Stephenson’s new techno-thriller is set in the near future, and describes possible effects of climate change and one Texas billionaire’s idea to reverse global warming. Action-packed, with a variety of settings that include Texas, the Netherlands, New Guinea, and the Line of Actual Control in the Himalayas separating China and India. Saskia, Queen of the Netherlands, is flying to Houston when her plane is diverted by extreme weather to Waco, where a group of feral swine on the runway disables her plane. She’s traveling to Houston to meet T.R. Schmidt, who’s demonstrating a way to use sulfur to help lower temperatures and prevent a rise in sea levels. The feral swine, alligators, and the aftermath of a hurricane make for exciting travels, but this is just one plot line in this page turning novel by the bestselling science fiction author of Reamde, Seveneves, Anathem, and Cryptonomicon. Laks, a Canadian semi-observant Sikh who practices martial arts has his own adventures. Though some of the characters could be developed more, I found this to be an entertaining and informative look at a possible near future. Readalikes include New York, 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson and Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this memoir about a Londoner who relocates to the Seven Valleys area in northern France with her husband, where they spend over a decade renovating a rundown old house. Susan Duerden narrates the audiobook (available from Hoopla Digital). While Janine and Mark live in a tiny village, their life there seems very lively, with festivals, seasonal markets, eccentric neighbors, and the antics of farm and domestic animals. Even frustratingly slow internet is humorous here. Janine is a travel writer, and often travels by train to a different region, to discover its charms, then comes home to realize that France’s Opal Coast is where she wants to stay. Readers will feel well acquainted with many of the residents in the village, and long to travel there, or at least want to try some of the seasonal pastries or local cheeses mentioned. Excellent armchair travel with warmth and humor, with wonderful descriptions of food and drink.
Micah Mortimer, 43, likes his routines. He goes for a run every morning before breakfast, then cleans his basement apartment before beginning work as superintendent in a Baltimore apartment building and making house calls for technical support as the Tech Hermit. Occasionally he sees his woman friend Cassia, but fails to empathize when her landlord learns she has a cat and she could get evicted. Micah’s mainly solitary world is upended when Brink, the 18-year-old son of his college girlfriend, shows up on his doorstep. Later, a gathering with his large, chaotic family has him wondering if they like Cassia, a fourth grade teacher, better than him. A bittersweet and yet heartwarming story of a man reluctantly learning to change his point of view. I’d like to see what Micah does next, and hope he makes some changes in his minimalist apartment. At 177 pages, this shorter book is a good introduction to the author of Clock Dance and many other acclaimed novels.