Four Hundred Signs of Science Babble

After not only hearing our teacher’s adoration about Kim Stanley Robinson but also the raving of a friend I was sure that I was in for a treat while reading Forty Signs of Rain. While I believe that Forty Signs of Rain is a very well written, researched, and developed novel; it is also extremely dry up until the very end and felt much more like set-up than the beginning of a trilogy should. This has been the most realistic novel we have read so far this semester. Not only was the characterization of the main characters well developed but the science was clear enough that most of the discussions were not lost on me. I was able to follow along without periodic stops to re-read science heavy sections. Robinson does an excellent job of maintaining an extremely realistic look at climate change all while keeping the character interactions, one of the only things the book has going for it, fresh long enough for me to make it through all four hundred pages of realistic fiction.

My main problem with Forty Signs of Rain is how disappointed I was with the plot itself. The realism that Robinson uses while examining the minutia of government and science work detracts from the actual fiction that should be exhibited in a type of book such as this. The characters were all interesting and getting to examine the National Science Foundation through various eyes was the highlight of the novel for me. Getting an insight on why it takes such a long time for scientists and politicians to take any real notice of climate change felt extremely realistic and related back to everything we discuss in class. Reading the discussions between NSF employees and exploring how the panels and funding functioned was fascinating as that is rarely the side of science that is explored in fiction. While I found these conversations and science addled debating interesting, it was not what I wanted to read or expected from a work of popular fiction. My problem with the novel was that I never felt like I was reading an entertaining story, merely the workings of actual scientists. While that may be a compliment to Robinson’s impressive realism, I would have rather read those discussions in an internet article instead of a four hundred page slowly progressing novel. While other readers have pointed out the elevator scene, office break in, and ending climate issues as exciting high points, I see them as what the novel should have been delivering all along. While I appreciated the nuanced and varied opinions of the scientists, which lead me to a new understanding on why barely anything is currently being done for global warming, I do not believe a novel like this was the best way for Robinson to get his points across.

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