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A-FiftyDegreesBelowIn Forty Signs of Rain (2004), Washington, D.C.’s Potomac River burst its banks after the Arctic ice caps started to melt. In this sequel, set in a near-future Washington, global warming has set in motion a number of ecological and human catastrophes: the drowning of low-lying cities and nations, the chilling of the Gulf Stream’s warm waters, and the arrival of freezing temperatures in the eastern United States. While corporations try to capitalize on the eco-catastrophes, the disasters catapult a group of scientists and politicians to action. Among these is Frank Vanderwal, who must take immediate steps to prevent the arrival of a devastating new Ice Age.
Bantam. 416 pages. $25. ISBN: 0553803123

St. Louis Post-Dispatch 4 of 5 Stars
"The second book in Kim Stanley Robinson’s writings about environmental catastrophes brought on by global warming and human indifference could give Michael Crichton a run for his money. … Although it sometimes comes across as part B-movie thriller and part didactic (but thorough) lesson in science, in the wake of recent hurricanes, these science-fiction environmental thrillers by Robinson should be required reading for government officials and voters." Dorman T. Shindler

Denver Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Frank isn’t the only part of the story. There’s also Buddhism, parenting, a presidential campaign and a drowned Shangri-La. Robinson writes brilliantly of spectacle and adventure along with developing his characters, including the homeless who won’t give their names." Fred Cleaver

Guardian Unlimited 3.5 of 5 Stars
"This fundamental belief in the power of science to tip the scales in our favour underpins Robinson’s writing, to the extent that, although he is predicting a future in which we will either plunge into an ice age or drown beneath a 7m-tall wave, his tone frequently verges on the upbeat, and his characters refuse to succumb to despair and instead view the world’s potentially fatal problems as challenges to be met. But how much faith can we honestly put in humanity’s ability to solve the problems it has created?" Sarah Crown

Emerald City 2.5 of 5 Stars
"With Fifty Degrees Below he explains quite well why the US government has such difficulty tackling the issue. But he also launches into what appears at first sight to be a rather naïve ‘big science can save the world’ approach. Is this is his answer? We don’t know yet." Cheryl Morgan

London Times 0.5 of 5 Stars
"The author’s insistence that this is no mere sci-fi yarn is borne out by its deep grounding in contemporary science, so deep that the plot sinks in it never to be seen again. If you are fascinated by the detailed geophysical, meteorological and climatological background to the global warming debate you might get a kick out of this, but then you’re probably already over-excited by the latest issue of Nature." Peter Millar

Critical Summary

Robinson, award-winning author of the Mars trilogy, turns his attention away from space and toward Earth. Critics weren’t too sure what to make of the second of this eco-thriller series. If it was a plea to take action to combat global warming, few were certain that Robinson saw "big science" as the obvious answer and suspected that he had something else up his sleeve for the third book. But readers won’t miss the obvious point about global warming, government, technology, and science—though a moralizing air, out-of-context details, and distracting subplots raised some critics’ eyebrows. The London Times even warned that this novel was "nigh on unintelligible" unless you’d read the first book. Since Robinson’s scenario really could happen, you’d better read up.