Termination Shock: A Novel - book cover
Action & Adventure
  • Publisher : William Morrow
  • Published : 16 Nov 2021
  • Pages : 720
  • ISBN-10 : 0063028050
  • ISBN-13 : 9780063028050
  • Language : English

Termination Shock: A Novel

From Neal Stephenson - who coined the term "metaverse" in his 1992 novel Snow Crash - comes a sweeping, prescient new thriller that transports readers to a near-future world in which 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 – visionary billionaire restaurant chain magnate T. R. Schmidt, Ph.D. – 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?

Epic in scope while heartbreakingly human in perspective, Termination Shock sounds a clarion alarm, ponders potential solutions and dire risks, and wraps it all together in an exhilarating, witty, mind-expanding speculative adventure.

Editorial Reviews

"Stephenson is one of speculative fiction's most meticulous architects. . . .Termination Shock manages to pull off a rare trick, at once wildly imaginative and grounded." -- New York Times Book Review

"This book is the rare climate thriller that's realistic about political stonewalling in the face of disaster yet unafraid to imagine a possible future where people might actually come together and try to save civilization. The kind of climate-change fiction we all need." -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"With meticulously rendered action scenes, surprising plot twists, relatable, off-kilter characters and charming dialogue, [Stephenson's] books are page-turners. His latest proves no exception . . . Termination Shock deals brilliantly and innovatively with our era's most pressing existential matter - while delivering stratospheric gigatons of carefully engineered delight." -- Washington Post

"The novel is classic Stephenson: fiercely intelligent, weird, darkly witty, and boldly speculative. . . . Stephenson has become one of the most revered science fiction writers of his time."  -- Publishers Weekly

"An enthralling and thought-provoking read." -- Buzzfeed

"Arguably no sci-fi writer has the specific combination of vision, reach, and ardent fandom that Stephenson does . . . . He is the premiere chronicler of the foundation myths of Silicon Valley and its adjacent culture-of its high self-regard, of disruptive innovation, of the world that nerds built." -- Wired

"Neal Stephenson has never been afraid of engaging with big ideas within genre forms, and Termination Shock might be his most visionary, and timely, book yet." -- Chicago Review of Books

"Raises genuinely interesting issues about the geopolitics of a warming world." -- American Purpose

"Imaginative and utterly realistic." -- Bookbub

"Stephenson isn't just playing with words, he's playing with ideas, and he isn't joking either. He is sci-fi's great contrarian, and Fall deserves to be rated as one of the great novels of our time, prophetically and philosophically." -- Wall Street Journal on Fall; or, Dodge in Hell

Readers Top Reviews

Jyotirmoy Bhattachar
Neal Stephenson's characters are becoming repetitive: ex-military self-sufficient macho men, women clever enough to be interesting but not so clever as to get things done on their own. Lot of single combat with guns. What is missing is the fascinating inside takes on science, technology and their history that made Cryptonomicon and the Baroque Cycle so much fun to read.
Simon A Sharwood
This is a thought-provoking book that explores what would happen if private enterprise decided to Do Something About Climate Change without any government involvement. But beyond that central theme are many ideas that have lodged in my head - waves as weapons, the future of fuel, how to live with climate change, and whether it should or could be stalled, the consequences of AI ... and many more. I find myself wanting to explore more about the ideas the book introduces, and that's surely a good thing. It features lots of typical Stephenson stuff - lengthy technical exposition, travel to odd bits of the world, a critique of social media, and a climactic shootout. It's not his best work - I think Anathem is just ahead of Cryptonomicon - but it feels more like a worthy use of his talents than REAMDE, and is a far easier read than FALL.
She Treads SoftlyMel
Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson is a recommended speculative climate science fiction novel set sometime in the future. A change of climate in the future has resulted in rising temperatures, heat waves, superstorms, flooding, and rising sea levels. Billionaire T. R. Schmidt has a plan and has invited a selected small group of representatives from across the world to Houston. He has a plan to reverse global warming and is about to set it into action for his guests. The guests include the Queen of the Netherlands, who asks to be called Saskia, and her entourage, who, due to a storm, were forced to make an emergency landing in Waco. Their landing resulted in meeting Rufus during a scene involving wild boars, alligators, and a crashed plane. Rufus helps them get to Houston and becomes a part of T.R.'s team. In another narrative thread we are introduced to Laks, a Canadian Sikh who travels to the Punjab to help assist at oxygen centers there. He stays there to learn more stick fighting techniques and eventually meets others and they all make their way to the Line of Actual Control. There Laks and the others engage in fighting the Chinese with sticks and rocks to defend their homeland from the Chinese. Chapters switch between story lines and characters set in different parts of the world until they eventually merge at the end. The beginning of this massive novel will grab your attention and propel you forward. The geoengineering solution that T.R. comes up with and begins to undertake is very interesting. Right up to learning T.R.'s plan and seeing it in action, I was engrossed in the novel. Then it slowed down and became a chore to read. In any cli-sci novel you want to see the solution along with the complications intelligently presented and follow the execution of the plan, which Stephenson does. However, after introducing many of the players and setting events into motion the story itself slows to a crawl and feels bloated and long-winded. The actual plot could have been presented and reached a resolution much quicker. Additionally, the characters are certainly all very well developed, but there are also a lot of them and not all deserve or need the level of attention that they are given. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.
Jeremy SmithChopinBl
I am a big fan of Neal Stephenson's, having read all of his books, most of them multiple times. What worries me is that I have almost no desire to re-read this one (or his last book, Fall). In both cases I think it's because I'm so sad at what might have been. No spoilers here. I can't escape the feeling that I was reading a fanfic. All the Stephenson hallmarks are there: a realistic sci-fi future; cleverly extended tech based on what already exists; tons of geology and references to terrain (I think I saw the word "alluvial" at least twice); traveling around the world; and of course the Pacific northwest. (side note: I just realized this might be his only book with no hackers in it - maybe that's the problem.) But all of his funny prose, his subtle social commentary, his insights into how a complicated piece of tech works...all that is gone and replaced by pale copies. For example: -We all know how a gun works - you don't have to spend 30 pages explaining how to make a big one work. We definitely don't need a tour of it where the two most interesting characters just listen to other people talk. -Calling the USA a mess and a hapless laughingstock on the world stage may be true, and more so a few decades into the future, but if your book doesn't give any examples then you're just taking cheap shots. -The most interesting character, explained from the first pages as being good with drones, never does anything cool with drones. -Chekhov's corollary: if you spend all of acts one and two setting up a powerful country's secret, shady and scary military prowess, then in act three you had better make them do something. And if you spend the entire book making an antagonist character likable and we become sympathetic to their cause, why wouldn't you let them interact in any real way with the other interesting characters? -etc. People complain that Stephenson can't write women. I'm not one so it's hard to argue one way or the other. But the main female character, a smart and tech-savvy Dutch royal, doesn't get anything interesting or fun to do! All she does is go around listening to other people talk about stuff, so she's just proxy for a narrator. I thought it was going to be much cooler, since in the first couple of pages she crashes a jet in Texas. So yeah, he dropped the ball on his only big female role here. The other women in the book were just ladies-in-waiting so they didn't do anything interesting either. People complain that Stephenson can't write endings. I used to disagree vehemently with this, as I loved the endings of most of his books, especially the ones people complained were bad. But first with Fall, and again here with Termination Shock, I found myself thinking with a hundred pages to go that there's no way that he is going to wrap this thing up in any way that is interesting, comprehensive or ...

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