Well, I’ve finished it. Not quite all 798 pages ( I stopped at the “B”s in the Bibliography, figuring I can finish the last few pages of that tomorrow ;-)
First off, it’s a heck of a lot easier to read 700+ pages of this, than any of the other many hundreds page books I’ve tried. Things like The Bible, the Koran, The Encyclopedia Britannica, Samuelson- Economics… I think I was able to knock it out in 2 elapsed days, with some amount of ‘normal life’ happening at the same time. (Bunny tending, gardening, some dishes, news check). At this point I have to rescind my earlier complaint about the length. It is divided into several sections of substantially complete content, so you can “break” at convenient points. Structured more like 4 short novels in one book.
Overall, I liked it. A reasonably “fun” read, with a clear understanding of the global warming fad / movement worked into it (both as “plot device” and as “public information”). I do have to admit that I did not enjoy it as much as I ought to have enjoyed it. No, not through any fault of the book. It was all me. Generally when I read a novel, it’s “Full Immersion” mode. Imagination is just left “full on” and it’s like I’m inside a 3D movie. Someone says “It was a typical greasy spoon Italian joint, faint garlic in the air” and I’m smelling garlic and have a flash back to the “Spaghetti Feeds” they had in my home town (school cafeteria that, in those days, had a full kitchen and was used by all sorts of civic groups) and the particular smells and tastes of that somewhat garlicy spaghetti and garlic bread… I don’t so much read the words as let them just directly drive the mind. In this case I had a second motive. Answer the question “Could I ‘channel Michael Crichton’?” That is, could I figure out what he was doing as author, how he constructed scenes, what he did for character development, how the plot line had been imagined, what were his motivations and how did he ascribe motivations to his characters. In short, to be analytical of the text, while being “in the moment” of the story. A hard task… Two completely different mind states.
By about page 500 I’d pretty much caught on to how the structuring was done and found myself lapsing ever more into “immersion” and away from “analytical”. It’s a much more pleasant way to read a novel ;-) At any rate, I was mostly able to “run both at once” with only a little sporadic jarring of the immersion effect in the early chapters as stray analytical thought would pop up: “He has minimal character development”… “He uses male color pallet -white, blue, red; not a female color pallet – cream, azure, crimson”… “He is hinting that the dead person isn’t dead, leaving the door open for a return later with the phrase ….” “Enter Arch Villain Character”. “Here he shifts to ‘educational narrative’ in the guise of legal plot device”… And so on. Kind of like watching a movie with someone in the next seat sporadically leaning over to say “He’s not really the bad guy, you can tell by the way the female lead is hitting on him.”
OK, with that said:
It is, IMHO, one of the best $10 I’ve spent in the last few years. Heck, the bibliography alone is worth that. The notion of a Novel with Footnotes and References is worth that. The “ride” through the adventure is worth way more than that. I’d love to see it as a movie, but doubt it will ever happen. (First off, there’s already some other movie out their with the same title and different plot; but more importantly, I don’t see Hollywood ever gritting its teeth enough to make the movie… and if they did it would be completely re-written to match THEIR narrative of the world…)
In broad outline, there is a Global Environment Group trying to gin up support (and money) via creating a bunch of “natural” disasters around the world. Flash floods, tsunami, hurricanes. (There’s a fair amount of ‘weather control’ as a plot device in the book, that I need to check for any ‘roots’ in real science or attempted ideas). There is a wealthy benefactor who is suspicious his money is not being well used by that group. And from there, the book runs the problem set forward… Character building, setting them at each other with some tensions and strains, The Problems, a discovery of Deeper Issues (with The Mysterious Stranger slowly transmuting into central character). Then as set of “vignettes” as the cast sets off on adventures around the world, saving humanity from a variety of Evil Deeds. With a great deal of fun action scenes along the way. I won’t tip the ending here. Interspersed between action scenes are the occasional “moral narrative” scenes where the Global Warming As Hoax evidence is neatly woven into the plot line. Fairly seamless and quite appropriate to the context. I mostly noticed it as I was directly looking for it (and as those were the bits with footnotes and references…)
The novel ends with an Authors Bias statement and Bibliography. Rather charming additions. There is also a retrospective on Eugenics and Soviet Science that was informative in its own right.
Could I Do It?
I doubt it. Certainly not on a ‘first effort’. He has many years and books already published. That’s a lot of experience. I could likely come close (and could likely duplicate some of the skill level of earlier works). But I’m pretty sure that it would take me a couple of years and a whole lot of effort to try and crank out anything even remotely close to this work.
On the flip side, I’m pretty sure that I could do a credible job on a 200 to 300 page treatment of a smaller aspect with similar effect. I would likely be able to do a better job of some aspects of character development and description, if nothing else I’d ask the female family members for better descriptions of clothing types and a female perspective on some of the ‘interactions’ of female characters. There was a fair amount of “who did what” and not enough “she felt what / he felt what” for most women, given what I know of gender preferences in novels. ( It’s hard to make a story both a ‘chick flick’ and a ‘guy adventure’ but worth the effort… ladling on to that the ‘sciency stuff’ too might be a bridge too far… but also worth a try.) I’m not sure I could make the story as compelling without some practice. I tend to slide off into sidebar muses about ‘how stuff works’ and forget to ‘keep the action going’. Playing the emotional symphony is not natural to me. Most of my writing having been technical. But we can all learn new tricks. Given enough time and effort.
It is also worth note that I felt a kindred spirit. What I like to call a ‘mind print’ comes through in how a person writes. It reflects how they think, what kind of person they are, do they keep a tidy mind. IMHO, our styles of thought were more alike than divergent. That’s an encouraging thing.
So I’m going to contemplate some. Probably try a short story or two circulated among family and friends to avoid being too immediately flogged in public ;-) and see what develops.
IMHO, the novel does a very nice job of getting into folks minds the basic issues in the Global Warming narrative. The Climategate issues of clear ethical “challenges” came long after the book, so that treatment is light. I suspect were the book being written now, there would be more “Deliberate Malice” and less “Seduction of Belief in Error” in the plot. While the story gets a tiny bit “preachy” at those times, and a little stilted in the plot device, it’s well worked into the story and it is important to development of doubts in the characters. The story would not really work with those parts removed (as the characters would not develop in line with that self discovery…)
I would strongly recommend anyone who had not read it to buy a copy and read it. Then to give copies to “quavering” friends. Those “on the fence” but not willing to spend the time it takes to learn what’s wrong with Global Warming, but willing to read a good novel. I’m planning to circulate my copy through 3 or 4 friends and family…
The novel opens with a bang, in a couple of ways, and has a recurring theme of a mysterious assassin. Perhaps it’s just the afterglow of a good novel and ‘willing suspension of disbelief’, but I find myself now wondering about the deaths of Andrew Breitbart and Michael Crichton (don’t worry, I’m well aware that their ages and causes of death are not at all unusual and that this is just the ‘fiction imagination’ engine still running ;-) Yet political assassination is an ongoing theme in both novels and reality, so…
I suspect that next I need to find a more typical, and perhaps somewhat earlier, novel of his to read. I remember Andromeda Strain (that I read long before seeing the movie) so would need to find some other. And then I would need to find a suitable “muse” along with the discipline to crank out the pages and the courage to take the criticism they would deserve. We’ll see. Perhaps, in the end, just being oneself is a better route than channeling.