So this week, and probably for a few weeks more (the entire thing being just north of 1,200 pages), I was reading Green Earth, by Kim Stanley Robinson:
This is an omnibus collecting Robinson’s “Science in the Capital” trilogy, which, some might say, is a contradiction in terms these days, but there you go. I’m about a third of the way through the omnibus and while there have been various glimmers of a plot here and there, mostly it’s been a sort of primer of “Climate Change Is Real And It’s Bad”. The big setpiece so far is a gigantic flood along the Potomac that devastates all the low-lying areas of Washington, D.C., which is, uh, most of it.
Nobody likes Washington, D.C. Even the people who love it don’t like it. Climate atrocious, traffic worse: an ordinary midsized gridlocked American city, in which the plump white federal buildings make no difference. Or rather they bring all the politicians and tourists, the lobbyists and diplomats and refugees, all those people who come from somewhere else and thereafter spend their time clogging the streets and hogging the show, talking endlessly about the city on a hill while ignoring the actual city they are in. No—bastion of the world government, locked vault of the World Bank, fortress headquarters of the world police; no one can like that.Kim Stanley Robinson, Green Earth (italics original)
So naturally when the great flood washed over the city, the stated reactions were various, but the underlying subtext often was this: HA HA. For there were many people around the world who felt that justice had somehow been served.
Interestingly, the storm that causes all this damage to Washington, D.C., and much of the rest of the East Coast is called Hurricane Sandy. So naturally I had to go and check to see when this book was written, and it was several years before the real-life Sandy roared up the eastern seaboard and punched New York and New Jersey right in the face. This may be evidence that Kim Stanley Robinson is a time traveler from the future.
Although the story mostly takes place in Washington, D.C., it has some sidebar action going on in the San Diego County area, so in addition to people rambling around the Mall and whatnot we also get to see them in places like Leucadia, Encinitas, and Torrey Pines. I’ve been to Washington, D.C., but of course I’m much more familiar with San Diego County, so the scenes set here are interesting to read, because they reference places that I know. (On the West Coast, the big setpiece has been a massive storm that causes catastrophic cliff failures along the coast in Encinitas and elsewhere. These bluffs do routinely collapse during storms; the book mentions that Encinitas’s “westernmost street was D Street” because A, B, and C Streets had fallen into the ocean during a massive storm in 1889. 1889 was, obviously, before my time, but something about this didn’t sound quite right, so I checked on a map and the lettered streets in Encinitas run east/west, not north/south, and therefore D Street wouldn’t be the westernmost street no matter how far inland the bluff collapse went; it’s the numbered streets that run north/south and would get peeled off as the coast got chewed up. I decided this just meant that Green Earth takes place in an alternate universe where the lettered and numbered streets in Encinitas were swapped.)
Meanwhile, work continues on Blue Roses! At this point I’ve got the characters split up, locked up, and confused. Fortunately there’s at least one of them still on the loose.
The squirrel made a chirp that somehow managed to sound derisive, then scurried in and down the wall to the sand drift, sliding in a little avalanche to the floor. It chittered at them, but of course it just sounded like noise. “Baxter’s the only one who understands you, and he’s not here,” Felix told it, as the animal flicked its gaze from Felix to Carol and back again. It shoved a tiny paw into a tinier ear and dug around in there for a few seconds. Its tail twitched the way squirrel tails did when their owners were watching something that irritated them. “Don’t give me that look,” Felix said. “It’s not my fault we don’t speak squirrel.”James V. Viscosi, Blue Roses
“Stop talking to it,” Carol said. “It’s weird.”
I’m still not entirely sure what’s going on with it all, but I should sort it out eventually, and then I’ll fix it so the beginning and the middle make sense in the context of the ending. Too bad the real world doesn’t work that way, eh?
2 thoughts on “Teaser Tuesday: “Green Earth””
Often the real world runs in a way that nothing makes sense…
Spot on description of DC. Everyone is jockeying for position at their favorite steak house.