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The Deluge

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Long and complex book.

The writing is astonishing. Every character and chapter has a different voice. Chapters deemed articles are written in the style of the publication. Stephen Markley has a gift for certain. If politics and environmental literature are in your wheelhouse this book is definitely for you- but it is not for the cautious reader nor for the casual reader. It is a commitment.

Every time I got frustrated with the length something very interesting seemed to occur in the storyline so I kept going, and was pulled deeper into the story. 

I am grateful to have had the opportunity through NetGalley to review this release.
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4.5 stars. This is a sprawling, ambitious epic, ranging from 2013 until almost 2040. It is a terrifying story of the devastation climate change could bring, yet somehow manages to end on a note of hope (still can't totally explain how that worked out). This is a long book (approximately 900 pages), with long chapters. There are many characters (other reviews complain they are hard to keep straight - I didn't have that issue at all), but somehow their stories all dovetail before the end of the novel. This was such a compelling read, even as more and more disturbing events occurred within the novel. I would not call this novel post-apocalyptic so much as a dire warning of what could come.

"In the first decades of the 21st century, the world is convulsing, its governments mired in gridlock while a patient but unrelenting ecological crisis looms. America is in upheaval, battered by violent weather and extreme politics. In California in 2013, Tony Pietrus, a scientist studying deposits of undersea methane, receives a death threat. His fate will become bound to a stunning cast of characters—a broken drug addict, a star advertising strategist, a neurodivergent mathematician, a cunning eco-terrorist, an actor turned religious zealot, and a brazen young activist named Kate Morris, who, in the mountains of Wyoming, begins a project that will alter the course of the decades to come.

From the Gulf Coast to Los Angeles, the Midwest to Washington, DC, their intertwined odysseys unfold against a stark backdrop of accelerating chaos as they summon courage, galvanize a nation, fall to their own fear, and find wild hope in the face of staggering odds. As their stories hurtle toward a spectacular climax, each faces a reckoning: what will they sacrifice to salvage humanity’s last chance at a future?"

Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the free ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed herein are my own.
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Thanks to the publisher and Net Galley for an ARC of the book.
I began reading this dystopia climate change novel just prior to the holidays and it is a complicated but fascinating read full of vividly drawn characters  (terrifyingly realistic) as well.
This is not a book to breeze through at nearly 1000 pages.
Bottom line: I will purchase a hard copy of the book and not race through it just to complete it before publication date when it disappears from my shelf at Net Galley.
I am on page 150 at this point and will give it a thorough review on Goodreads upon completion.
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I read a number of reviews before requesting and finally reading The Deluge. The title describes the experience of reading the first very long book I've opened since 2019 and readers are obviously divided. Being a fatalist, I am an ideal reader.  I'd suggest trying it on Kindle with the x ray feature for emergencies.
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I found this read a little confusing and hard to follow with all of the jumping around - to be fair though, I do not often read for solid blocks of time, but for an hour here or there, so my reading habits may have contributed to this.  I did enjoy the story when I was able to piece it together.
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I don't have adequate words to describe this force of a book.  The way the characters weaved in and out of each other's life was jaw dropping.  This will be a book of the year pick! It was epic storytelling at it's finest.
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The Deluge is one of the most terrifying books I've ever read.  Why?  Because it shows in no uncertain terms what's just around the bend of the path we're currently on and let me tell you, you'll want to run the other way.

Spanning nearly 1000 pages and more than 3 decades of U.S. civilization (2013-2040) <i>The Deluge</i> is an epic speculative CliFi dystopia following a cast of characters who intersect at various times and in various ways as they navigate the fallout of climate change, the beginnings of which we're already seeing (was it a negative 30 degree Christmas for you this year?  Because it was in Ohio.  A week later it's 60 degrees in January.  That.) the end of which we won't live to see.  The cast includes scientists, activists, ecoterrorists, politicians, drug addicts, zealots, Influencers, Wall Streeters, the 1%, the 99%, as they navigate droughts, disease, war, floods, political polarization and inaction, militias, famine, fires, corporatization, rampant inequality, religious fanaticism, demagogues, denialism, and more.  

Impressive in scope alone, The Deluge is also well researched and crafted with developed characters and remarkably believable speculative elements.  I know it's nearly 1000 pages and that's going to be a non-starter for some, but I was utterly captivated and fully immersed the entire time.  The pages flew by.  I finished reading several weeks ago and I can't stop thinking about it. Markley has penned a new iteration of the Great American Novel. 

Disturbing, urgent, prescient.  Terrifyingly, Markley has pointed out in the decade he spent writing The Deluge, which he began in 2012, some of the speculative plot points have already come to pass.  I dare you to read this book with indifference.
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There’s nothing like a really big book to recommit you to a reading goal.

Having read Stephen Markley’s “Ohio,” I was thrilled to download his follow up, “The Deluge,” ahead of publication (January 10). Having neglected to look up how long “The Deluge” is, I forged ahead on my iPad, convinced at some point I’d make significant progress. It wasn’t until about two weeks in and having barely made a dent that I actually checked it out.

968 pages. Oof. But honestly? So damn good.

Like any long read, it takes a while for the narrative to pick up steam. A good author takes his or her time to flesh out character arcs and storylines, and there are more than a handful here in Markley’s dystopian vision of the next two decades in America.

And it’s going to keep me up at night for the foreseeable future. Or at least every time there’s a weather event.

With “Ohio,” Markley sets his sights squarely on the opioid crisis — with “The Deluge,” it’s damn near everything else, with a heavy emphasis on the ongoing climate crisis. Mix in a lot of dangerous white nationalists, a former actor turned religious leader, Big Oil corporate greed, the terrifying evolution of AI, people trying to escape their pasts and science that’ll scare the pants off you, and you’ll discover exactly why Markley needed this much paper to do the story justice.

The breadth and depth of Markley’s cast of characters is ambitious. If I tried to cover them all, I’d likely be typing into tomorrow, but within each subplot, all loosely connected, you’ll find someone to cheer for and someone that’ll haunt your nightmares. The complexity of character makeup mirrors the theme of the book. If there is a book club out there that wants to take it on, you’ll have no problem whatsoever spending multiple meetings breaking down the enigma that is Kate Morris. Or the devastating journey of Keeper. Or the brutal lines that people will or will not cross to achieve their goal.

I’m not going to lie — “The Deluge” is anxiety-triggering if for no other reason than the America that Markley serves up feels like it should be science fiction until you realize it’s not really that far from the truth. Our collective blind eye to the climate crisis, increasing weather events, religious fanaticism, government leaders that have no business leading anything … it’s all very real. And scary. But if the fictional crises in this book are possible, so then is the commitment to making change happen, whether it be through science, activism or a commitment to both, that we see Markley’s characters undertake.

That said, for the panic attacks you risk reading this, the emotional satisfaction that comes from rich storytelling and characters you grow to care about so much so that your heart will break if something untoward happens is SO WORTH IT. It was like reading a Jane Smiley trilogy all at once, but this was, hands down, my favorite book this year.

“The Deluge” is scheduled to be released January 10 — don’t miss it.
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The book starts by giving off a vibe that’ll be a long crossover between “The Day After Tomorrow” & “Don’t Look Up.” In all honesty it took me several weeks to reach the 30% mark and I was about to DNF it when things picked up a bit, then from there I became invested in some of the characters just to have to go through a whole cast of other characters I didn’t care about, making the story jarring and disjointed. Speaking of which, it seems the author was trying to do an experiment and see how many different POVs, tenses and hot button issues he could fit in a go — there’s even a 2nd person POV rapist in there. 
I like that when it comes to politics at least he shows both sides of the aisle are one and the same when we comes down to the nitty-gritty of it all.
Two things were missing:
- After eluding everyone for so long, Shane deserved a better resolution. 
- What was in the document Coral gave to Matt and he burned? Did he realize Lucy and Shane were the same person? Or was it that Kate knew at least one person in 6Degrees? Or was it about the abortion she confessed to Jackie but never told him? Something else entirely? Way to piss this reader off, man. 

Thank you NetGalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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It's a bold move to open a novel about climate change with a science dense first chapter that was, for me at least, confusing.  Markley's treatise on climate change, politics and the lack of humanity among humans takes a lot of patience. And more patience than I had.  I liked that we switch characters from chapter to chapter and move forward in time because some of them are more accessible than others.  However, this is a big big book that never really captured my imagination.  I DNF but I'm keeping it by my side to read over time.  Thanks to the publisher for the ARC.  I may be the odd one out so recommend for fans of literary fiction.
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The Deluge is a warning of a possible future for the human species. As the planet warms, catastrophic storms and sea level rise will cause massive disruption of human society. People will react in various ways. Some will try to write legislation to stop adding carbon into the atmosphere. Some will become activists and try to influence change. Others will use more violent methods. All are characters in this book. 

The book is very long, so be prepared for a lengthy read. There are also a lot of characters to sort out. Once you’ve gotten more of their details, you begin to see how they interrelate. Each character is told in their own voice. Most are third person accounts. One is told in second person point of view. So, the reader will begin to recognize the various characters by their narrative voice as well as their actions and interactions. It’s an interesting writing technique. The story is also told via news stories and pages of news clippings from various sources (all fictional). One neurodivergent character writes long, detailed memos to a politician. Some of the characters encounter the stories of the others in various ways. I liked this technique of weaving so many story elements together in a variety of ways. It made things more interesting. It also keeps the reader on their toes. It also lends credibility and believability to the tale.

The background has many climatic events happening. Some characters are affected directly, and some read about it in news stories, etc. The climatic events begin moderately, such as a large dust storm. From there, they begin to escalate until a huge hurricane wipes out North Carolina. These events occur over a span of about 30-40 years, beginning in the early 2010’s and ending up near 2040. The idea was to show how changes to the global temperature will begin to show up as these large-scale disastrous climatological events that affect masses of people. Climate refugees begin to show up. Starvation is widespread. States close off their borders. Economic collapse happens. The coastal cities begin to be lost to sea level rise. The list of dramatic events is long and should be a wakeup call. Although this is fiction, these are things that could possibly exist in our future. The entire book is a dire warning, set in a fictional world. 

Dystopian is one way to describe this. The surveillance state that is shown in the near future is sobering.  I’d also add that it hit too close to reality in a lot of ways. As a reader, I found it hard to ignore that some of these things have already begun to occur. The characters all rang true for me, as did all the political wrangling that had to happen in order to try to pass legislation. Even when it meant that the legislation could literally save the world, the political system still had to go through its machinations to get it done. It was too lifelike to be regarded as fiction. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe this is more a commentary on where we are at as a society. It asks the question, what would we give up in order to save our planet? How much would an individual be willing to sacrifice to make the planet habitable for human beings into the future? Some of the characters make the ultimate sacrifice. It should make us all think, what is the cost of a habitable world? What are we leaving for our children and grandchildren? This book will change your life. You will be thinking about it a long time after you turn the last page and put it down.
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The Deluge takes place in the near future – a future in our lifetime for most of us. We have continued to do too little too late to check the progress of climate change and it has reached a tipping point with catastrophic consequences. Political dysfunction and polarization has brought extremism to the boiling point. It’s a mess and the wheels are coming off the train. And a scientist makes a discovery with huge implications for the climate at the same time he receives a death threat, possible exposing him to anthrax. What follows is a far too realistic, far too possible a future and it’s terrifying.

The construction of  The Deluge reminded me of Ohio at first. It begins with all these characters who are seemingly unrelated. I think of the characters are being in a sort of whirlpool, at the beginning they are all floating around in the very separate lives, doing science, doing drugs, doing activism, and doing crime. As the story moves forward, connections begin to appear and they come closer and closer until they are on a a faster and faster, tighter and tighter spiral toward catastrophe.

The Deluge presumes we don’t’ do very much about climate change, gridlock and partisan polarization seeming to put us on a trajectory toward climate disaster. Then, in a sort of Nixon-Going-To-China moment, a Republican is elected on a pledge to address climate change. Of course, the petrochemical lobby finds a willing and ingenious marketer who comes up with a strategy to derail the bill.

Meanwhile, a scientist studying underwater methane gets a death threat and an anthrax scare, an addict wins a  small lottery jackpot and goes on a real bender, a guy meets the love of his life on a summer job and takes off with her for a wild ride of a life, a mathematician who is neurodivergent disappoints his parents by using his talent in sports betting,  a  woman meets a famous actor and she spends the night with him. A man and a woman have breakfast in a diner and discuss the Iraq War. It all sounds so mundane, but it isn’t.

After the first part, we begin to see a few more connections as their lives start to converge. Much of the story is focused on climate change. They are dealing with the effects of rising sea levels and extreme weather. It’s hard to describe The Deluge. It is one possible future, a future made likely by our continuing reliance on gas and oil. It is the scariest book I can recall reading. Stephen King has nothing on Stephen Markley for creating a nightmarish world and tossing us in it. It’s scary because it is possible, even probable.

I liked The Deluge even though it is scary and depressing and all to possible. As in Ohio, the narrative language is lush and powerful. He is too good a writer to have all the characters have the same felicity with language and does a remarkable job of writing in the voice of his various characters. One weakness, though, is Ashir, the mathematician. Markley wrote him as neurodivergent. I suppose that was one way to excuse his didactic voice. Some of his chapters feel like white papers. Bur, as a reader, when I feel like I am being preached at, I feel hostile. That is my biggest complaint with the book, that there is this didactic thread that runs through it.

I understand. The time to act on climate has passed again and again and it’s nearing the point of no return. It’s urgent, the most important issue we face. And we just go through life in a sort of la-di-denial of reality. However, I think the rest of the book is more persuasive than the pedantry of Ashir’s chapters. But if you can read this book without feeling the urgency of the climate crisis, what’s wrong with you?

The Deluge will be out on January 10th. I received an e-galley and ARC from the publisher through Shelf Awareness and NetGalley.

The Deluge at Simon & Schuster
Ohio review
Stephen Markley author site
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4 stars / This review will be posted on today. 

Buckle your seatbelt, because this is one long-winding road to the end. It’s hard to even summarize this novel, somewhat dystopian, futuristic, foreboding. It’s an epic, over 900 pages, and it’s a challenging one at that. But that being said, Markley does have a gift with words. He is able to make paragraphs so utterly beautiful. 

This story is about the future of our planet, the future of our people, and our will to survive. The climate crisis has been known for decades, yet industry and politics have kept us from doing what’s necessary to curtail climate change. Markley tackles the subject of climate change while also showing the very dark side of our political clime in this country.

There are a handful of key players - Kate Morris, Ashir al-Hasan, Tony Pietrus, Shane Acosta. Then there is a large group of secondary players, some who at times get more attention than the key players. The protagonist is our world, the antagonist, the human race. Keeping up with the players is the important focus, as you must keep track of who is who to know what is happening in the story. 

Moments in the story are heart-pounding, some are like a slow moving stream. And while it took me 21 days to finish this novel (might be a record for me!) I am so happy to have stuck with it. In many ways it is a cautionary tale of our world today and the future if we don’t start thinking about the ramifications of our lifestyles. 

The final chapter of the novel was almost breathtaking. No spoilers, but it is worth plowing through to the end.
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Whoa.  This book is intense. And big.  Over 900 pages.  A sprawling story spanning decades as the effects of climate change catch up with the world amid a varied cast of players and storylines. Scientists. Drug addicts. Environmental activists. Religious zealots. Militia. Celebrities. Politicians. Storms. Droughts.  Wars.  Floods. Disease.  Politics.   This story was terrifying and  too real for me to totally enjoy; however, the meticulous research, narration style, and scope were amazing.  #TheDeluge #NetGalley #January2023
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I may be among the few who call this behemoth book ‘refreshing,’  because, yes, it paints a frightening, if not depressing (but realistic), portrait of the world today and where the world may be headed in 15 to 20 years. 

But what was refreshing is that the author cast a massive spotlight on both political parties, and took punches – repeatedly – at both sides. This was incredibly restorative to me personally, in a time when traditional and social media have created this polarizing “refuse to see anyone else’s perspective - can’t objectively assess the political party I believe in – fly off the handle if someone has different views – cancel those with different beliefs - won’t consider both sides of a story” culture. As an independent, I’m talking about <i>both</i> sides wearing their blinders. This book pointed out our highly polarized society quite clearly. Yes, there was a particular political leaning, overall, but this novel did far better than traditional journalism does today with objectivity…

Let me be clear that I take a wide berth with politics, yet this book entranced me, because while it may be fiction, my guess is that it’s closer to the truth than any of us want to realize or will be willing to realize. And that’s the reason <i>everyone</i> should read it.

I admit that this novel may not appeal to a good number of readers due to its sheer length (almost 900 pages), its political emphasis, and its less-than-rosy undertones. The author also employs some interesting literary techniques, using a vast number of main characters and points of view, backstory overloading, letter/briefing reports, graphics with world headlines, second-person/present narrative, and loads of description about political processes and committees… <b>BUT</b>, for me, <b>it all worked</b>. I wanted to learn more and suspected that much of what goes on in this fictional account goes on in real politics: the closed-door meetings, the fence-jumping on issues simply to win an election, the backstabbing, the ‘do whatever it takes’ to get my party elected, even if the wrong person is in office… Oh, wait… We’ve been seeing this for years, haven’t we? We see it now.

But what kept me reading, in the end, was the characters. Markley has an uncanny ability to create unique characters, each voice singular, each person’s background wholly individual and real. I came to care for these characters and wept on at least three occasions. I was surprised to be so touched by the troubled character, Keeper; the cantankerous Tony; the brilliant and evasive character on the spectrum, Ashir. And the main character (who, interestingly, is not a point-of-view character), Kate… holy moly was she a power to be reckoned with and so expertly drawn by Markley. So damn good. The writing, also: so damn good.

Along those lines, I cannot imagine the research Markley went through to understand the science behind global warming, predictive theories about polar ice caps and methane clathrates in the oceans, political systems, resistance regimes, military operations, economics, political ideologies… my mind is completely, fantastically blown. If I’d seen the list I just wrote, I probably would have said, “Nope. Not for me.” And yet, it was for me…

There <i>is</i> a message of hope at the end, though readers will need to be patient getting there. I took months to read this book with 30-minute daily sessions and felt I was rewarded in the end. It got me to thinking that  maybe the book length and its insane complexity mirrored the themes within. Getting whole societies together for the greater good – no, not an easy task. A long, arduous, time-taking task… I’m not sure this would have been the same book had it been pared down. Its elaborate and lengthy storyline felt necessary.

So, yes… As uncomfortable as this book may make you, you should probably read it. You won’t agree with all of the political solutions or stances – nor did I – but you might come away with a more open mind, asking “What would I do to save the world?”
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I loved Ohio, so when I heard about this novel I just had to get my hands on it. I've seen tons of reviews, stating this is a modern classic; they are right. This novel is one of the finest novels I've read in recent years. Although not a perfect five star review (based off of pacing issues through some parts) this novel is down right scary and interesting.
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The Near Future is Foreboding

Great suffering and injustice is very real in this almost 900-page tome.  From 2013 to 2040, Markley has his characters prevent or at least forestall, shattering climate change.  The author depicts a diverse assortment in his cast of personalities.

The plot is not a surprise in the beginning of this book.  Scientists are wailing about devastating ecological and social breakdowns.  We are introduced to an interesting group: geologist Tony Pietrus, Ashir as-Hasan, chief of staff for Senate Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and many more heterogenous characters. There are other participants to this motley group but the standout is Kate Morris, who is a climate activist. She has varied solutions that are dependent on political support. Morris is part of an organization called A Fierce Blue Fire, an impressive name.  

Markley’s characters have diverse goals and talents.  I found it difficult at times to stay with the 896 pages but it may be worth it for some readers.  Noting the characters have different ambitions  and points of view, this sets a stage for polarization. There is a conservative faction who resists and sometimes acts on irrational ideas.  The novel is packed with possible solutions with the infallible need for quick reactions and those who persevere. It’s a dire time and our civilization is at stake.  This a detailed, long book with considerable information.  Not all the players have the same goal makes it a disturbing reality.

My gratitude to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for this pre-published book.  All opinions expressed are my own,
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I would characterize this novel as Climate Fiction but also Climate Horror at times, if that is even a sub-genre. The author does not hold back in terms of what the planet can do, and what people are capable of. The characters in Deluge are introduced in quick fire sketches. What they have in common is their intensity, their danger level is a high pulsing live wire. 

I was patient with the chapter by chapter rollout of the characters and pleased to see how different they were from each other, as well as intrigued as to how they might cross paths or even converge.

As an aside, the "Green New Deal" radical environmental climate action approach proposed by the fictitious Dr. Anthony Pietrus appealed to me so much, I wish we could put it into immediate action. 

The science presented is fascinating. I thought I was fairly well-educated about Climate Change, but I was not. I only had a vague idea about greenhouse gases and the lack of sea ice being problems. The author clearly explains the roles of methane hydrates and carbon emissions, detailing a starker picture of what we, and not just the characters in the story, are facing. And the author absolutely nails it when he describes the actions/inactions of global leaders who will always try to balance threats to our planet with the needs of our systemic economic structures. The idea that the free market will be motivated to implement solutions which are of immediate benefit to everyone is to misunderstand the scope of the problem while also unnecessarily handcuffing the solution.

Beyond the contours of the politics of a changing climate, the author pans out and focuses back in on the human toll. The explosion of climate-driven disasters in macro, are reflected in the interpersonal implosions on the micro level, even among those who recognize the urgency of doing something to head off gathering dangers. 

A recurring theme is an exploration of how far one might go, how much a person might be willing to sacrifice (including their values), for the people they love. Those are the narrative developments which feel the most cinematic in style, scenes plucked from popular disaster movies. To match the dire circumstances of the world, it makes perfect sense, though it's still extremely jarring when the story takes a turn to some very dark places. The author effectively creates a sense of complete unraveling horror, and not just of the climate. 

At just past the midway point of the book, the meaning of the book's title is finally revealed, and it was more complex than I had expected. 

One character seems to stand out from the others. Ash, is the oracle of truth, the voice of everything we would rather not hear. His neurodivergency allows his sober critical analysis to cut through emotions which ordinarily cloud perspective. His assessment of the nature of humanity is terrifying in its clarity. Add a little chaos, diminishing access to basic resources, a slight break in the social contract, and we would all become very dangerous. Like each of the other characters in the story, however, even Ash can go off the deep end. It's another reflection the author takes pains to point out deliberately. The author creates comparisons from the individual to the complex: what factors might cause a person to go too far, or cause governments (or other agents of the state), activists, or religious leaders to go too far? What responsibilities does a leader have for the actions of their followers?

Several observations that are not specifically mentioned, but obviously intimated by the author:

You cannot hope to meet new complex problems with old dated simple solutions.

You must always be on guard. For as surely as one psychopathic leader is replaced, another much worse one is rising as a new threat  

Group cooperation can become completely derailed when simple comforts are denied. 

The mostly unaffected majority can get used to almost anything, as long as it doesn't affect them directly.

Overall, I thought this was a good story with an important examination of who we are, and how we might solve threats to the planet without losing our common humanity. There are some nightmarish scenes, but spaced out in the narrative to increase their impact. The novel is very long, but only about the last 100 pages could use some tightening. Maybe some of it should have been an epilogue, but there's not a whole lot I would otherwise change. This is a novel which provides so many imaginative and hopeful solutions to every problem plaguing us today. And it stays with you.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster and NetGalley for providing an advance review copy of this book.
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It's nearly 900 pages, there are dozens and dozens of characters, and there's some fairly technical climatology lingo. However, don't let any of that intimidate you. The Deluge is, by far, my favorite new book I've read this year.

The majority of the story takes place in the not-too-distant future and pivots around the question of "What if we continue to do nothing about our climate?" The answer? Imagine the chaos of the year 2020 on steroids, multiplied by a hundred, year after year.

The book is especially powerful because all the horrors that occur feel alarmingly possible. Record breaking floods, fires, food shortages, economic collapses, and political zealots are a few examples among many. The Deluge is an important read, but it's more than just terror and gloom. It made me laugh, and I felt attached to the characters, flawed as they all were.

I can go on and on, but I strongly recommend that you give it a go yourself. I PROMISE you that all the characters and separate storylines will connect and make sense.
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At nearly 1,000 pages, The Deluge is long and, honestly, the technical scientific jargon in the first chapter had me worried but, in the end, Markley managed to pull all the disparate storylines together in a very compelling and engaging story that engulfs the reader. Stephen Markley has written a masterpiece that Stephen King rightly calls “a modern classic.” It’s unsurprising that King acclaims The Deluge, as it is as long and as epic as King’s The Stand. The Deluge well worth the effort and commitment, its vision of the future is eerily prophetic, and its warning regarding climate change is worth heeding.
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