July 2010

Scholars & Rogues has these recommendations for novels about climate change to add to our library list:

JG BallardThe Drowned World (1962); The Burning World (1964) (Reissued as The Drought)

The first one is a classic. Ballard is one of the great writers of post-war Britain, and this is one of his finest books. I admit I haven’t read The Burning World, but apparently it’s a similar type of book. Ballard is best-known for Crash and Empire of the Sun – he covered a lot of ground.

Kim Stanley RobinsonForty Signs of Rain (2005), Fifty Degrees Below (2007), Sixty Days and Counting (2007)

An engaging and entirely too plausible chronicle of near-term events surrounding the efforts of scientists and some politicians to salvage something from a catastrophe. Robinson is prolific, as readers of his Mars series know. Great airplane reading–it will pass the time admirably while also making you feel guilty for flying.

Bruce Sterling
Heavy Weather (1994)

Scary as hell. Take the notion of tornado hunters and translate into an extreme weather nightmare.

Jonathan BarnesMother of Storms (1995)

Methane clouds from under the arctic disrupt global weather catastrophically when released by a nuclear explosion. While you’re reading it, you can then think about the large methane bubble lying underneath the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and what that might produce if released.

Nancy KressNothing Human (2003)

Global warming and its impacts as the backdrop for some changes to humanity—in a drastically changed world, what form will humanity take in order to survive? An astonishingly good book on any number of levels, not least in its description of a dissolving United States from the impact of warming.

Peter F. Hamilton
Mindstar Rising (1993)

England in the early 21st century tries to recover from global warming. This is the novel that introduced psychic detective Greg Mandel. There’s a whole Mandel series. Great fun with some serious themes.

Arthur Herzog
Heat (1976)

The title sums it up. Herzog was talking about CO2 and global warming decades ago. Herzog has written a number of what one could only call intelligent potboilers, including The Swarm and Orca, both of which were made into passable B movies.

Paolo Bacigalupi
— a number of short stories about climate change impacts, collected in Pump Six (2008). Bacigalupi also just wrote the startling The Windup Girl. Most of Bacgalupi’s work concerns bioengineering in a world where fossil fuel shortages and climate change impacts are the ever-present background.

Philip K. Dick
— The master. Wrote several novels in which the background environment is one ravaged by global warming. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is the best known, as the basis for the film Blade Runner.

Crooks turns out to be surprisingly receptive to and good-natured about unsolicited haranguing emails. He also mentions two by John BrunnerStand on Zanzibar and The Sheep Look Up. Neither is specifically about climate change, but they’re both pretty superb post-apocalyptic novels that have held up well.


Henry James, date unknown. (Library of Congress)

Author Rating: A

In 1884 the American author Henry James published A Little Tour In France.

It’s wonderful for the descriptions of everyday life in 19th century France, but also for James’ humor.

In this section James is discussing the birthplace of Honore de Balzac:

Honoré de Balzac on an 1842 daguerreotype by Louis-Auguste Bisson (Wikpedia)

Balzac, in the maturity of his vision, took in more of human life than any one, since Shakspeare, who has attempted to tell us stories about it; and the very small scene on which his consciousness dawned is one end of the immense scale that he traversed. I confess it shocked me a little to find that he was born in a house “in a row”—a house, moreover, which at the date of his birth must have been only about twenty years old. All that is contradictory. If the tenement selected for this honour could not be ancient and embrowned, it should at least have been detached.

(Cross posted at From Laurel Street)