The Ministry for the Future • 2020 • CliFi novel by Kim Stanley Robinson


Synopsis: It’s 2025, the founding year of the Ministry of the Future which is an agency established in Zürich, Switzerland, to ensure health and safety for the generations to come.  A heat wave crawls over rural India just before the yearly monsoon, killing twenty million people, and everything changes.

The story follows Mary Murphy, head of the new ministry, and tells her troubles founding the ministry, bringing banks and governments to political agreements over climate issues, and her long way to retirement. Her live is interleaved with that of Frank May, the sole survivor of the heat wave.

Review: This clifi is a very typical Kim Stanley Robinson novel: Less of a plot, more of a speculative extrapolation. Where his New York 2140 featured the rising sea level, his new novel focuses initially more on the direct impact of higher temperatures with the dire killing of people who cannot flee into cooled buildings, because there are none. This is not the only place which KSR lets the reader visit, but also beloved Antarctica with updated climatic implications since his great novel of 1997.

Another central showplace is the city of Zürich. As I lived there for a year, I can assess, that KSR’s lovely descriptions of the town are top notch, and I once again fell in love with this place.

The author wouldn’t be himself if he wouldn’t introduce some radical protagonists into his story who try to change the way our capitalistic world works. In this case, the trauma of the heat wave radicalized Indians who call themselve the “Children of Kali”, a Hindu goddess of Destruction. He envisions them to destroy the whole aircraft business by bringing planes down using an army of small drones directed into the flight paths of the planes. The message is obvious: stop flying, and the industry follows. But they don’t stop there.

Robinson offers an optimistic view into the further future, one where humanity can overcome the climatic change using terraforming technologies, a reformed capitalism disempowering the connection between banks and governments by issuing a blockchain certified carbon coin, and wiping away crappy Facebook by implementing a people owned and operated new Internet.

He finds many angles which are needed to save our children’s world, some may be naive, others could be counterargued. But together they form a holistic view that could work – something that I’m missing in so many dystopian clifis of these days.

I can fully recommend this Near Future Hard SF for everyone who doesn’t focus on plot or character but wants to see a solution oriented future of climatic change.

Meta: isbn 9780356508832. Published at 8.10.2020 by Little, Brown Book Group UK.

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20 Responses to The Ministry for the Future • 2020 • CliFi novel by Kim Stanley Robinson

  1. cathepsut says:

    Not reading your review yet…. because I am still reading this. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Andreas says:



  3. Wakizashi says:

    It sure is nice to read an “optimistic” take on the future from time to time🙂 You mention that he doesn’t focus on character, does he write good characters? Are they believable?


    • Andreas says:

      The protagonists are absolutely believable – one survivor of the heat wave with PTSD facing consequences from his actions and then the main protagonist, the female minister with Irish history, juggling bankers and the need for (undercover) action.
      While they are believable, they seem more like a tool to drive the political messages.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ola G says:

    KSR clifi is always quite interesting, even if not always believable 😉 I’m tempted to read another book by him, but not necessarily this; do you have any favorites you can recommend?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. bormgans says:

    Somehow I’m not really happy to read this review. As a fan, I pre-ordered the book and I’ll start it when it arrives, but to read it’s just another typical KSR is somehow dishartening after his two latest books. I have the feeling Stan ran out of ideas, and I was hoping for a new start with this one. Oh well, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt, but I don’t have high hopes.

    Another factor might be his optimism: I don’t share it any longer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andreas says:

      I guess, his next change of subgenres will be a dystopia. That would be an interesting contrast to this Near Future SF.
      This novel read more like an update of previous novels – esp. Antarctica, but also correcting his overoptimistic terraforming in Red Mars, and even his sea water level rise of New York 2140. His belief in blockchains is probably overoptimistic, but with a revolutionized Internet, he‘s got a very valid point. It just won’t go the way he told us.
      He‘s written his whole life about climate change and it seems that he wants to impact as long as he‘s able to.
      In the end, the book is probably more 3stars than 4.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Kim Stanley Robinson, The Ministry for the Future (2020) – Re-enchantment Of The World

  7. Jeanne says:

    This one is definitely somewhere between novel and essay. I like your description of it as a “speculative extrapolation.”

    Liked by 1 person

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