Luckily for Kim Stanley Robinson, the novel as a form is flexible and capacious, open to a variety of authorial devices. He doesn't hesitate to use a whole arsenal of them in this 560-plus page opus. Narrative, homily, fictional history all come into play.
It's the middle of the 21st century. In the wake of an unprecedented and deadly heat wave in India, the fledgling Ministry for the Future, based in Zurich, begins its work. Its mission is to protect the interests of future generations by preserving a livable planet. It's a work of education and persuasion and political horse-trading, involving endless meetings and strategizing, requiring bottomless reserves of patience on the part of Mary Murphy, the public face of the organization and the central character in the novel. But there are ambitious pursuits on the technical front as well, like propping up icebergs in Antarctica. (Readers of Robinson's Mars series will remember the terraforming projects in that trilogy.) Along the way, the ecological efforts of our own era are shown up as the half-formed, unorganized and groping things they are. But after setbacks and a few slow and incremental major successes, things are better at the end than they were at the beginning. The book is, on the whole, a soberly hopeful one, as well as an immersive reading experience--not to mention an ecological education.