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Forty Signs of Rain Hardcover – June 1, 2004


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Product Details

  • Series: Robinson, Kim Stanley
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Spectra; First Edition edition (June 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553803115
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553803112
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (111 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #520,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this cerebral near-future novel, the first in a trilogy, Robinson (The Years of Rice and Salt) explores the events leading up to a worldwide catastrophe brought on by global warming. Each of his various viewpoint characters holds a small piece of the puzzle and can see calamity coming, but is helpless before the indifference of the politicians and capitalists who run America. Anna Quibler, a National Science Foundation official in Washington, D.C., sifts through dozens of funding proposals each day, while her husband, Charlie, handles life as a stay-at-home dad and telecommutes to his job as an environmental adviser to a liberal senator. Another scientist, Frank Vanderwal, finds his sterile worldview turned upside down after attending a lecture on Buddhist attitudes toward science given by the ambassador from Khembalung, a nation virtually inundated by the rising Indian Ocean. Robinson's tale lacks the drama and excitement of such other novels dealing with global climate change as Bruce Sterling's Heavy Weather and John Barnes's Mother of Storms, but his portrayal of how actual scientists would deal with this disaster-in-the-making is utterly convincing. Robinson clearly cares deeply about our planet's future, and he makes the reader care as well. FYI:Robinson's Mars trilogy (Red Mars, etc.) received one Nebula and two Hugo awards.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–An elegantly crafted and beguiling novel set in the very near future. Anna Quibler is a technocrat at the National Science Foundation while her husband, Charlie, takes care of their toddler and telecommutes as a legislative consultant to a senator. Their family life is a delight to observe, as are the interactions of the scientists at the NSF and related organizations. When a Buddhist delegation, whose country is being flooded because of climate change, opens an embassy near the NSF, the Quiblers befriend them and teach them to work the system of politics and grants. The Buddhists, in turn, affect the scientists in delightful and unexpectedly significant ways. The characters all share information and theories, appreciating the threat that global warming poses, but they just can't seem to awaken a sense of urgency in the politicians who could do something about it. (Robinson's characterizations of politicians are barbed, and often hilarious.) As the scientists focus on the minutiae of their lives, the specter of global warming looms over all, inexorably causing a change here, a change there, until all the imbalances combine to bring about a brilliantly visualized catastrophe that readers will not soon forget. Even as he outlines frighteningly plausible scenarios backed up by undeniable facts, the author charms with domesticity and humor. This beautifully paced novel stands on its own, but it is the first of a trilogy. As readers wait impatiently for the next volume, they will probably find themselves paying closer attention to science, to politics, and to the weather.–Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Kim Stanley Robinson is a winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards. He is the author of eleven previous books, including the bestselling Mars trilogy and the critically acclaimed Fifty Degrees Below, Forty Signs of Rain, The Years of Rice and Salt, and Antarctica--for which he was sent to the Antarctic by the U.S. National Science Foundation as part of their Antarctic Artists and Writers' Program. He lives in Davis, California.

Customer Reviews

The characters weren't well developed but their situations were.
John McEvan
All too infrequent chapters about political machinations and mitigation of global warming.
John A. Farmer
This book is simply too preachy, too slow moving, and too boring.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Ted Dunning on November 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Man alive, it kills me to have to give this review. Mr. Robinson is one of the most talented writers of thinking-person's SciFi currently working. He writes really good stuff. He has never been known for bang-zoom, action every three pages, laserbeams and killer robot stories, but for more cerebral settings of scenes and intricate, believable characters. His "Antarctica" and the California quasi-trilogy are examples of books that don't contain a whole lot of "action" per se, but are excellent reads nonetheless. I love phasers and photon torpedoes as much as the next geek, but Robinson has consistently delivered when it comes to satisfying and highly readable SciFi of a more relaxed, thoughtful nature. His Mars trilogy, which contains a few examples of what could be considered literary tedium (multi-page descriptions of what a rock outcropping looks like, an excessive fondness for the word "glossolalia"), is still far and away my favorite series from any author.

I've noticed that most of the negative reviews so far seem to be coming from my same frame of mind. That is, trying to rationalize Forty Signs of Rain (henceforth FSOR). Trying to find a way to defend it. No one seems eager to dismiss this book, and why should we be? We admire this writer and his work and have been eagerly anticipating this book. Nobody likes to be disappointed.

So what went wrong? I wish I knew. It is easy to say that in this book, not a lot happens (because not a lot does). But that seems unfair, too easy, too general. Not a lot "happens" in "The Gold Coast" but it's still a very enjoyable book. Much of FSOR centers around the travails of parents raising children - taking sons to the park, packing lunches, adult banter about children.
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58 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Christopher on June 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover
For KSR fans:
* This is old school KSR, and it's awesome. I think this book is best compared to The Gold Coast. Fun and meandering, lots of conversations and reflection. But as that book set-up a large framework that wasn't fully utilized, this one is unquestionably configured to thrill.
* This will likely be your fastest KSR read yet. The story is very focused, especially compared to TYORAS. It is less poetic than TYORAS, more driven than Mars, and none of the KSR that you love is lost.
For new KSR readers:
* This is a book about people who will use the great gifts of the mind to solve the puzzle of global warming and radical climate change. They use their gifts for other things, too--like being a good dad, having fun conversations with Tibetans, savoring their favorite places, and having crushes on mysterious strangers. This book is not just a one-trick pony... these characters are rich and well-rounded... a mirror of their author.
* If someone says this is science fiction, they haven't read the book - this is simply a novel. Some of the characters are scientists, and they have fascinating ideas, but that's as "hi-tech" as it gets.
* I think the experience for most of you will be that you digest 40 pages, reflect and think "Where are we going?", maybe even "Why am I reading this?"... but the book will stay close at hand. Another 40 pages, another feeling of mild puzzlement. But something will keep you going... and you'll approach the end, excited to find yourself in the middle of a fun trilogy, one that you start to appreciate personally, a new little secret, and a new favorite author to boot (who has written a lot of great stuff, to tide you over until the next release).
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Stephen on February 6, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I don't understand where the negative reviewers are coming from. This is a straightforwardly gripping little tale of science and politics that presents a cast of intelligent and interesting characters, all involved (quite credibly I thought)in the day to day workings of US government and scientific institutions. The science fiction scenario is that we're a little further down the road toward major climate change. But Robinson isn't giving us a conventional "if this goes on" disaster story, or it doesn't look like it at this point. (I haven't read the 2nd book yet.) He seems to be trying to look at how the relevant institutions might respond, not just show us brave smart people coping with chaos. At any rate, there's more than enough enough interest in the lives and thoughts of these characters to keep a reader entertained.

I should perhaps note that I haven't read much sf in recent years, though I read a great deal of it in my youth in the 1960s and 70s. This is the 1st book by Robinson I've read. It won't be the last.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Fudo Myo on September 20, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The detractors' reviews are completely unfair. Yes, the novel is a set-up for the trilogy and thus long on character portraits and short on plot. If you invest your time reading it, reading the rest of the trilogy will be mandatory. Perhaps Robinson would have been wiser to release all three as a single fat 1200-pager, but I'm sure the publisher demanded he contract a severe case of trilogy-itis. No matter, what's here shows great promise for what's sure to be a killer KSR series, hopefully rivaling the Mars trilogy.

While the character set-up means there's little happening for 2/3rds of the novel, there is payoff for your pertinence at the end. The scenes of chunks of cliff-side dropping off into the sea at La Jolla and animals being released from the zoo during the flooding are particularly evoking. And Frank, our most interesting character, between his break-in and his elevator tryst, has enough quirky adventures to keep things moving till we get there.

Worth your time, but you might want to hold out until you can read all three in one go.
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