The Barnes & Noble Review
Fifty Degrees Below, the sequel to Kim Stanley Robinson's Forty Signs of Rain, continues the author's trilogy of cautionary novels chronicling the effects of global warming -- and what could happen if humanity continues to ignore numerous signs of impending environmental collapse.
With the polar ice caps melting, fresh water is pouring into the Atlantic Ocean and stalling the Gulf Stream, and the world's coastal regions are dealing with catastrophic floods. Now, with winter setting in, the environmental indicators of an approaching global disaster are becoming more pronounced. When unbearably cold temperatures descend on the eastern United States and western Europe -- and tens of thousands of people die from exposure and/or starvation -- the scientific community comes together in a desperate attempt to stop what appears to be the beginning of a new ice age. But no one has ever tried to terraform the Earth before: Is this "planetary engineering" too little, too late?
A dramatic increase in atmospheric carbon, carbon dioxide, and methane; the continuing extinction of countless species; glaciers melting; oceans warming, rising sea levels, and coastal flooding. Science fiction or science fact? Robinson's Fifty Degrees Below is both a compelling eco-thriller and a passionate appeal to world leaders for immediate action. Call it what you will -- cautionary tale, apocalyptic thriller, thinly veiled political statement -- this book is essential reading for anyone concerned with the future of humankind. The title is appropriate on so many levels: Robinson's speculation will chill readers to the bone. Paul Goat Allen
The novel is at its best in scenes describing the strange semi-wilderness of the park, where gibbons call to each other from the trees and other, perhaps more dangerous animals, also live, glimpsed occasionally by volunteers for the Feral Observation Group, who log sightings on the National Zoo Web site. When freshwater from the melting polar ice cap finally stalls the Gulf Stream, truly calamitous weather ensues across the Northern Hemisphere, and Frank's idyllic world turns deadly. A February cold front drives the night temperature dozens of degrees below zero, freezing pipes, interrupting power and killing poor people across the metropolitan area. The disaster is ameliorated only when smoke of burning buildings creates a smudge-pot effect over the city.
The Washington Post
Earth continues its relentless plunge toward environmental collapse in Robinson's well-done if intensely didactic follow-up to Forty Signs of Rain (2004). As a result of global warming, the Gulf Stream has stalled, and when winter comes, impossibly frigid temperatures hit the Eastern Seaboard and Western Europe. As people starve, multinational corporations explore ways of making a profit from the disaster. When Antarctica's ice shelves collapse, low-lying island nations quite literally slip beneath the rising waters. In Washington, D.C., clear-sighted scientists must overcome government inertia and stupidity to put into effect policies that may begin to salvage the situation. An enormous fleet of ships is dispatched to the North Atlantic to dump millions of tons of salt into the ocean in the hope of restarting the Gulf Stream. This ecological disaster tale is guaranteed to anger political and economic conservatives of every stripe, but it provides perhaps the most realistic portrayal ever created of the environmental changes that are already occurring on our planet. It should be required reading for anyone concerned about our world's future. Agent, Ralph M. Vicinanza. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
The second installment in sf writer Robinson's environmental trilogy (after Forty Signs of Rain) focuses on idealistic Frank Vanderwal, a fortysomething sociobiologist working for the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Washington, DC. The NSF-with global warming provoking extreme weather episodes and abrupt climate changes (the first novel depicted a devastating flood; this one features extreme cold spells)-has become a leading force for ecological change and climate experimentation. And so we follow Vanderwal as he helps determine science funding at his job, lives in a tree in the now mostly ruined National Zoo, develops a romantic relationship with a mysterious woman who works for one of several sinister government surveillance agencies, and interacts with a variety of other people, many of whom appeared in the first novel. While Robinson's subject matter is interesting, the incremental nature of global climate change also accounts for the novel's weaknesses. Much of the well-researched scientific exposition emerges at inherently nondramatic NSF bureaucratic meetings; the plot lacks the dramatic impact of, say, an alien invasion. Still, this book-and the trilogy as a whole-may offer a welcome antidote to Michael Crichton's recent anti-global warming novel, State of Fear. Recommended for all public libraries and for academic libraries where interest warrants. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/05.]-Roger A. Berger, Everett Community Coll., WA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High School-Picking up where Forty Signs of Rain (Bantam, 2004) leaves off, this second book in a planned trilogy finds Earth about to experience the most intense winter on record. Governments worldwide blithely go about their routines in spite of the monumental recent flooding in Washington, DC, and other areas around the globe. When the record-setting cold sets in, people begin freezing to death and starving due to crop failures. Large corporations and world governments use the crisis to attempt to rig elections and plan other agendas to tighten their hold on the public. Meanwhile scientists, especially those at the National Science Foundation, frantically search for a way to shift the weather patterns. The answer seems to be to jump-start the Gulf Stream to get it flowing again; the world watches as millions of tons of salt pour from ships into the ocean in this attempt. While the major plot of ecological chaos plays out, the subplots show how the effects of the weather changes, ecological turmoil, and governmental and big business assaults affect the various characters as they try to survive. This well-researched and expertly written novel about a future that might be coming true all too soon will hopefully serve as a wake-up call about Earth's current serious situation.-Pam Johnson, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Global warming threatens Washington D.C. in the second installment of Robinson's eco-thriller trilogy. After suffering through a monumental flood in Forty Signs of Rain (2004), Washington is still recovering, but the damage done clearly illustrates the very real danger of global warming to the general public. National Science Foundation researcher Frank Vanderwal hopes that new protocols may help bring the world back from the edge of ecological disaster. But the world is in for a deep freeze, and Frank has other problems besides. Not only is he effectively homeless, but he also discovers that his work at NSF has him under surveillance by U.S. intelligence agencies, providing most of the action. Though it is fast-paced and exciting, it does occasionally strain believability. Where the author succeeds is in his fascinating speculation about our ecological future, and the steps we could be taking to repair the world for future generations. First-rate ecological speculation, but a second-rate thriller.
"Fifty Degrees Below should be required reading for anyone concerned about our world's future.... it provides perhaps the most realistic portrayal ever created of the environmental changes that are already occurring on our planet."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Fast-paced and exciting.... First-rate ecological speculation."—Kirkus Reviews
"Could give Michael Crichton a run for his money.... should be required reading for government officials and voters."—St. Louis Post-Dispatch