By Neal Stephenson
Neal Stephenson is one of the most gifted storytellers going, and he really puts those gifts to the test, almost flaunting them, in Termination Shock, a novel which spends a few hundred pages in introductory matter before it even starts to explain what it’s about.
Stephenson can get away with this because he’s a master explainer, his novels often feeling like a series of fascinating TED talks on topics ranging across science, history, and politics. But he’s good with the action too, and whipping the reader along on globe-trotting adventures filled with colourful characters.
In brief, Termination Shock is a CliFi novel, telling the story of an attempt by a Texas billionaire to blast the atmosphere with sulfur in order to mitigate global warming. To this end he has assembled an eclectic group of representatives from some of the cities and states most threatened by rising sea levels. Think the Queen of the Netherlands, Lord Mayor of London, a representative from Singapore, and some Venetian aristos. Meanwhile, the story of a Sikh from Richmond, BC moves on a parallel track, his fate crossing with that of the others in the finale.
There’s plenty going on, including some stuff, like the romance, that doesn’t work. But it’s Stephenson’s best book since Seveneves, and has plenty of thrills as well as lots to make you think.