Kim Stanley Robinson‘s Science in the Capitol trilogy concludes with Sixty Days and Counting. For years, Robinson has been pushing the boundaries of science fiction broader and broader into the world of mainstream fiction. This latest series by him is less typical science fiction, but more of a political and sociological study. In fact, there more science in his fiction that most other books of the genre.
Robinson’s books are rarely the gripping, thrill-inducing page-turners that some people enjoy. Rather, they are often methodical, leisurely-paced thought-provoking character-driven stories. That’s not to say they don’t have their climactic sections though. The difference is that Robinson’s work doesn’t always build itself up over the final hundred pages, only to resolve itself unsatisfactorily. Sixty Days and Counting is no different, though maybe a bit less exciting than his other works.
The novel picks up the story of Frank Vanderwal, Charlie Quibler, and a few other interesting characters, on their quest to fix the world’s environmental problems. In Sixty Days and Counting, Phil Chase has been elected President and plans to bring the world’s climate problems to the forefront of the government’s agenda. Indeed, Chase is depicted as a President who gets things done–a rarity in today’s Washington.
Unfortunately Robinson uses Sixty Days and Counting as a platform to make a political statement, somewhat tarnishing the originality of the plot. Though vague and unspecific, there are clearly indications that Robinson is unhappy with the current Administration and its actions. His message will quickly become dated, however, as years from now, readers will think nothing of it, since it’s the current situation that makes his message clear. Nevertheless, it’s slightly disappointing.
Of the three books in the series, Sixty Days and Counting feels like the weakest. The story resolves many of the plot elements brought up on the previous book, Forty Signs of Rain. However, the radical projects that are begun in this novel seem to happen a little too easily. Though not impossible, the idea that the whole world would jump to assist in essentially terraforming our own planet seems a bit unrealistic–sadly. Robinson shows us just what is possible, were everyone to try to put our energy and focus toward projects that would help all of humanity. Unfortunately, we live in a world where the actual possibility of these things occurring is slim. Then again, that’s what good fiction is designed to do: make people reevaluate their opinions or views, which Sixty Days and Counting and all of Robinson’s other works accomplish ably.
Though not his best work, Robinson spins an elegant, intelligent, and persuasive tale that’s highly recommended for any fan of his writing.
– Reviewed by Bradley K. Brown