nearly every other one takes place in the distant future. Setting this book in the near future provides an interesting opportunity. It creates a sense of immediacy with the message of the book. Typically with the setting of a cli-fi novel being in the distant future, one can run the risk of creating significant distance between the reader and the message. Take for example, The Time Machine, in his novel, HG Wells takes us so far into the future that we become so removed from reality to the point beyond seeing his message as something that could even feasibly happen. Let alone something that could affect us any time soon.
Now, take that in comparison with Forty Signs of Rain, and we are presented with a story that could very well happen tomorrow, feasibly speaking (for the sake of my point). The book puts forward that we are so beyond the point of no return, that all it will take to through the world into total chaos is a “trigger event” which comes in the form of the Hyperniño. The Hyperniño ravages the west coast with a superstorm that literally tears California apart, while simultaneously a storm hits the Atlantic, flooding DC and causing widespread chaos. The book ends with Charlie saying to Senator Chase “Are you going to do something about Global Warming, now?” creating a true sense of immediacy between the reader and the real world.
Kim Stanley Robinson presents a world that is nearly identical to our own in terms of it’s time setting, but one in which we are past the point of no return as far as climate change is concerned. He is trying to convey a slightly hyperbolic account of what could happen if we do nothing to prevent global warming. It shows us a world where it is too late so we can do something in our world where it’s not.