Just for clarity and full disclosure, I only managed to get through about the first 100 pages of what is 563 page novel before I got distracted and then had to return it to the library. But I still got enough to form some impressions, even if I’m honest, I may not have truly been able to really read the whole thing even if there hadn’t been another hold on the book and I’d have kept it a while longer.
The Ministry for the Future has gotten a lot of attention for being a realistic speculative fiction look at climate change. It is indeed quite realistic, and close enough in the future that the world is still very much recognizable. The main subject is climate change and the horrific effects that has begun to have on certain parts of the world, and in 2025 a global organization manages to set itself up called Ministry for the Future and they are in charge of the climate crisis. So a while after this happens, India starts having such a deadly heat wave issue that they decide to act on their own to try and at least get a temporary fix in place without consulting the Ministry. This causes politics.
There are three overall threads to the novel that I can see. First, Frank’s. Frank experiences and survives one of the heat waves in India, and is traumatized by it which shows up in various ways in his life both internal and external. This journey is thread one. Thread two is within the Ministry itself, especially the current head, Mary. We see her try and run an international organization and get things done within the context a bunch of countries and groups who all have very different ideas and ideologies. Intrigue and eventually murder ensue. Thread 3 belongs to what I’m going to call anonymous everyman; this part is spoken in a different narrative voice that seems to have more personality than just narration, yet it’s never clear exactly who this is or how they might fit in to the overall story. It’s possible this gets explained later in the story but not during the parts I read. These parts get preachy and really information heavy in some areas, and I admit I was starting to dread them. Mary and Frank’s threads eventually cross, but even though we meet Frank first, this whole time it seems the story is really more about Mary.
I suspect that this really is a thought provoking novel, but I’m not sure I would have enjoyed having to read the whole thing. In spite of being somewhat genre, as in speculative sci-fi ish fiction, it’s also pretty heavily literary fiction as well, in the sense that it switches voices and styles a lot, and honestly I don’t really enjoy that. Still, I can appreciate the realism but not complete cynicism that at least the first part (and ok maybe I sneaked a peak at the last few chapters) and maybe even the novel overall.