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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Sixty Days and Counting by Kim Stanley Robinson

Sixty Days and Counting is the final book in the "Science in the Capital" science fiction series. It is a series that deals with a liberal view of the environment and global climate change. To summarize the previous two books (Forty Signs of Rain and Fifty Degrees Below), Frank Vanderwal is scientist at the National Science Foundation, on loan from the University of California at San Diego, who is a quiet but unique character that is similar to many other characters that the author, Kim Stanley Robinson, creates in other books. His characters are usually into hiking, Buddhism, environmentalism, and liberal values. Frank has a chance (seemingly) meeting in a malfunctioning elevator with a complete female stranger, yet they end up making out in the elevator. She becomes a mysterious part of his time in Washington D.C. Meanwhile, weather patterns and environmental changes begin to happen unbelievably quickly all over the globe. Frank and his friends, Charlie and Anna Quibler are in position with the new administration to help make a difference on the science front.

Sixty Days begins with the new administration. Phil Chase has been elected president and Frank is brought along to advise the Science cabinet. He is an interesting character in that he is essentially homeless. At different times, he has lived in a treehouse in the D.C. area, lived with the Tibetan Buddhists who have been displaced from their (fictional) island by rising oceans, lived in his minivan and spends the night in a mini-cave when he visits his faculty and friends at UCSD. Frank also spends much time with the "ferals", a caste of people who do not work but also are homeless. They move from place to place as an underground society. These themes are often present in KSR's books.

The Quibler's are a quite a couple. Charlie has been a staffer with Phil Chase (the elected president) for many years. But recently, he's been a work-from-home dad. He spends all day with his toddler, Joe, and also most of the day on the phone or the internet doing his work. The time comes thought that he must put Joe in daycare and work like everyone else, especially when the president asks him point blank to come to work. His wife, Anna, is career analytical hawk that is willing to let her husband be the main nurturer of the family. She is a hardcore scientist for the NSF and declines a job on the Science Cabinet. The Quibler's are supportive of Frank during his trials with an injury and also with his mysterious girlfriend.

I really love KSR's writing style. His plots have the usual highs and lows, just like everyone else, but he does not let the characters become to unrealistic. He has a way of starting a theme or train of plot and slowly developing it to only sometimes succeed. These plots meanderings bring about a type of nostalgia that doesn't always end the right way. His successes are satisfying and his failures are emotional. It's very unique. Even though my own awareness of the environment and attitude toward religion and social issues are almost polar opposites of KSR's, his writing style is most effective and poignant to me.

The author's most famous works are the Mars trilogy, a science fiction epic series dealing with the colonization and terraforming of Mars.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

do you review conservative authors as being conservative as constantly as you did KSR here?

do you introduce john as being a man that says liberals are poisonous to society?