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Mother of Storms
by John Barnes
Tor, $17.99, 432pp
Release Date: June 5, 2012
This is an epic disaster story.  It tells of the catastrophic climate changes incurred by an accidental nuclear explosion that releases many tons of methane into the atmosphere.  The end result is a unending season of monster hurricanes that decimate all land masses.  There is little safety anywhere on earth. Whole tribes, countries, and states disappear forever.

The author tells the story from several viewpoints in a typical fashion.  The world is a bit farther along in history and TV has been replaced by a virtual reality experience.  Viewers actually experience the feelings that the broadcasters are experiencing.  The most highly paid broadcasters are those who are the best actors.  And some things never change: sex sells.  One of the viewpoints is a woman who is at the top of her field in VR; the most recognizable name on the planet – Synthi Venture.  Everything about her has been reengineered from her name to her body.  Her job is to tell the news with a big serving of sex – anyone who wants to can experience sex in her head or in her partner’s head.  Little in her life is ever private.  She’s on vacation trying to decide if she’s ready to retire when she meets a young man who helps give purpose back to her.

Berlina Jameson is living out of her car – which is a great deal more comfortable that we might imagine in our time.  She’s rather retro and wants to report the news the old-fashioned way ala Walter Cronkite or William Murrow.  She starts up a new VR show that appeals to the more senior citizens who remember TV.  Berlina is one of the first to realize the government is trying to cover up the severity of the approaching storms.

Harris Diem is the President’s Chief of Staff and he’s being stalked, unknowingly, by an obsessed man who blames him for the contrived death of his daughter.  A death that was deliberately recorded for VR.  This viewpoint was the most disturbing as Harris was, indeed, guilty of a most heinous rape and death.  There was a significant plot point to the confrontation of the two men but I was very unhappy at having to wade through explicit filth; I actually skipped full pages of unnecessary description. 

John Kleig is a rapacious businessman who’s out to make big bucks from the global disaster.  He can actually employ a device that will stop the hurricanes but only if the world governments will pay his price.  And if his business partners don’t kill him first.  But his viewpoint is changing along with the rest of the earth; he now has a better reason to live for than money: a woman and her child.

And, finally:  Louie and Carla Tynan.  Louie is working on the last manned space station with a bird’s eye view of the catastrophic storms.  Carla is his ex-wife sunning herself in the middle of the ocean.  Louie and Carla will be the catalyst of a mankind-changing event.  Louie realizes he can stop the hurricanes but he’ll have to hustle his butt to the edge of our solar system, grab a comet, and get back while there are still humans alive to save.  What happens to Louie is the most interesting part of the story.  Louie is racing against time, and travel to the edge of the solar system is so…slow.  So he improves his odds and changes the direction of human evolution forever.

This is a very dense novel and the first half of it was like walking in water up to your chest – slow and a bit unsteady.  I know the author felt he had to get his science right; however, the story suffered a bit.  But if the science interests you or if you can just hang in there, the second half is quite a bit more exciting and satisfying.~~ Catherine Book

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