Tag Archives: Climate Change

MIGRATIONS

Visceral. I swear I could feel the cold, smell the sea, sense the dead silence in the forest and sky, and watch the emptying surf crash on the rocks in agony, nearly empty of precious marine life. All fauna and marine life hunted and fished to the edge of extinction by greed and callousness. Yes, it is a dark and depressing world, but the author has the gift to keep the reader reading and reading. In my case, long into the night to finish the book in one sitting,

Migrations sucked me into a world that felt far less like the future and more like an ominous vision of our real-time immediate future. Our own world tilting out-of-control; written a split-second before Covid-19 arrived, escalating heat waves that baked billions of seashore marine life, severe drought, and unstoppable forest fires that have lead to unmerciful deaths and destruction.

In a frozen Artic wilderness, Franny Stone risks life and limb, alone, scrambling along icy cliffs. Her plan, tag three of the few remaining Artic terns about to take flight, for what well may be their last annual migration to Antarctica. The prologue is heavy with a sense of loss, despair, and hopelessness. Franny, in a world seemly without hope, desperately needs to know if these last birds survive. She has an affinity for the birds. She is a thalassophile, a person magnetically attracted to the ocean. Someone feeling trapped on land. Someone who has a spiritual connection to the water. Someone who needs to be in the water to feel complete and free.

Tracking her three Artic terns flying over the earth’s waterways requires a seafaring vessel. Mired in the hopelessness of their own futures, with the seas void of sustainable sources of income, no shipowner is willing to help a  lady’s phrenetic need to track a small flock of birds across the globe. No one until she meets the cryptic Captain Enis Malone and the motley seafaring crew of the Saghani.

The Saghani sets sail through the high seas the boat was never built to traverse following the electronic signal of the Artic terns. As drama unfolds among the captain, Franny, and the experienced crew, we are flipped backward through time to snippets of Franny’s past; a past that seems like ground-hog-day. Times that begin with promise of love and inclusiveness that end with Franny running away.

The story is dark but the reader needs to know how it all ends for Franny, the crew and Captain Enis. Will learning the fate of the birds provide a glimpse of promise that there is still hope left in the world? Can Enis and Franny free themselves from their internal bondage? The ending will surprise you.

Personally, the book affected me deeply. Will we destroy our own world through indifference and misuse of resources? Is there hope for our children’s children?

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PROJECT HAIL MARY

The man opens his eyes and finds himself strapped to a strange hospital bed. His naked body has electrodes plastered head to toe and tubes infiltrating every orifice. His “nurse” is a pair of robotic arms; the voice, feminine, with an emotionless drone. With sleep heavy eyes he scans the room and sees mummified remains in the other two beds. It seems he’s been “asleep” a long time. He doesn’t know how long because he doesn’t remember anything including his name.

After freeing himself, he stumbles around in search of someone or something to explain his circumstances.  Stunned he discovers he is completely alone on a space ship hurdling through space with no idea how he got there or why.

Suddenly a neuron fires in his head, and he has a blip of memory. He is in a coffee shop in San Francisco. He’s reading an email from the Pulkovo Observatory in Russia soliciting theories to explain why a line of infrared emissions are leaving the sun, dimming it, and heading toward Venus in a widening arc.

“Apparently my brain decided it was critical that I remember that email. Not trivial things like my own name.”

As Ryland Grace puts the puzzle together, he asks himself, “Why have I, a Junior High School science teacher ended up on a space ship? ” We learn, in a highly technical and scientific manner, that his presence on the ship wasn’t exactly voluntary but necessary. The sun is losing energy rapidly to some unknown space algae they named Astrophages. As a result, Earth faces a rapidly developing ice age leading to extinction of all life in the near future.  Quoting Martin Luther King, “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.”

When he puts it all together, Grace makes a decision. His death is a foregone conclusion. Might as well see if he can save the Earth before that happens. And in his search for an answer to save the world, he finds he isn’t as alone as he thought.

Revealing any more will spoil the story. I will give a heads up. This is a science fiction novel. It has a lot of technical jargon and space science stuff. Understanding and comprehending that material not my strong suit. I stuck to the pathos, ingenuity, jerry rigging, loneliness, entertainment, witty sequences, and humor that our reluctant and inexperienced astronaut provided. Space geeks seem to have a harder time accepting the plot. I did not feel I lost anything by skimming through the equations and astro-geek speak. To me, the heart of the story had a richer more personal message – loyalty and friendship – that left me cheering at the unexpected ending. I really enjoyed the book. (The Martian remains my favorite though.)

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The Sunlight Pilgrims

Sunlight PilgrimsThe Sunlight Pilgrims

by Jenni Fagan

Hogarth/Crown | 2016
Hardcover: 288 pages
ISBN: 978-0-553-41887-3
Genre: Fiction/Survivalism/Dystopias

ARC Hardcover from Blogging for Books and E-copy from edelweiss in exchange for an unbiased review.

★★★★☆

format_quoteThere are three suns in the sky and it is the last day of autumn-perhaps forever…Parhelia...Some say it is the end of times…Icicles will grow to the size of narwhal tusks, or the long bony finger of winter herself… Penitents. B-blizzardmaninsnow.jpglin’-drift. Owerblaw…Snowflakes cartwheel out of the sky……..

Sunlight Pilgrims-
Prologue

The melting of the polar ice has reached its most extreme. Worldwide temperatures are plummeting rapidly. Winter has arrived early and getting worse every day without any uptick. Experts say it might never leave. Temperatures dropping as winter advances -15°F… -30°F … -70°F. Sea water contaminated with fresh water and frozen as far from shore as can be seen with the naked eye. Snowfall depths are unprecedented worldwide. Many believe a new Ice Age has begun.

A setting this catastrophic would seem to be the focal point of the story when in reality it is only the set dressing; choosing to focus instead on the minutia of humanity and three individuals specifically amid the uncertain future of the planet.

quoteDylan McRae, 38, mourns the recent deaths of his mother and grandmother. If his heavy grief wasn’t burden enough, he learns their home and source of family income, an old London movie theater named Babylon, has gone into bankruptcy. His mother’s will contained surprising news of a caravan he now owns in a small Scottish caravan park in the middle of God knows where.  She asked that he spread both women’s ashes in a remote Scottish village, his grandmother’s birth place. Gathering up what belongings he could fit into his mother’s old suitcase including Grandmother Gunn in an ice cream container and Mum in a sandwich box he heads north facing the rapidly approaching deep winter. His plans are to sell the caravan after fulfilling his mother’s last request and head back south to some where warm like Vietnam or Cambodia.

Upon arriving at caravan #7 on Ash Lane he briefly spots a young girl in the window next door. Later in the night he is awakened to a strange noise and discovers a sleepwalking woman hoovering up the street before entering the caravan next door. Reentering the street with a dust-cloth she reaches up and polishes the moon.

The young girl next door is 12 year old Stella Fairbairn. Precocious, bold, foul mouthed and outspoken, Stella arrives on his doorstep to quiz Dylan about his arrival and relationship to the last visitor to that caravan; Vivienne- his mother. Stella has been a girl for the past thirteen months.  Previously she was a boy named Cael. Stella has always felt she was a girl. No doubts. She is bullied at school and obsessed about the changes puberty will bring locking her inside a male body forever.

Constance Fairbairn, Stella’s mother and the moon polisher, is a free spirit and a survivalist answering to no one.  Stella believes she knows just about everything and should go back to teaching. Was she a teacher? We don’t learn if she was but she does have a great deal of trivial knowledge. Constance earns her living removing furniture from the homes of the dead and scouring the town dump for items to be re-purposed.  Her life style and romantic choices have made her the central focus of town gossip primarily for maintaining two on-going and simultaneous 20 year affairs… the result of which yielded young Stella…or as her father prefers Cael.

Constance’s story is more obscure as she has pretty much found her own voice and is happy with her life. We learn what we know about her past from the conversations between Dylan, Stella and other minor (but very interesting) characters. Dylan finds a sketch book left by his mother and discovers family secrets that shake his world and the reason his mother bought that particular caravan. Stella begins to shed false friends unable to support her transgender status at the same time yearns for love and acceptance often daydreaming of a normal life as a wife and mother.

As Dylan, Constance and Stella’s lives are revealed in the light of day, winter shrinks their days and threatens their very survival. When they venture outside, we learn that amidst the approaching apocalypse there is sublime beauty only nature can provide.

Thoughts

  • Transgender coverage was very real and will perhaps give many readers a different perspective and hopefully more compassion and empathy. For me personally, I guess I never realized how brave and courageous someone would have to be to present themselves openly and honestly to the world.
  • Grief has no time limits. Dylan’s story dragged on and on just as it does in real life often stressing friendships and relationships.
  • Love.  Many unique perspectives of love.
  • Survival. Are any of us ready to face a new Ice Age. How would you behave trying to feed your family or keep them warm temperatures at -70°F and with over 10 feet of snow trapped.  The world is trapped. Would you survive?

In the end I was glad that I had done some research on the book before I read it.  It helped to know that the pace of the book would be very slow. As I expected in a true tragic situation, simple life goes on amid life altering outside influences.

Recommended.

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