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The Ministry for the Future: A Novel Hardcover – October 6, 2020

4.3 out of 5 stars 3,025 ratings

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From the Publisher

Editorial Reviews

Review

"[A] compelling work of speculative fiction about solving the climate crisis around the world... This story is heavy but important. Be prepared to lose sleep as you won't want to pause for anything."―AudioFile on The Ministry for the Future

"Score a point for the audacity of hope....Robinson digs deep into how, with institutional support and some off-the-books black ops, revolutionary ideas could still seize our world."―Shelf Awareness on The Ministry for the Future

"[A] gutsy, humane view of a near-future Earth...Robinson masterfully integrates the practical details of environmental crises and geoengineering projects into a sweeping, optimistic portrait of humanity's ability to cooperate in the face of disaster. This heartfelt work of hard science-fiction is a must-read for anyone worried about the future of the planet."―Publishers Weekly (starred) on The Ministry for the Future

"If there’s any book that hit me hard this year, it was Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future, a sweeping epic about climate change and humanity’s efforts to try and turn the tide before it’s too late."―Polygon (Best of the Year) on The Ministry for the Future

"In The Ministry for the Future, his twentieth novel, science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson creates something truly remarkable."―Yale Climate Connections on The Ministry for the Future

"Tremendously engaging."―Chicago Review of Books on The Ministry for the Future

"If I could get policymakers, and citizens, everywhere to read just one book this year, it would be Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future... Robinson is one of the greatest living science fiction writers."―Ezra Klein on The Ministry for the Future

"So far, the best descriptions of what this new world could be like come from Kim Stanley Robinson, a science-fiction author who specializes in depicting the kinds of delights that a world that took our predicament seriously might produce."―The New Yorker on The Ministry for the Future

"The Ministry for the Future ranks among Robinson's best recent works, a collection of actions and observations that adds up to more than the sum of its eclectic and urgent parts."―Sierra on The Ministry for the Future

About the Author

Kim Stanley Robinson is a New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards. He is the author of more than twenty books, including the bestselling Mars trilogy and the critically acclaimed Forty Signs of Rain, The Years of Rice and Salt and 2312. In 2008, he was named a "Hero of the Environment" by Time magazine, and he works with the Sierra Nevada Research Institute. He lives in Davis, California.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Orbit; 1st edition (October 6, 2020)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 576 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0316300136
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0316300131
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.86 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.55 x 1.95 x 9.55 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.3 out of 5 stars 3,025 ratings

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Kim Stanley Robinson is a winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards. He is the author of eleven previous books, including the bestselling Mars trilogy and the critically acclaimed Fifty Degrees Below, Forty Signs of Rain, The Years of Rice and Salt, and Antarctica--for which he was sent to the Antarctic by the U.S. National Science Foundation as part of their Antarctic Artists and Writers' Program. He lives in Davis, California.

Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5
3,025 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on October 22, 2020
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Reviewed in the United States on November 14, 2020
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Reviewed in the United States on October 31, 2020
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4.0 out of 5 stars A provocative scenario for how climate change might be fought from 2025-2053
By Autonomeus on October 31, 2020
KSR's latest is a thought-provoking scenario that sketches how the current political inertia might be disrupted, and the planet's climate stabilized.

It's well worth reading, however I can't give it five stars because I find it to be lacking as a novel. The excitement takes place off camera, as it were, while the focus is on the institutional actors, including ministry staff and bankers, who meet mainly in Zurich and San Francisco. It would have been possible to use the same scenario as the basis for a much more dynamic story, it seems to me, given the range of radical actions that are essential to the outcome.

*** *** ***
The book begins with a massive heat wave in India that kills 20 million. This triggers a series of actions that accelerate global human society's response to catastrophic climate change. The central character is Mary Murphy, formerly foreign minister of Ireland, who is the head of a new U.N. "Subsidiary Body" to the Conference of the Parties to the Paris Climate Agreement, popularly known as the "Ministry for the Future" because its mandate is to speed implementation, charged with "defending all living creatures present and future who cannot speak for themselves, by promoting their legal standing and physical protection."

While this U.N. agency, headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, works through the institutions, primarily the central banks of the world, which KSR describes as the de facto world government, others engage in radical direct action. The "War for the Earth" begins on Crash Day (in the 2030s), when sixty passenger jets crash in a matter of hours, mainly private and business jets. Container ships begin to sink in large numbers. A manifesto is issued calling for an end to fossil-fuel burning transport. Following word that cattle have been infected, the beef industry is rapidly phased out. So the wave of uncoordinated actions includes carrots and sticks all aiming to reduce carbon emissions as rapidly as possible.

Stan Robinson puts forward a scathing critique of mainstream economics, and utilizes a variety of recent technological developments and policies in his scenario, including blockchain encryption of data, A.I., drone swarms, permaculture, Modern Monetary Theory (post-Keynesian economics), "carbon coins" issued to compensate for carbon reduction, Half Earth (the goal of preserving one half of the planet for species other than humans), of course photovoltaic solar energy, and others. None of these are described in detail, and the book can serve as a compendium guiding further research by the reader.

*** *** ***
I share KSR's values and worldview, at least for the most part, and I admire the vision of this novel, an optimistic scenario overall despite tragedy along the way.

The use of short passages from the point of view of unnamed minor characters and anthropomorphized characters like photons and "history" is good, lending the proceedings some similarity with John Brunner's great dystopian environmental novel "The Sheep Look Up" (1972 -- see my review), which used the experimental technique of John Dos Passos's "U.S.A. Trilogy."

I seriously doubt that this scenario will come to pass, but it is worth imagining the possibility and working toward its realization. The more likely scenarios are all nightmares.
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Reviewed in the United States on November 23, 2020
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Top reviews from other countries

Tufnell Paul
2.0 out of 5 stars Brave, But Unsuccessful, Attempt at Projecting a Non-Dystopian Resolution of the Climate Crisis
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 8, 2020
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23 people found this helpful
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Kindle Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting novel about ways of solving the problem of climate change but far too positive.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 12, 2021
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Traffic
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Book, Though a Bit Preachy in Places
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 7, 2020
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bibliovore
4.0 out of 5 stars cludgy
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 26, 2021
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Paul Heskett
5.0 out of 5 stars Read and heed this timely warning
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 3, 2020
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