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Termination Shock

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A visionary technothriller about climate change. Neal Stephenson’s sweeping, prescient new novel transports readers to a near-future world where the greenhouse effect has inexorably resulted in a whirling-dervish troposphere of superstorms, rising sea levels, global flooding, merciless heat waves, and virulent, deadly pandemics. One man has a Big Idea for reversing global wa A visionary technothriller about climate change. Neal Stephenson’s sweeping, prescient new novel transports readers to a near-future world where the greenhouse effect has inexorably resulted in a whirling-dervish troposphere of superstorms, rising sea levels, global flooding, merciless heat waves, and virulent, deadly pandemics. One man has a Big Idea for reversing global warming, a master plan perhaps best described as “elemental.” But will it work? And just as important, what are the consequences for the planet and all of humanity should it be applied? Ranging from the Texas heartland to the Dutch royal palace in the Hague, from the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas to the sunbaked Chihuahuan Desert, Termination Shock brings together a disparate group of characters from different cultures and continents who grapple with the real-life repercussions of global warming. Ultimately, it asks the question: Might the cure be worse than the disease?


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A visionary technothriller about climate change. Neal Stephenson’s sweeping, prescient new novel transports readers to a near-future world where the greenhouse effect has inexorably resulted in a whirling-dervish troposphere of superstorms, rising sea levels, global flooding, merciless heat waves, and virulent, deadly pandemics. One man has a Big Idea for reversing global wa A visionary technothriller about climate change. Neal Stephenson’s sweeping, prescient new novel transports readers to a near-future world where the greenhouse effect has inexorably resulted in a whirling-dervish troposphere of superstorms, rising sea levels, global flooding, merciless heat waves, and virulent, deadly pandemics. One man has a Big Idea for reversing global warming, a master plan perhaps best described as “elemental.” But will it work? And just as important, what are the consequences for the planet and all of humanity should it be applied? Ranging from the Texas heartland to the Dutch royal palace in the Hague, from the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas to the sunbaked Chihuahuan Desert, Termination Shock brings together a disparate group of characters from different cultures and continents who grapple with the real-life repercussions of global warming. Ultimately, it asks the question: Might the cure be worse than the disease?

30 review for Termination Shock

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Termination Shock is described as a "techno-thriller about climate change," but I'm not sure it fully delivers on its promise. It is, for one, mostly not thrilling. And while it is certainly about climate change, Stephenson used climate change issues more as a conduit for the rest of the story--in other words, we learn about the climate setting and how it impacts decisions that drive the story but we don't actually see much about how those decisions then impact the climate. The setting is legitim Termination Shock is described as a "techno-thriller about climate change," but I'm not sure it fully delivers on its promise. It is, for one, mostly not thrilling. And while it is certainly about climate change, Stephenson used climate change issues more as a conduit for the rest of the story--in other words, we learn about the climate setting and how it impacts decisions that drive the story but we don't actually see much about how those decisions then impact the climate. The setting is legitimately interesting. We're in a near future where climate change has driven up temperatures, requiring fancy technology simply to last outside during the daytime in the southern United States. Water levels are rising, threatening low-lying areas around the world. Stephenson also periodically mentions things like COVID-24 and COVID-27, suggesting recurrences of the coronavirus, with other occasional mentions of technology that allows one to scan for exposure risk, but frankly this felt a bit forced. There also seem to have been at least some shifts in global status of certain powerful countries, though we're left to infer that from circumstantial evidence. Within that setting, we start with a fun opening scene, where the queen of the Netherlands is piloting her plane to Texas, forced to make an emergency landing in Waco because of a storm in Houston, and ultimately crashes into a herd of pigs and also some alligators that have gotten onto the runway. This starts the queen (generally known as Saskia) and her entourage on a trip to meet up with J.R. Schmidt, a wealthy Texan who owns a series of fuel superstations and is known publicly by a caricatured persona that might hide his actual canniness. We also meet Rufus, who's life has been focused on searching for his own Moby Dick, a giant wild pig on which he seeks his revenge. Saskia is headed to meet J.R. for some sort of larger, secret conference that is the impetus for the rest of the story and has potential repercussions for the climate worldwide. There are other characters picked up in the course of this piece of the storyline, but the reality is that there's very little excitement for a long time once we're off the Waco airport runway. The journey to Texas and the covert meeting in the desert there slowly introduce us to the world we're in and the primary challenge that drives the book, but much of the narrative throughout here is Stephenson's love affair with telling us all about the ideas he has rather than anything that might be truly called thrilling. It's interesting enough, but it's a slow burn. The one semi-thrilling thing that is interspersed with Saskia's storyline is the story of Laks, a Canadian sikh who travels to the Punjab and eventually finds his way to the Line of Actual Control where he engages in fighting the Chinese with sticks and rocks. I hoped for more from this, but this portion of the storyline is really just to set context for the later part of the story, which has nothing to do with the Line of Actual Control. There's other political semi-intrigue along the way, and various machinations in scattered parts of the world. Certain characters that seem like they will be key end up being relatively unimportant. We spend time with certain events that seem extraneous to the story. And at least one main character opts out of the storyline for reasons that are unexplained and, to me, incomprehensible. The pace may be said to pick up after about 450 or 500 pages, as we slowly approach the climactic showdown on J.R.'s Texas property, which finally ties many of the storylines together in a reasonably thrilling climax. But it's a lot of buildup for the actual payoff, which is itself helped along by at least one deus ex machina and ultimately feels less satisfying that Stephenson's best work. I leave this book feeling that there was much of interest but little that fully delivered on its promise. I have the impression that Stephenson had a lot of fascinating ideas about climate change and what the world might look like in another 15 years, and wanted very much to tell us all about his ideas in deep detail (as he is wont to do), and then tried to graft a thriller onto that foundation. So the ideas are neat but the plot felt scattered, and it doesn't help that the characters are generally one-dimensional. And in the end we don't really see how the climate ideas Stephenson so lovingly details actually impact the world, which feels like a letdown, especially since the ideas themselves might fairly be said to be optimistic. In the end, a solid 3 stars. Good enough, but in my opinion not in the same league as much of Stephenson's previous work. Thank you to William Morrow and to Goodreads Giveaways for the ARC of this book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    I read this latest ultra-near-future story of science fiction(?) by Neal Stephenson on a road trip through the American West. We drove under smoky skies and through swirling wildfire ash. We passed thousands of acres of desert transformed into open-air ag factories, irrigated by water diverted from dams four times the size of the big pyramid at Giza. We skirted or traversed some 7 current reservations and countless lands previously promised to and then taken back from the people who already live I read this latest ultra-near-future story of science fiction(?) by Neal Stephenson on a road trip through the American West. We drove under smoky skies and through swirling wildfire ash. We passed thousands of acres of desert transformed into open-air ag factories, irrigated by water diverted from dams four times the size of the big pyramid at Giza. We skirted or traversed some 7 current reservations and countless lands previously promised to and then taken back from the people who already lived there. We were still in the throes of an airborne epidemic yet the fierce individualists of flyover country murmured behind our backs when we went to get hotel coffee wearing a mask. "Think she's gonna rob the place?" No, old-timer, I'm just trying to keep us all alive long enough for you to finish that cigarette you're smoking indoors. SIGH. So EVERY PAGE of this rip-roaring globe-trotting totally wonkish yet completely entertaining novel had something that pertained to my lived experience RIGHT NOW. You really ought to read it. It's a cogent way to learn about solar geoengineering, Sikh martial arts, the Dutch monarchy, copper and sulfur mining, AND the Line of Actual Control, an incredibly important thing that I didn't know anything about until I abruptly read about it in a Neal Stephenson novel and then spent 30 minutes reading about on the internet -- something that happens to a character in this book in exactly the same way. You could read about these things in MIT Technology Review (https://www.technologyreview.com/2019...) or on The Bridge (https://thebridge.in/featured/gatka-t...) or you could charge your way through this book like I did. In the vernacular of fifteen years ago Internet language (me I'm going to write near-past science fiction when I retire): this is relevant to my interests.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jack Kelley

    As long as this is nothing like The Ministry for the Future, I’ll be happy. -7/14/21

  4. 4 out of 5

    Anissa

    Well, it was a surprising three star read for me. This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2021. Vivid and compelling beginning, slog of a middle (at 700 pages that clocks in at hundreds of eye-crossing pages with lots of things happening to many characters in ways that feel disparate while flogging the pace almost to death) and a really strong finish (like, so good, I was really annoyed about the middle slog all over again, because clearly, this tome could have flown high the whole damned t Well, it was a surprising three star read for me. This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2021. Vivid and compelling beginning, slog of a middle (at 700 pages that clocks in at hundreds of eye-crossing pages with lots of things happening to many characters in ways that feel disparate while flogging the pace almost to death) and a really strong finish (like, so good, I was really annoyed about the middle slog all over again, because clearly, this tome could have flown high the whole damned time in the glorious golden geo-engineered skies described in this very book!). Still, YMMV. I need to think about what else to say but here's my real recommendation: Borrow this one from the library! There's no point in having this around as a dead tree doorstop when you've finished or simply given up. I'll be passing on my copy. All things considered, I should have just reread Seveneves.❤

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    Neal Stephenson writes Cli-Fi! Of course, what this means in layman's terms is that an author with a penchant for a LOT of research and a brave heart just slammed a close-to-home ecological disaster onto our table and has said, read it and weep. It's very valid to compare this novel to KSR's The Ministry for the Future, too, in that it has not only an interesting and deep cast of characters over a relatively decent amount of time, near-future, but that the science comes out as a character of its Neal Stephenson writes Cli-Fi! Of course, what this means in layman's terms is that an author with a penchant for a LOT of research and a brave heart just slammed a close-to-home ecological disaster onto our table and has said, read it and weep. It's very valid to compare this novel to KSR's The Ministry for the Future, too, in that it has not only an interesting and deep cast of characters over a relatively decent amount of time, near-future, but that the science comes out as a character of its own. Not as bleak as KSR's recent novel, this one still shows the horrors of rising water levels, human displacement, border clashes, and some real technological solutions that are generally dismissed now because mass-scale geoengineering projects are SCARY. Politically, socially, militarily, it's all going to be a massive mess. But Neal Stephenson pulls a lot of neat tricks here. From making one of the main characters the young Queen of the Netherlands (Dutch Shell Company), we are given a fascinating look at all this from a different viewpoint. The same goes for the Pig Ahab character in Texas, or the Squeegie Ninja who spends a lot of his time on the Indian/China border doing performative (Cherokee head games) maneuvers since no one wants to go so far as to start using bullets. I really enjoyed these characters. A lot. Interesting, somewhat weird, but utterly essential to the overall plot that is very much Neal's bailiwick. I'm reminded of the things he accomplished in Reamde. The quality, as well. This is easily one of the better Cli-Fi SF's I've read, and that's not simply because I have immense respect for the author.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Roger

    Can a fan of Neal Stephenson comment here and let me know if this is a prime example of his writing and where it would rank amongst his best works? If it's in the top 5 or 10, I have no shame in saying I won't bother reading anything else by him. Termination Slog, I mean, Termination Shock, is a book by Neal Stephenson that will unfortunately be available in stores near the end of November. It's a 700+ page novel about characters that aren't very interesting, trying to stop climate change. Obviou Can a fan of Neal Stephenson comment here and let me know if this is a prime example of his writing and where it would rank amongst his best works? If it's in the top 5 or 10, I have no shame in saying I won't bother reading anything else by him. Termination Slog, I mean, Termination Shock, is a book by Neal Stephenson that will unfortunately be available in stores near the end of November. It's a 700+ page novel about characters that aren't very interesting, trying to stop climate change. Obviously I can't reveal much more since I read through an advance copy, but even if I could there really isn't much to say. It's a book of ideas that doesn't culminate into anything and wouldn't change the mind of a naysayer who doesn't believe in climate change in the first place. It's hard sci-fi at it's worst with bloated descriptions that add nothing to the story and feels more like Stephenson was just wanting to show off how intelligent he is. Speaking of bloated descriptions, I saw a reviewer on here DNF the book saying it was akin to Stephen King's verbosity but boring. Stephenson constantly adds back story to characters that don't need it and builds upon them in ways that put a halt to any progression that may be trying to happen. Even if the stories were interesting, the cardboard cutout characters are so wooden and lifeless it wouldn't even matter. When they're talking to each other it feels like AI that's trying to figure out what smart, cool people would sound like if they were real humans. It's unbelievable. Also, I find the shoehorning in of COVID to be pretty tasteless. It was very obviously added in at the last moment to be relevant. It adds nothing and feels lazy. I'd say I'm sorry for sounding so harsh but I just don't care. Termination Shock is a rambling mess that feels like amateur hour. I was already in a reading slump and this definitely didn't help. Thank you to William Morrow and Harper Collins Publishers for being kind enough to send me a physical advanced copy of this book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Devon

    A 700 page short story or perhaps a collection of short stories. I'll try to explain without revealing the "plot" such as it is. I mean that it's a short story in the sense that there's not what I would call a real or interesting plot here. There is a jumble of ideas, but they never really come together into a cohesive whole. In the last couple chapters the three "main characters" are finally tied together in the same location. Prior to that you're totally in the dark as to why you keep jumping A 700 page short story or perhaps a collection of short stories. I'll try to explain without revealing the "plot" such as it is. I mean that it's a short story in the sense that there's not what I would call a real or interesting plot here. There is a jumble of ideas, but they never really come together into a cohesive whole. In the last couple chapters the three "main characters" are finally tied together in the same location. Prior to that you're totally in the dark as to why you keep jumping back and forth between two different, unrelated stories with two of the main characters in one story and the third character on the other side of the world. Oh and be prepared for random COVID 19, COVID-24, and COVID-27 mentions that feel completely forced and never tie into the story. I consider myself a Neal Stephenson fan, especially of his earlier works. Neal Stephenson may have become so popular/well known as to become uneditable and that's a shame because the concepts are good and his writing style remains easy to read, but ultimately this book felt like a waste of time. The contents of this book could be condensed from 700 pages to 150-200 without losing much of anything and would serve as a good introduction to a book which contained a full story. I was 228 pages into the Advance Readers Copy prior to it getting to the first minor point of the book (putting Sulfur into the air to balance carbon) It's a full 45-50% of the book gone before "Termination Shock" is mentioned for the first time. Oh and be prepared for random COVID 19, COVID-24, and COVID-27 mentions that feel completely forced and never tie into the story. Ultimately there's nothing that really ties this book together for most of it's length and that's why I say it's more like a short story than a novel. Oh and did I mention be prepared for random COVID 19, COVID-24, and COVID-27 mentions that feel completely forced and never tie into the story.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Stephany Pachowka

    Termination Shock It's the near future and climate change is intense. Daytime temperatures in Houston routinely exceed 45 C (~115 F) and people are struggling to survive. Feral swine roam the countryside, and voracious alligators swim upstream searching for cooler water. Sea level rise is starting to inundate low-lying areas, and people are considering extreme measures. Termination Shock is another hard sci-fi novel by Neal Stephenson. The story follows several groups of people as they travel the Termination Shock It's the near future and climate change is intense. Daytime temperatures in Houston routinely exceed 45 C (~115 F) and people are struggling to survive. Feral swine roam the countryside, and voracious alligators swim upstream searching for cooler water. Sea level rise is starting to inundate low-lying areas, and people are considering extreme measures. Termination Shock is another hard sci-fi novel by Neal Stephenson. The story follows several groups of people as they travel the globe, from Houston, to The Netherlands, and Papua building machines to combat climate change. A young Indian Canadian martial artist travels to Punjab to defend his homeland from aggressors and finds himself at the center of a geopolitical storm. In his typical style, Stephenson explores the complexities of a world on the edge of drastic change. His story examines deep personal relationships and how those relationships inform the activities of nations, allowing individuals to force action while governments tarry. Everyone has their own priorities, and they are often at odds. Termination Shock is relevant to today's climate and political situation. If you are a fan of near-future hard sci-fi, enjoy geopolitical drama, or are concerned about climate change this book will appeal to you.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Adrienne

    Excellent climate sci-fi, set in the near future. Interwoven stories from vastly different global socioeconomic viewpoints keep it flowing quickly. Global climate politics are not just policy wonk discussions here, but twisty plot points. This was a “late night” read, keeping me up late to finish. ARC provided by NetGalley.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Cariad Eccleston

    Seveneves was my first Neal Stephenson (and my all-time favourite) novel. I picked up Termination Shock expecting more of the same. Ouch. I love Stephenson's deep rambling tangents when they're adding to a story I love. I never fell in love with Termination Shock. It's a vague story, with a lot of philosophising about the things that might happen. There isn't much urgency. It's hardly thrilling. In Seveneves, humanity is given two years to survive and our best scientists come together to save the sp Seveneves was my first Neal Stephenson (and my all-time favourite) novel. I picked up Termination Shock expecting more of the same. Ouch. I love Stephenson's deep rambling tangents when they're adding to a story I love. I never fell in love with Termination Shock. It's a vague story, with a lot of philosophising about the things that might happen. There isn't much urgency. It's hardly thrilling. In Seveneves, humanity is given two years to survive and our best scientists come together to save the species. In Termination Shock, climate change is a slow, disinterested death. Realistic perhaps, but boring as beans. Laks was by far the only character I cared about. If the story had been half the length, focussed entirely on him and (view spoiler)[his corpse hadn't been reanimated into a Robocop (hide spoiler)] , this would've been a far more positive review. I'm gutted that (view spoiler)[Laks died twice. His body survived being attacked by the Chinese army, but his mind never left that hospital. That was horrific in perhaps the exact way that it was intended. His final death by radiation poisoning was utterly tragic. And then the book ends with his killer cracking sexual innuendo jokes over a barbecue (hide spoiler)] . So fucking heroic. Actually, after writing that, I hate this book even more. Sorry, Neal. We'll always have Seveneves.

  11. 5 out of 5

    John

    Is taking decisive action against climate change without knowing the global effects better than taking no action until you are sure of the outcome? What if the effects are good for some and bad for others? What if things have gotten so bad that entire regions have been taken over by feral pigs and airplanes can't fly to certain places because it has already gotten too hot? The (only) problem with reading Neal Stephenson's speculative fiction is that his imagination creates possible realities that Is taking decisive action against climate change without knowing the global effects better than taking no action until you are sure of the outcome? What if the effects are good for some and bad for others? What if things have gotten so bad that entire regions have been taken over by feral pigs and airplanes can't fly to certain places because it has already gotten too hot? The (only) problem with reading Neal Stephenson's speculative fiction is that his imagination creates possible realities that hit way too close to home. "Termination Shock" could end up being prophetic. This could very well be what our world looks like in 10-20 years. As with any deep look at possible outcomes to global climate change, this one ends with no answers and no solutions. Too many people caught in feedback loops, too many moving parts, and if the machine of humanity tries to change/stop too suddenly, we may be facing a whole different kind of termination shock. The story is great of course, because Stephenson is a great writer. He thankfully avoids moralizing, preaching, or heroifying. He does make one rather nihilistic thought towards the end that sums up as: Climate change is not likely to kill off humanity. Before that happens, the good side of humanity will find a solution to fix it, or the bad side of humanity will destroy us. So...there's that.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Steve Essick

    Thank you William Morrow for the ARC. I’ve read my fair share of long books. Anna Karenina was long. Shogun was long. But Neal Stephenson’s new mind bending entry,#TerminationShock, is something else entirely. Instead of calling it long, I’d rather say it’s BIG. On every page you feel the vastness of this endeavor. Taking place in the very near future, perhaps 10 to 15 years from now,Stephenson’s epic view of global warming and its unsustainability is a monument to story telling. Using a world wi Thank you William Morrow for the ARC. I’ve read my fair share of long books. Anna Karenina was long. Shogun was long. But Neal Stephenson’s new mind bending entry,#TerminationShock, is something else entirely. Instead of calling it long, I’d rather say it’s BIG. On every page you feel the vastness of this endeavor. Taking place in the very near future, perhaps 10 to 15 years from now,Stephenson’s epic view of global warming and its unsustainability is a monument to story telling. Using a world wide cast of characters, #TerminationShock never lags in its narrative drive. Many will consider the book science fiction, and it does have its fair share of fictional science, but reads as if it is tomorrow’s headlines describing the doomed fate of the earth unless the world wakes up and smells the coffee immediately. Packed with engrossing exposition that leads the reader into action scene after action scene, #TerminationShock is a prodigious feat of penmanship. In every sense of the word this is a BIG BOOK about a BIG TOPIC which entertains while informing and well worth the time you invest by reading it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Bartel

    Absolutely brilliant! I've been a long-time reader of Stephenson. The level I've liked his books has gone up and down depending on the release. Termination Shoc has the best elements of his work to date and I found it to be the upper echelon of my favorites of his novels (Cryptonomicon, Snow Crash, Anathem, Reamde). No spoilers below. Stephenson's ability to connect a variety of vastly disparate nodes into a comprehensive whole is unprecedented. Lots has been of the dramatic intro to the book (qu Absolutely brilliant! I've been a long-time reader of Stephenson. The level I've liked his books has gone up and down depending on the release. Termination Shoc has the best elements of his work to date and I found it to be the upper echelon of my favorites of his novels (Cryptonomicon, Snow Crash, Anathem, Reamde). No spoilers below. Stephenson's ability to connect a variety of vastly disparate nodes into a comprehensive whole is unprecedented. Lots has been of the dramatic intro to the book (queen-piloted plane crashing into wild hogs being hunted by a Commanche drone pilot on a revenge mission in a painfully overheated Texas), but it's indicative of the whole. He's, of course, done this before (organs, code breaking, and intercontinental cable laying, for example), and in a more complex manner (monks, math, and inter dimensional travel, for example), but never in such a fun and relatable fashion. The jumps and cuts of the different elements rubbing against each other were consistently surprising and enjoyable. The most intriguing component to me, however, was the elaborate network of metaphors layered over the story itself. In addition to the story and character arcs, the dialogue, characters, and actions also function as metaphors for current discussion and arguments on various sides of climate change. Some of the silly one-liners or jokes have deeper meaning on further reflection getting readers to consider the deeper consequences of the world's actions and inactions on the climate. Again, highly recommended. I received an ARC with the request for a review. This review was not influenced in any way by that.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Florin Pitea

    More informative than entertaining. More in the vein of Reamde than in the style of Fall (thankfully). Well worth reading. I am not sure it is worth a second reading

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mythius

    I just finished Neal Stephenson's new novel Termination Crash. It started out pretty good, but then got real slow and plodding. It picked up around page 250 (out of 706), and then an awkward sex scene at about 280. In fact anything dealing with sex in this book was awkward in the way a teenage is talking about sex is usually awkward. Then is got slow again. It picked up in the second half, and the last 100 or so pages were real good. The story takes place in a not too distant future where concer I just finished Neal Stephenson's new novel Termination Crash. It started out pretty good, but then got real slow and plodding. It picked up around page 250 (out of 706), and then an awkward sex scene at about 280. In fact anything dealing with sex in this book was awkward in the way a teenage is talking about sex is usually awkward. Then is got slow again. It picked up in the second half, and the last 100 or so pages were real good. The story takes place in a not too distant future where concerns of climate change, rising temperature, and rising oceans are the main concerns. There is an interesting cast of characters including the Queen of the Netherlands, a Texas billionaire, a Sikh warrior, and a pig hunter who turns into The Drone Ranger (that's not a spelling mistake). The closeness to our times was unsettling, like I was looking into the 10 or 20 years into the future (no 'current date' is ever mentioned). The mention of things that happened in our last year or two are many, including COVID still being a problem, the US insurrection with that Viking dude, YouTube, Google Maps, Drones, AR goggles, and internet slang. All in all, it was a well told story, as Stephenson in my opinion is a solidly good author, but stared out way to slow for my taste. The best parts for me were the sci-fi elements of inventions just years away from now. But the best part is the actual premise of the book which I'll try not to spoil, but it does involve The Biggest Gun in the World. The point is, that if humanity, or a few humans, try to do something about climate change on a global level, and things start changing (in some places for the better, in some places for the worse), what would happen if that suddenly was stopped? The answer: Termination Shock. The climate might go into shock, just as a patient might if you suddenly stopped giving them the meds you've given the for so long, that suddenly stated showing signs of unwanted side effects. All in all, I'm going to give this book 3/5 stars. I would only recommend it to those who love the author, or want to read climate change sci-fi.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Monnie

    This is a book with an important message, but by no means can I call it an easy book to read. For starters, there are way too many characters, several of which go by different names part of the time, and too many different location settings to make things very confusing if you don't pay close attention. Couple that with more than 700 pages, and well, getting through the whole thing requires serious commitment. That said, though, it's worth making the effort, especially if you have an interest in This is a book with an important message, but by no means can I call it an easy book to read. For starters, there are way too many characters, several of which go by different names part of the time, and too many different location settings to make things very confusing if you don't pay close attention. Couple that with more than 700 pages, and well, getting through the whole thing requires serious commitment. That said, though, it's worth making the effort, especially if you have an interest in climate change. It takes place in the post-COVID but not-too-distant future, when the world is reeling from the effects of global warming. Everywhere are scenes of impending doom, like devastating, land-altering floods, superstorms and infestations of critters like feral pigs (yes, you read that correctly). The story centers around groups of people from different countries who are seeking ways to rectify (make that survive) the dire situation. At the beginning, the Queen of the Netherlands is on her way to Texas when a storm forces a crash landing of the airplane she's piloting. On her way to meet up with some kind of secret conference with a wealthy Texan who may have devised a way save humanity, she must keep her true identity secret. The rest follows several characters on their journey toward save-the-earth enlightenment, which includes the awareness that whatever solution is found may help some, but at the expense of others. Obviously, there's much more action and food for thought going on here (at 736 pages, a LOT more), but I'll keep those details to myself so other readers can discover them firsthand. My thanks to the publisher, via NetGalley, for allowing me to read and review a pre-release copy.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jenn

    DNF. Stephen King verbosity, but with a duller subject.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Torsten

    A fun interesting book, well to the right of KSR's 'Ministry of the Future'. While I enjoyed the writing, I was a bit disappointed with the story. The main character is a Queen, another main character is a former gov't minister. The book views the world from private jets and chauffeured SUVs. While the book mentions floods and fire ants driving people from their homes, their perspectives are missing. The story is also really unconcerned about all sorts of colonialism - climate and otherwise - whic A fun interesting book, well to the right of KSR's 'Ministry of the Future'. While I enjoyed the writing, I was a bit disappointed with the story. The main character is a Queen, another main character is a former gov't minister. The book views the world from private jets and chauffeured SUVs. While the book mentions floods and fire ants driving people from their homes, their perspectives are missing. The story is also really unconcerned about all sorts of colonialism - climate and otherwise - which was jarring when is was reading it during COP26, where historical responsibility of rich countries GHG emissions was repeatedly raised and documented - but was sidelined yet again.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Todd

    Like many of Stephenson's other works, this book is a fantastic blend of science-fiction, history lessons and prescient predictions about the future. I agree with some of the other reviewers that it is a stretch to call this a thriller, but I suspect that calling it a thriller is mostly for marketing purposes. For me, one of the main benefits of Stephenson's writing is that he gets you to look at things obliquely, question your assumptions and meditate on the nature of everyday occurrences. I al Like many of Stephenson's other works, this book is a fantastic blend of science-fiction, history lessons and prescient predictions about the future. I agree with some of the other reviewers that it is a stretch to call this a thriller, but I suspect that calling it a thriller is mostly for marketing purposes. For me, one of the main benefits of Stephenson's writing is that he gets you to look at things obliquely, question your assumptions and meditate on the nature of everyday occurrences. I also enjoy how Stephenson immerses the reader in many different cultures (in this book, that includes the U.S. South, Native Americans, Dutch, Southeast Asian, Italian, South American, English and many others) which gives you a new (or better) appreciation and understanding of those cultures. In Termination Shock, Stephenson synthesizes many different plot lines to underscore how complicated tackling global warming will be, especially in a geopolitical environment as fraught with division as ours is currently. The book derives its name from the idea that there potentially could be a rapid and substantial rise in global temperatures following a cessation of a climate change geoengineering strategy that slows or suspends the rise in temperatures (This paper is a good academic resource for the term and its implications: https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.c...). Similar to Fall or, Dodge in Hell's use of D'auliers Book of Greek Myths as a plot thread, Stephenson both literally and figuratively interweaves Moby Dick and many of its characters and metaphors into this novel. It makes you want to re-read the classic text and be in on all of the inside jokes throughout Termination Shock. Fortunately, I read the Great Illustrated Classic version of Moby Dick with my kids right before reading this book! Overall, I learned a lot about the Netherlands, its colonialism throughout many of the world's continents, its royalty (and the legacy it has on many Dutch companies), and its own attempts to combat climate change. I also was not aware that many European countries have areas that are facing some of the same climate change issues that beset New Orleans and have come up with some novel strategies to address them. I read Bill Gate's How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need, but did not recall learning some of the geoengineering techniques I read about in this book that could theoretically suspend (but not reverse) the effects of climate change. Some other areas of exposition in Termination Shock are the tensions between India and China related to border disputes, the Comanches past and current influence on America's culture, the joint plight of many locations throughout the world that are below sea level, their fight to keep the sea at bay, and the possibility that non-state actor(s) can advance the fight against climate change given our geopolitical divisions. Thank you to HarperCollins for the Advanced Reader Edition of this book. I really enjoyed it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Cat

    Another brilliant work of speculative fiction by Neal Stephenson, Termination Shock is a fascinating and detailed consideration of our future in the anthropocene. While most climate fiction tends to focus on the largely on the repercussions of a world irreversibly altered by climate change, Termination Shock is equally concerned with questions of what we can and should do to ameliorate the harmful effects humans have caused. Stephenson’s narrative is informed by extensive research and a broad vi Another brilliant work of speculative fiction by Neal Stephenson, Termination Shock is a fascinating and detailed consideration of our future in the anthropocene. While most climate fiction tends to focus on the largely on the repercussions of a world irreversibly altered by climate change, Termination Shock is equally concerned with questions of what we can and should do to ameliorate the harmful effects humans have caused. Stephenson’s narrative is informed by extensive research and a broad view of climate change in the context of the geopolitical, socio-political, economic, personal and practical. Like all of his novels, Termination Shock engages you on every level: intellectually, emotionally and cognitively. You’ll learn new information; get to know characters that you love and/or are invested in knowing; and be pushed to think in new ways and/or consider perspectives and issues you hadn’t. **more to come near publication date [I received a complimentary advance reader’s copy of this book from William Morrow/HarperCollins and NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.]

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jeanne

    Too long long long long long long long I did get involved with a number of the characters, but the tremendous amount of description setting the scene, detailing characters' histories, just WAY too much. I was tremendously relieved when I finally made it over halfway through the book... by the the final hundred pages, I just wanted to know who was going to live and who was going to perish. And at least one who I believe DID perish I have no idea WHO IT WAS. Really? This LONG a book and I don't kno Too long long long long long long long I did get involved with a number of the characters, but the tremendous amount of description setting the scene, detailing characters' histories, just WAY too much. I was tremendously relieved when I finally made it over halfway through the book... by the the final hundred pages, I just wanted to know who was going to live and who was going to perish. And at least one who I believe DID perish I have no idea WHO IT WAS. Really? This LONG a book and I don't know what happened to whoever that was? And the horse? The eagles? Give me a break. Jeez...wrap it up! It took long enough to GET THERE. Wrap it ALL up.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bbrown

    Over thirty years after Neal Stephenson wrote Zodiac, he has again published a near-future thriller focusing on environmentalism. In comparison to Zodiac, Termination Shock's plot is more meandering and far longer. Furthermore, it follows the now-familiar Stephenson formula of a number of plot threads focusing on very different characters that only come together in the finale. If you're a Stephenson fan, Termination Shock has the features you probably enjoy about his writing, but this struck me Over thirty years after Neal Stephenson wrote Zodiac, he has again published a near-future thriller focusing on environmentalism. In comparison to Zodiac, Termination Shock's plot is more meandering and far longer. Furthermore, it follows the now-familiar Stephenson formula of a number of plot threads focusing on very different characters that only come together in the finale. If you're a Stephenson fan, Termination Shock has the features you probably enjoy about his writing, but this struck me as one of his lesser works, and one that doesn't even surpass the eco-thriller he penned more than three decades ago. When I describe Termination Shock's plot as meandering, I mean that both literally and figuratively. Between them the disparate point of view characters visit the majority of the world's continents, and indeed almost all of the chapter titles are just locations to help you keep track of who is where. Additionally, the book is in no rush to establish any sort of a main narrative thrust or central conflict, with the story only really coming into focus around halfway through the book. Instead, Stephenson seems happy to have this work wander, slowly explaining the circumstances of the near future world where climate change has worsened considerably, as well as dropping in interesting trivia that Stephenson thinks it’s worth his readers knowing about. Sure, you could cut down the first half of this book substantially, but in doing so you’d probably have to cut factoids like the Houston metropolitan area being only slightly smaller in size than the entire country of Belgium. And why are you reading a Stephenson book if you don’t enjoy learning information like that? Still, I think that Stephenson could have struck a better balance between exploring niche knowledge and establishing a story with narrative momentum. But maybe the myriad factoids and languid world building are necessary padding, since without those things the plot of Termination Shock is surprisingly thin. It’s a 700-page brick, more than double the length of Zodiac, but if anything it feels like less happens. This lack of things actually happening is disguised at first by an early nearly-self-contained vignette where a character hunts a boar, which could serve as a solid story in its own right, but after that the narrative developments slow to a crawl for the lion’s share of the rest of the book. At least when I’d finished Stephenson’s recent novels Seveneves and Reamde (which, to be fair, are actually a good bit longer than Termination Shock) they left me feeling like I’d read a substantial piece of storytelling. By comparison this entire book feels like merely an introductory volume to some larger climate epic. Not sure yet if I’d give a sequel to this one a read. I might though, since the book certainly has its virtues. It avoids the pitfall of having some one dimensional villain, which couldn’t satisfy in a book tackling a complex real-world problem like climate change where very little is black and white. Instead, everyone has understandable motives, even though the characters don’t always behave understandably (view spoiler)[(after the Netherlands discovers that China had killed hundreds of its citizens, the non-response of the Dutch seemed unrealistic, as did the urge of everyone to immediately honor and memorialize Laks when he essentially died trying to commit a terrorist attack against a civilian target) (hide spoiler)] . Termination Shock is also refreshingly nuanced in its messaging of what we should be doing to address climate change. Or perhaps ambiguous is a better word than nuanced. Action needs to be taken, Stephenson’s narrative is clear on that point, but he leaves the door open for what party is best equipped to take such action. Is it alliances of countries, individual countries, or rich eccentric individuals acting according to their own values? There’s no denying that, in the real world, no country has yet been willing to take truly drastic action, even though that’s what might be necessary. If someone with billions of dollars to spend decides to take it upon themselves to do something, is such unsanctioned action something that should be stopped if there is not international consensus, or is it just what we need in the face of international gridlock? Is democracy the best system to solve climate change, or is it particularly susceptible to collective action problems given that measures taken to solve global warming are likely to have diffuse benefits and concentrated costs? Stephenson doesn’t answer any of these questions, of course, but they are interesting ones worth pondering. I just wish that Termination Shock raised them in a slightly more interesting way. In addition to the problems set out above there are also some other minor complaints not worth going into in too much depth, like that there are some coincidence-based plot developments, that the constant references to current events were distracted and may make the book age poorly, and that this book rehashes ideas that Stephenson explored better in other works (Interface, for instance), but these remain minor compared to the lack of narrative momentum and the thinness of the plot. These central flaws dragged down Termination Shock a bit for me, and cause me to rate it a 3/5. I’d only recommend it if you’re a Stephenson fan, and if you’ve already read Zodiac, which is less contemporary but which I found more enjoyable overall.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Richard Hodkinson

    This book is terrible. Stephenson usually writes either at a good pace, or has lots of interesting and novel ideas, consistently woven into a fascinating universe. This has none of that. He's never really been a good character writer: literary quality is not why you read this (unlike say Margaret Atwood). But here it starts slow, and the creaky leaden ponderousness of his characterisations gets full forward display, and it's neither interesting nor credible. Not only that, but he makes several f This book is terrible. Stephenson usually writes either at a good pace, or has lots of interesting and novel ideas, consistently woven into a fascinating universe. This has none of that. He's never really been a good character writer: literary quality is not why you read this (unlike say Margaret Atwood). But here it starts slow, and the creaky leaden ponderousness of his characterisations gets full forward display, and it's neither interesting nor credible. Not only that, but he makes several factual errors, which makes you feel as if the book hasn't been edited much, if at all. I come to Stephenson for his factual, fantastical and fascinating ideas, and this lets down on all fronts. I'm not halfway through it, and I don't know if I can finish it. It's really hard work when you cringe at every page. I can't recommend this book. And politically, I'm not sure where he's going with it wrt climate change, but so far, only one geoengineering (ah, so libertarian) idea of questionable worth has been brought up.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tammy (Wyse) Schoch

    I’m never sure with this author - some of his stuff is the absolute best and some is difficult for me to get into. This one caught me from page 1 and I finished it in 3 days.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Phenomenal! This book is set in the very realistic near future, and takes a deep dive into the ramifications of geoengineering. The title comes from the concept of suddenly ending a geoengineering effort that has been underway, which is called termination shock. In this case, sending sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, which because of its color would reflect sunlight and lead to climate cooling, in the same manner that carbon dioxide causes heating. The science of this is presented in an acce Phenomenal! This book is set in the very realistic near future, and takes a deep dive into the ramifications of geoengineering. The title comes from the concept of suddenly ending a geoengineering effort that has been underway, which is called termination shock. In this case, sending sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, which because of its color would reflect sunlight and lead to climate cooling, in the same manner that carbon dioxide causes heating. The science of this is presented in an accessible way, with the story told mostly from the viewpoint of a Comanche drone expert, the Queen of the Netherlands, and a young Sikh man who travels to the Punjab to get in touch with his roots and ends up at the Line of Actual Control border conflict with China. From these vantages we start to see the politics of this geoengineering project unfold. It was interesting to consider that it's actually "green" leaning individuals and party members that might be most vehemently opposed to geoengineering efforts. This story is meticulously researched and highly plausible, and I found it fascinating!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sam Jack

    Neal Stephenson fans will enjoy this book. I am one of those fans, and I enjoyed it for the ideas and imaginative predictions about near-future tech and geopolitical scenarios. I also enjoyed Stephenson’s dry sense of humor. On the other hand, the characters were weakly drawn, in a way that is, unfortunately, familiar from other Stephenson novels. All of the main characters are thrust into life-threatening situations, yet they are never portrayed as experiencing real, gut-wrenching fear. They are Neal Stephenson fans will enjoy this book. I am one of those fans, and I enjoyed it for the ideas and imaginative predictions about near-future tech and geopolitical scenarios. I also enjoyed Stephenson’s dry sense of humor. On the other hand, the characters were weakly drawn, in a way that is, unfortunately, familiar from other Stephenson novels. All of the main characters are thrust into life-threatening situations, yet they are never portrayed as experiencing real, gut-wrenching fear. They are somehow able to maintain ironic detachment at all times. Maybe one or two characters should have been a bit more shaken up. It was interesting to draw comparisons between this novel and “The Ministry for the Future.” If anything, that novel (by Kim Stanley Robinson) is even heavier on the info dumps, yet the emotional impact of events feels much more real. All that said, I applaud Stephenson for taking on “climate fiction.” We need many more novels and books like this one as we try to imagine a positive way forward for the years to come.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Justin

    There is something extra enjoyable reading a book you know the author had quite a bit of fun with. Like many Stephenson books it groans under the weight of some of the things that he chooses to include. If, like Stephenson, you find yourself interested in learning weird shit this might be for you. You are almost guaranteed to learn stuff about a bunch of different topics. Whether that's feral pigs or the Line of Actual Control or the government of the Netherlands or all of the above. It is a ge There is something extra enjoyable reading a book you know the author had quite a bit of fun with. Like many Stephenson books it groans under the weight of some of the things that he chooses to include. If, like Stephenson, you find yourself interested in learning weird shit this might be for you. You are almost guaranteed to learn stuff about a bunch of different topics. Whether that's feral pigs or the Line of Actual Control or the government of the Netherlands or all of the above. It is a geeky book written by a geek for geeks. Now, I was hoping for another Seveneves (a favorite book of mine) and by about halfway I knew I was going to be disappointed though this is by far his closest book in the same vein. I still had lots of fun. It lacks the urgency of Seveneves but still has all sorts of big ideas and massive engineering projects. It does do better with the wild and crazy characters than Seveneves. And I felt like he's gotten better at infodumping as well. I honestly think I probably learned quite a bit more with this one. But the story itself just wasn't as interesting and fizzled quite a bit more there at the end. Or maybe the closeness of reality maybe detracts a little bit more from me. I can squint and see this story being true in the future. I just didn't come away from it nearly as impressed as I needed to be to give it a full five stars but still a very good book. I would recommend for anyone who wants to see a smart person take a stab at something that might very well be a plausible future down the road because I think this is asking questions about things that will be interesting to at least my son's generation.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Faried Nawaz

    Termination Shock is about 700 pages long, but does not suffer from this problem: The good news: Stephenson has learned how to write a good 600-page book. The bad news: Seveneves is 900 pages long. -- Mark Dominus I read the book in about five days -- probably the fastest I've read any of Neal Stephenson's books. It's similar in style with REAMDE and is set in the near future. A few plot points are derived from incidents that occurred in the 2020-2021 timeframe. Termination Shock is about 700 pages long, but does not suffer from this problem: The good news: Stephenson has learned how to write a good 600-page book. The bad news: Seveneves is 900 pages long. -- Mark Dominus I read the book in about five days -- probably the fastest I've read any of Neal Stephenson's books. It's similar in style with REAMDE and is set in the near future. A few plot points are derived from incidents that occurred in the 2020-2021 timeframe.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sophie Pesek

    Cli-fi in a world where a Texas billionaire starts geoengineering. Many plot points felt like Neal Stephenson had read a popular press summary of potential geopolitical impacts of geoengineering and was rattling them off. I usually don't mind Stephenson using fun facts as plot drivers, but the shallowness of this technique really shined for a topic on which I actually have background. Cli-fi in a world where a Texas billionaire starts geoengineering. Many plot points felt like Neal Stephenson had read a popular press summary of potential geopolitical impacts of geoengineering and was rattling them off. I usually don't mind Stephenson using fun facts as plot drivers, but the shallowness of this technique really shined for a topic on which I actually have background.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Max Ischenko

    This is so good Reminds me of The Martian, for some reason. Very approachable, lots of fascinating technical details, great story telling. Easy read on a very serious subject.

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