The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson is a science fiction novel set in the near future. It follows an international organization named the Ministry for the Future, which is tasked with solving climate change. The book tells the story of what it does, mainly through the eyes of the ministry’s chief, Mary Murphy – an Irish diplomat with distinct similarities to Mary Robinson or Christiana Figueres.
The novel comprises 106 short chapters, alternating between the two protagonists: Mary, as she leads the Ministry, and Frank, an American aid worker traumatized by experiencing a deadly heat wave in India. Many chapters are devoted to other (mostly anonymous) characters’ accounts of future events, as well as their ideas about ecology, economics, and other subjects. The style also shifts from chapter to chapter, from third-person narration of the two protagonists to first-person presentations of others, including object narratives of a photon and a carbon atom.
The main themes of the book are those that preoccupy us today as we confront our multiple global emergencies. The catastrophic impact of climate change and unsustainable and inequitable systems of production and consumption. The urgent need for effective action on a global scale and on many fronts. The novel is ultimately an optimistic story about technological and political innovation.
The Ministry for the Future is a timely and relevant novel that speaks to the current state of the world. It is a story of hope and resilience in the face of a changing climate. It is a reminder that we can all make a difference if we work together.
What I Liked
It feels like a highly relevant book. I also think it captured the weirdness and isolated, contained, random awfulness ahead of us as the the Earth continues to warm. I liked the short, concise chapters. It was very readable. I think it was a prime example of what science fiction can be – it can graphically paint a future path for humanity and everything that that path would entail. This book lived up to the hype.
What I Did Not Like
I mean, the book is a bit earnest. But otherwise, not a whole lot.