Review of 'Fifty Degrees Below'

Fifty Degrees Below by Kim Stanley Robinson
2nd book in the 'Science in the Capital' series

fifty_degrees_below.jpg Following on from the events of Forty Signs of Rain Washington DC is recovering from the massive floods that devastated it. Frank Vanderwal is with the National Science Foundation (NSF), now led by Diane Chang, reviewing various organizations that seek to mitigate global disaster to see whether money can best be spent there. Having been unable to find accommodation in the wrecked capital Frank turns to his love of the outdoors building a treehouse in Rock Creek Park which is also inhabited by animals let loose from the zoo during the disaster. After an extremely cold winter (yes, -50) that kills many the NSF decide to invest in an ambitious scheme to kick start the jet stream by dumping salt into the ocean but is it too little too late? Is the planet doomed?

As with the first novel Fifty Degrees Below talks a lot about the politics not only of the US but also those involved in solving global ecological disaster. This, however, is not the main focus of this novel which is, instead, on Frank with his adventures in his treehouse and the homeless people in the park (!). So, not really a lot in terms of action happens with the exception of the horrendous winter and the inevitable destruction of Khembalung, a small low lying island nation we were first introduced to in the first novel. The characters we have been introduced to simply get on with their lives with little in the way of adjustments for the events that surround them (except for the odd behaviour of the arboreal Frank).

The novel is interesting enough to keep reading and Robinson is certainly a good writer but the promise of mass destruction and excitement in the title is ultimately left unfulfilled.

Rating: “Average, but who wants to be average?”

Review Date: 2017-08-26

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Harper Collins

Publication Date: 2005

ISBN: 0007148895

Other reviewed books in the 'Science in the Capital' series:

Other reviewed books by Kim Stanley Robinson: