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The Deluge

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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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This was a tough one to get through - it is very, very, very long but very good and necessary. I read a lot of dystopian fiction and this is one of those novels that is terrifying in every way -- all the more so because it seems so realistic and so, so possible. There were some sections that could have been shorter. There were a few that were novellas in their own right, which created separation between the different sets of characters making it hard to follow their storylines. Steel yourself, but read this.
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Reading this book is a huge commitment of time. It's a pretty tough read because it is also dark, depressing, and at times gruesome and violent, with its focus on a near future and the possible devastating effects of climate change and political ineffectiveness to slow the crisis. The story is told through multiple characters' eyes, ranging from a climate scientist to domestic terrorists to a drug addict etc, and eventually something ties their varied stories together. Not many of these flawed characters are very likable but theirs is an extremely frightening and compelling story. 

I received an arc from the author and publisher via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and the opinions expressed are my own.
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The Deluge begins in 2015 and takes us through present day to the mid 21st century. Along the way we meet dozens of characters who are reacting in different ways to the worsening climate crisis. The device of anchoring the book in familiar events lends credibility and urgency to the narrative. I was excited to read the book because of the many positive reviews, but unfortunately, the book just did not work for me. First of all, it clocks in at over 900 pages, and there were long periods where I just didn't feel like I was making any progress at all. 

Fully 250 pages of the book is exposition; the entire first section is a series of chapters introducing the dozens of characters we will continue to follow throughout the rest of the book. Reading this online, it was very frustrating. not to be able to go back and remind myself who these people were; there were just so many of them and they when they started to interact with each other the relationships and their backstories got very muddy. It doesn't help that the chapters are titled with events and dates, but each has a different narrator speaking in first person. Many times it took me 3 or 4 pages to fully understand who was speaking, which slowed me down even more.

One important issue the book raises is the need for urgency when we are dealing with political systems that move very slowly. 4 or 5 presidents are in office during the time period of the book, and none of them are able (or willing) to pass the kind of legislation that would really help. As climate conditions worsen, and the nation experiences unprecedented flooding, drought and storms, politicians posture, acquiesce to the fossil fuel lobbyists, and have summits which produce nothing. This is a very important message but it is almost lost. Markley might have been better served to tighten up the narrative and eliminate half of the characters and at least a third of the pages. Ironically, a book about the need for urgency ends up being a time-wasting slog.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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Thanks to Simon and Schuster and NetGalley for the advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review. I was really excited to read this one as it’s had a lot of advanced praise. Unfortunately it was just too technical and scientific to be an enjoyable read. It ended up a DNF for me but I hope to tackle it again in the future.
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It has been a long while since a first chapter grabbed me like this. I had  feeling at that point that I was in for a special read. And I was right. I did discover a unique ebook problem: you read a lot, look at the %, and realize you have barely made a dent. Then you come to Goodreads and see that the book you chose to read is 900 freaking pages. But, that also allowed for a unique ebook benefit: you start a book that you probably never would have started b/c it's 900 freaking pages and it turns out to be enthralling and possibly brilliant. Good with the bad, I guess. This volume is tremendous...both in quality and mass. 

ARC provided
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Wow! This book flew from feeling like it was snatched from todays headlines to a view of the future that felt all too real. I usually worry more about characterization, but honestly - the story, what could literally be our current story/our future- is what I loved about this. Markley pulled together all of the pieces from social justice warriors to climate change warriors/deniers, to the politicians, the christofascists, and more. He pulled in the anger and the fear from all sides.

Although this book is wicked long... it was well worth the time. One thing to note- read it on a device with a dictionary! I literally looked up 26 words as I read this. Do you know what clathrates are? or hagiogaphic? or hermeneutics? and so many more.

Many thanks to Netgalley and to Simon & Schuster for the galley copy.
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An intense and in-depth thought experiment on how our future could play out. The Deluge is a near-future novel about the likely upcoming climate catastrophe and the many different types of players who could be a part of it. Similar to works like The Stand by Stephen King or Wanderers by Chuck Wendig in scope, it plunges deeper into policy and political machinations than those two works did. Ultimately those parts, especially near the end, are where the title lost a bit of my attention. The interesting bits are learning about the different types of players, from the aging and irascible expert who knows what is going to happen and lets his irritation at not being listened to throw him into exile, to the young idealists full of passion and personality who love the world too much to watch it burn, to the ecoterrorists who grow more and more desperate as time goes by, to the numbers guy who has always looked at things a bit too rationally for most people to like him very well. This is not a difficult read but it is a long novel with lots of different viewpoints and ideas - it also jumps back and forth in time. If you are looking for something light for your beach vacation this isn't it. But if you are looking for a complex and dramatic story about politics and political personalities, activists, and the complex and at times contradicting motivations of different types of terrorists; if you are looking for a title that gives a detailed and realistically hopeful outcome for the future climate reality; if you are looking for an absorbing read on an epic scale - give Markley's Deluge a try.
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First, I will confess right up front that I DNF this book.  I tried, I tried really hard.  I made it to 20% (there are no numbered chapters, just 'essays' that stop and start anew) before deciding I would read the last entry (which came in at "1 hour 29 minutes left" to read).  Many times, if I do this, it brings back enough interest in the story to make me go back and finish.  It didn't work this time.

There are books that go down like eating whipped cream: light and fluffy and sweet.
There are books that go down like eating French Fries: hot and salty and you can't stop until you've finished it all.
There are books that go down like eating a bad steak; it looks and smells amazing, but you take the first bite to find its horribly dry and tasteless.  You take a second bite and it's so tough and chewy that you literally cannot swallow it.  You finally push the plate away from you and leave the table.

This novel is bad steak.  In the first 10% (again, can't give you chapter numbers) we meet 16 main characters and uncounted secondary, peripheral characters.  Thats too many.  And scientific facts and figures are thrown at you ad nauseam.  I half expected to start seeing pop quizzes at the end of each vignette.  

I don't mind political discourse in a novel or learning the terror of climate change.  But at least make it palatable and interesting, instead of dull as watching grass grow.
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I was extremely interested in reading this book prior to release. Unlike Stephen King's endorsement, the book is boring, disjointed, and poorly written. The general theme is a projection of the next 20 years of climate extremes. 

Initially, a number of disturbing observations of bacteria in the ocean pointed towards a speed up of storms and ice melts being analyzed by biologists and mathematical quants. If it stayed on theme, it could have been a great book.

Instead, he divided it into sub-plots that he never stitched together. It took me 4 weeks to get through this and was painful. I highly recommend not wasting 15 to 20 hours reading this.
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