The Ministry for the Future

Paperback, 563 pages

English language

Published June 21, 2021 by Orbit.

ISBN:
978-0-316-30014-8
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4 stars (9 reviews)

Established in 2025, the purpose of the new organization was simple: To advocate for the world's future generations and to protect all living creatures, present and future. It soon became known as the Ministry for the Future, and this is its story.

From legendary science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson comes a vision of climate change unlike any ever imagined.

Told entirely through fictional eye-witness accounts, The Ministry For The Future is a masterpiece of the imagination, the story of how climate change will affect us all over the decades to come.

Its setting is not a desolate, post-apocalyptic world, but a future that is almost upon us - and in which we might just overcome the extraordinary challenges we face.

It is a novel both immediate and impactful, desperate and hopeful in equal measure, and it is one of the most powerful and original books on climate change ever …

4 editions

Somehow both harrowingly realistic and implausibly optimistic

4 stars

The Ministry for the Future follows the history of the eponymous ministry created by the UN in 2025 to represent the interests of future people when addressing #ClimateChange; given that the solutions to climate change will take effect over hundreds of years, so don't immediately benefit the current generations, the ministry would speak for future generations in order to ensure long-term thinking is applied.

The novel has three main characters: Frank, who we meet in the first traumatising chapter, is an American relief worker, and the only survivor of an Indian town struck by a devastating heatwave that wipes out millions. Frank suffers the rest of his ruined life with acute PTSD, which drives him ever more desperately find ways to avoid such a catastrophe from repeating. Early in the novel, it spurs him to actions that introducing us to the second main character:

Mary, an Irish lifetime diplomat, is …

Important but not fully successful artistically

4 stars

Terrifyingly, largely nonfiction. After a very strong, almost shocking opening, it lacks a strong story arc that pulls you through the book, the kaleidoscopic storytelling feeling a bit artificial. But full of interesting, sometimes essential ideas and insights about climate breakdown, the wider socio-economic system and possible solutions. After only two years already somewhat dated, which makes it even more terrifying.

Un livre plutôt optimiste mais assez réaliste

4 stars

J’ai bien aimé.

Le changement climatique devient une évidence… alors qu’est-ce que le monde peut faire ?

Cela m’a semblé plutôt réaliste, avec la prise en compte qu’il ne faut pas que de la technologie mais des changements sociaux profonds pour s’en sortir.

Un livre peut-être trop optimiste, mais parfois cela fait du bien.

C’est une sorte de guide sur ce que nous pourrions faire pour nous en sortir.

Cet épisode longnow.org/seminars/02022/mar/02/climate-futures-beyond-02022/ du podcast "Long Now: Seminars About Long-term Thinking" avec Kim Stanley Robinson parle du livre.

Review of 'Ministry for the Future' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

Ambitious and well-informed, but politically and emotionally implausible in key respects. That, of course would hardly be a criticism in much speculative sci-fi (hell, it defines the genre!) but good world-building invites us to embrace certain implausible (or outright ridiculous) foundations, by drawing us into a compelling story or novel vision, hopefully both. Here, alas, the vision far exceeds the power of the underlying stories to draw the reader in, and so the limits of character development and political-institutional simplicities become increasingly grating. Still, things could be (marginally) worse: he could have written Neal Stephenson's Termination Shock instead! :/

A book worth starting

3 stars

The first 1/3 landed really well, but it started falling apart quickly after that. First KSR I've read, and I had "hard scifi" expectations for characterization, but there was still some corny stuff.

But despite the awkward anonymous first person chapters and uncomfortable Switzerland fetishization I think it succeeds at its primary goal: envisioning a collaborative utopian approach to realistic climate change impacts.

KSR trying to answer "how to write about/actually respond to climate change"

4 stars

So his answers for both, basically: maximalism. The point he's sort of making is that making the planet safely inhabitable is going to take every tactic and every ideology not necessarily working together but working on some piece of the thing. No one actor gets to be the hero (though I do enjoy that KSR's favorite kind of protagonist remains the middle-aged competent lady technocrat–guy's got a type) and while he's sort of indicating that capitalism as we know it has to die, he's not saying that happens through inevitable worker uprising. Some of it's coercion of central banks and some of it's straight-up guerrilla terrorism. Geoengineering happens at varying scales for better and for worse. Massive economic collapses occur. Millions die. And the point I think from KSR is that's the outcome in his most optimistic take. In general with KSR I don't know if I ever fully agree, …

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rated it

3 stars
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rated it

5 stars

Subjects

  • Speculative Fiction
  • Climate Change
  • Politics
  • Environment

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