I just finished Kim Stanley Robinson's Forty Signs of Rain. Robinson wrote Pacific Edge, the most inspiring utopian novel I've ever read (and one which never fails to reduce me to happy tears in the last chapter) and the Red Mars, Blue Mars and Green Mars trilogy — the most breathtakingly ambitious science fiction books I've ever read.
Forty Signs of Rain is a fast, even breezy read, which I tore through in just a couple sittings. Its best feature is its characters, who are Science Heroes: scientists who are really into science, in the way that one of Neal Stephenson's hacker characters is into hacking. They see everything they do — fixing broken sea-walls, climbing cliffs, navigating traffic, pushing for global warming remdiation, chairing meetings, even nursing babies — in terms of scientific theory, experiment and action.
The thing that all of Robinson's Science Heroes have in common is their concern with global warming, which has reached an all-too-believable tipping point in Forty Signs of Rain. As the world reaches and then passes the brink of catastrophic flooding, Robinson's characters argue, act and think about how to bring us back from the brink. They are not only charming as they do so — they're inspiring. Faced with a world that may soon be broken forever, they swuare their shoulders and apply themselves. They despair, but they master their despair. Pacific Edge is a book I return to again and again when I am down. This will surely be another.