Thursday, April 16, 2015

New Cli-Fi Book Portrays a Rough Eight Decades Ahead

The Vandervelde Documents by Richard Turner is an ambitious novel that attempts to envisage how the rest of the century will pan out for planet Earth as it suffers from the increasingly severe impacts of climate change, followed by the response of fragmented governments to the ensuing cataclysms.

It collects three e-books into one printed novel. The separate books cover in chronological order: in Book 1, The Carbon Brief, the period 2020-2044; in Book 2, The Phoenix Nation, from then up to 2078; and in Book 3, The Warden, 2084-2092 with a prologue from 2120.

This is a work of climate fiction, or cli-fi, particularly the first book. Since it is written by someone with a knowledge of engineering and technology the proposed technological solutions to meeting the challenges of climate change make some sense.

Predicting what will happen in the future is a thankless game and there will be readers who disagree with Richard's prognostications. One can always argue about details. The point of the book is to provoke discussion.

It is not a novel in a conventional sense. Instead it is a collection of documents or archive records, including blogs and diaries from the main protagonists.

It also sits securely within the realms of fantasy or science fiction, since it proposes a small group of people called the Elders – also known as "Sapients" – who have extended lifespans and manipulate events through some unknown means behind the scenes. They work on behalf of Gaia – the spirit of the Earth in its biosphere – from whose perspective humanity is a destructive virus.

It also, unusually, views world events from a Welsh perspective. The author is not Welsh but has lived there most of his life. This leads him to speculate about how small nations might, following the disruption of a cataclysmic event in 2044 which upturns the old world order, enter diplomatic dialogue with each other regarding alliances, with the intention of attempting to avoid in their new forms of governance the mistakes made by the former large global players that led us into this mess. It comes as no surprise to find that the author, in a previous life, for several years organised a Small Nations Music Festival in Wales.

This is a thought-provoking and enthralling novel that will captivate anyone interested in how climate change will affect the power plays of the future. It is also, frustratingly, one of the most poorly proofread novels I have ever read, but don't let that deter you.

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