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5 Science Fiction Books Environmentalists Should Read

by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Environmental science is not just a theme for nonfiction or school books, it can also make for some exciting fiction. Here are five science fiction novels/series which both environmentalists and the environment-minded alike should read:

1) Dune by Frank Herbert

The Hugo and Nebula award winning  science fiction classic made famous by a not-so-successful Sting movie and later slightly more successful TV miniseries, Herbert posits two powerful families locked in a bitter feud in a far future world, a vast desert, wherein every drop of water is worth a fortune. Outmanoeuvered by his arch-enemy, Baron Harkonnen, The Duke Of Atreides must move from his home to take up the administration of the planet Arrakis, sometimes known as Dune. But while water is costly, Dune is also a planet of fabulous wealth, for it’s the only source of a drug prized throughout the Galactic Empire.




2) The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson

A breath-taking epic imagining the colonization of Mars, Robinson’s trilogy uses years of research and cutting-edge science. For eons, sandstorms have swept the barren, desolate Martian landscape, while mankind has felt the call to conquer its hostile climate. In 2026, one hundred colonists arrive to fulfill that destiny, their ultimate goal being to terraform the planet. For genetic alchemists, Mars offers a chance to create a biomedical miracle that could change all we know about life and death.

The colonists place giant mirrors in Martian orbit to reflect light down to the planet’s surface, using black dust at the polar caps to capture warmth that will melt the ice. Massive tunnels, kilometers deep, are drilled into the surface, creating stupendous vents of hot gases.  In the midst of this, loves and friendships form and fall to pieces, and some will fight to the death to preserve Mars just as it is.



3) The Ship Breaker Series by Paolo Bacigalupi

Described as page turning, heart pounding adventure, this YA series posits a physical world changed for the worse by global warming, . A former environmental reporter, Bt viruses introduced into the environment by agricultural conglomerates in order to wipe out competitors’ crops have acigalupi frequently deals in environment themes in his work. His debut, The Wind-Up Girl, won numerous awards and acclaim including both the Hugo and Nebula and was named by Time magazine as one of the ten best novels of 2009.with island nations wiped out and coastal areas no longer habitable. This is a world further ruined by human shortsightedness, where genetically engineered planmade grain more valuable than oil. As warlords use child soldiers to fight over salvage rights in the ruins of once-great cities,  there remain hints that, somewhere in the world, pockets of educated and wealthy civilization remain, and a group of young outcasts see those hints as a promise of their city on a hill and fight to escape their desperate circumstances and make it there.


4) Arctic Rising by Tobias Buckell

Either the Global Warming proponents dream or nightmare, depending on how you look at it. Buckell posits about a future where global warming has transformed the Earth, the Polar Ice Cap has all but melted, and there’s an international race at hand for the oil available underneath. Then the Gaia Corporation’s wealthy founders attempt their plan to roll back global warming using tiny mirrors floating in the air to redirecting heat and cooling the earth’s surface.  The plan is to save the Earth from itself with terraforming, until airship pilot Anika Duncan stumbles onto it and the plot begins to unravel. Buckell raises interesting questions and his plot also involves cross cultural characters and a race for a thermo nuclear device captured by terrorists.



5) Energized by Edward Lerner

Near future hard science fiction, Lerner posits that fossil fuels have run out, after the world’s major oil fields get tainted with radioactivity. The Middles East is thrown into chaos and the few bits of safe oil remaining are more prized than ever. Solar farms, wind farms, and electric cars are in so much demand, builders can’t keep up. The few countries still able to export oil and natural gas, with Russia leading the way, hold the world’s economy hostage.

Then, from deep space, the asteroid Phoebe comes hurtling toward Earth. But rather than diverting it, American scientists managed to capture it in the Earth’s orbit and use it to build cheap, solar powered satellites in orbit with resources mined from the new moon to beam vast amounts of power to the ground. It’s America’s last hope for avoiding economic slavery and ruin.

When an international cabal fights to stop the project, competing with special interests from technophobes to ecoextremists, NASA engineer Marcus Judson finds himself and his project facing incredible odds.

Know of more? Which books would you recommend to your environmentally conscious friends and family? We’d love to hear about it in comments.


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s science fiction, fantasy and humor books, short stories and articles. A frequent contributor to blogs like SFSignal, Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and To Be Read, he also hosts Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat under the hashtag #sffwrtcht on Twitter and blogs about writing and creativity on his own blog at Connect With Bryan On Google+

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