Heavy Weather looks like an adaptation of the movie Twister on the surface giant tornadoes, obsessed scientists, even that one scene with the flying cow, but it s actually a smart dark mirror that seriously asks and answers the question What would it be like to live through the worst of anthropocentric climate change In the year 2031, Alex Unger is dying in a private Mexican hospital when his sister Janey breaks him out and takes him for one last fling chasing tornadoes in blasted West Texas, where civilization simply dried up and blew away in a megadrought It s bad everywhere governments have collapsed into emergency management posses pandemics strike with regularity and the best that people can do is scrape out a shallow grave of a life before something kills them The goal for the characters is the F 6 Super Tornado, a storm a whole order of magnitude bigger than anything on this Earth There s some amazing lyrical descriptions of storms across the Texas wastes, and the thrill of chasing tornadoes.
But where this book shines is its nihilistic shadow government The Very Serious People who have decided that for civilization to survive, the population must fall Nothing so crass as a Holocaust, just little tweaks here and there to ensure the birth rate falls and the death rate rises All the chaos and suffering is careful planned by a distributed cadre of secret survivalists Life boat cannibals who are willing to do anything to see that some of us get through, rather than none Heavy Weather is supremely creepy, and has only become so in the past twenty years Sure, an honest reviewer would note that some of the dialog is clunky, and that Janey might not be the best character, but it s got a solid dozen or so moments that make my hair stand on end, even after years of rereading.
I ll ask you, like Sterling asks in one of my favorite scenes in all of literature, When did mankind lose control of its destiny Bruce Sterling, One Of The Founding Fathers Of The Cyberpunk Genre, Now Presents A Novel Of Vivid Imagination And Invention That Proves His Talent For Creating Brilliant Speculative Fiction Is Sharper Than EverForty Years From Now, Earth S Climate Has Been Drastically Changed By The Greenhouse Effect Tornadoes Of Almost Unimaginable Force Roam The Open Spaces Of Texas And On Their Trail Are The Storm Troupers A Ragtag Band Of Computer Experts And Atmospheric Scientists Who Live To Hack Heavy Weather To Document It And Spread The Information As Far As The Digital Networks Will Stretch, Using Virtual Reality To Explore The Eye Of The StormAlthough It S Incredibly Addictive, This Is No Game The Troupers Computer Models Suggest That Soon An F Will Strike A Tornado Of An Intensity That Exceeds Any Existing Scale A Storm So Devastating That It May Never Stop And They Re Going To Be There When All Hell Breaks Loose Fun Bruce Sterling novel about post apocalyptic group of dubious scientists chasing tornadoes in Texas and Oklahoma, in search of the ultimate tornado that would be so big that it would be permanent and open a vortex into space Somewhat of a sci fi comedy as well.
Third reading of Heavy Weather I love the descriptions of the tornado chases, they give a visceral thrill to a weather geek like me just wish there had been discussion description of the F6 tornado and just about the weather full stop The political fallout of climate change induced Heavy Weather are well explored, and considering this book was written in 1993, some of the tech and environmental stuff predicted by Sterling for 2030 are looking pretty likely The downside of the book is that the characterisation is not so hot as people s motivations are dropped in but never expanded on and to be honest as is usual in Sterling s work, not a single character is particularly realistic, empathetic or likable and the ending s a bit abrupt and happy ever after.
Update June 2013 Looks like Sterling was pretty prescient with his tornado armageddon forecasting Two EF5 tornadoes over Oklahoma in less than a week, including one on 31st May 2013 which is officially the widest ever recorded at 2.
6 MILES wide with 300mph windshttp www.
com blogs c Given the extreme weather conditions we have experienced in 2012, this novel from one of the creators of cyberpunk, feels almost ripped from the headlines And yet, it was published 18 years ago This is a book about extreme climate change and the the meteorology of North American plains Weatherpunk The basic set up is a band of tornado chasers who operate in 2031 West Texas, a land of declining economics, declining civil order, and declining human survivability At one point, I did some research on the side so as to have some factual knowledge of the formation and behavior of tornadoes.
The brother and sister characters of Alex and Jane were well developed, and I totally believed their relationship with each other In addition, I found the sexual relationship between Jane and Jerry to be full of divergent expectations and understanding as to be believable The emotions here are some Heavy Weather themselves.
Jerry s obsessive search for the mythical F 6 tornado event began to remind of me of Captain Ahab in Moby Dick Once I thought of that, I began to see other parallels in characters and plot was well as symbolism However, this is far from a retelling and the ending is not a done deal.
Philosophically the novel poses the dilemma of the dedicated observer, who considers whether taking action would be a appropriate response to the world And it asks the question, where did the meddling with nature begin and who bears the responsibility Maybe Sterling s answer is that humanity just does what humanity must do are we then damaged goods right out of the box A good novel I m not a fan of long chapter books, but it kept up a good pace nevertheless I m impressed with the small bit of near future Earth Bruce Sterling presents, especially the Heavy Weather the Storm Troupe chases Everything seemed very realand frightening I enjoyed the culture of the Storm Troupe, not because I d want to live it, but because I felt like I understood why THEY would choose to live it The end was a bit weird in terms of how some of the characters came to their resolutions, but still enjoyable A good work of scifi.
review of Bruce Sterling s Heavy Weather by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE October 24, 2017 See the full review here I keep picking on Cyberpunk writing in much the same way I pick on Surrealist writing At the same time that I like it in theory I m annoyed by it in praxis What was the last cyberpunk novel I read reviewed Weeellll, that depends on how one defines Cyberpunk, obviously Is Cyberpunk any story in wch societally fringe rebellious characters are expert with computers Hackers perhaps Wd a novel like Geoff Ryman s The Child Garden Or do I have to go all the way back to January 6, 2011, to my review of William Gibson s Spook Country 2007 The point is that as soon as a genre name is coined a vague definition attached to it there re bound to be people who then point out examples such as the above that might not be slotted into the market speak but wch might still qualify or proto examples that lessen the importance of the term by significantly predating it I think of Cyberpunk as starting with Gibson s Neuromancer 1984 but, then, wouldn t Philip K Dick s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep 1968 have an important place in there somewhere A place that seems monumental in contrast to Neuromancer Or what about Alfred Bester s Golem100 1980 Visually, Golem100 is stunning in contrast to the design banality of Neuromancer Heavy Weather, for me, is clearly Cyberpunk from the get go that probably helps sell Sterling s bks but I don t really know if Sterling likes the term or just accepts it as a necessary evil for marketing I liked Heavy Weather, it s about storm chasers in a near future or present at this point 23 yrs after the bk was published in 1994 when the ecosystem has become increasingly disturbed by human intervention extreme storms are common I can t object to that, the humanity s reminded that our uses of the environment do have effects that we d better take into consideration the better Still, I think of John Brunner s The Sheep Look Up 1972 as a much important example What happened when I started reading this I was immediately sucked into the writing, it was thrilling, it s a thriller of sorts I could identify with the characters, the lunatic fringe obsessed w studying tornadoes Am I a storm chaser Nope Am I a meteorologist Nope Am I a hacker Nope So it really just plays into an aspect of my fantasy life I am, however, an outsider , a person barely tolerated by a society of robopaths it s from that highly experienced position that I started questioning the narrative POV of Heavy Weather Is this something written by someone who knows how to write a thriller but who doesn t necessarily come from the social milieu that his heros are located in I don t know, I don t know anything about Sterling so my suspicion that he s cyber than he is punk is a gut level reaction At least he s sympathetic to the ecologically concerned instead of dismissive of them as Michael Crichton is in his State of Fear 2004 OK, I m pretty pessimistic at times about the present, I think what passes for the news for most people in the world if I can make such a generalization is such despicable propaganda that I find this amusing And some English language happytalk news Spanish happytalk news Japanese happytalk news Alex, born in 2010, had watched the news grow steadily glossy and cheerful for all his twenty one years As a mere tot, he d witnessed hundreds of hours of raw bloodstained footage plagues, mass death, desperate riot, ghastly military wreckage, all against a panicky backdrop of ominous and unrelenting environmental decline All that stuff was still out there, just as every aspect of modern reality had its mirrored shadow in the Net somewhere, but nowadays you had to hunt hard to find it, and the people discussing it didn t seem to have much in the way of budgets pp 5 6It s funny odd to me how I react to the above for one thing I m sooooo sick of how the so called news distorts life to make it seem like a constant threat to keep people mentally glued to the disasters tragedies that the stns are just using as fodder to attract advertisers suckers alike On the other sharpened hook, I m against censorship Is the happy medium to devote the amount of media time that s statistically appropriate to the subject Hence murder cd still be reported about accurately but wd occupy a very small time slot That wd be a disaster for those poor struggling arms dealers I m told that after the latest mass murder in Las Vegas by one of those responsible legal gun owners the NRA is always telling us about gun sales went waaaaayyyyyy up Fancy that Fear tactics are the best marketing strategy Maybe the accountant murderer was just trying to give the economy a boost, eh Concepc on left Alex in the treatment room to wait for Dr Mirabi Alex was quite sure that Dr Mirabi was doing nothing of consequence Having Alex wait alone in a closed room was simply medical etiquette, a way to establish whose time was important p 7 Go get em Sterling I was once denied treatment at a clinic by a so called doctor when, as response to the question How are you I replied I d be alot better if you hadn t kept me waiting for an hr 40 minutes This in a clinic devoid of patients other than me When I become supreme dictator, doctors who keep patients waiting will have to have a patient s excuse to justify it that s a take off on doctor s excuse, get it if the patient kept waiting doesn t accept the excuse as valid then the doctor will have to pay the patient the doctor s own wages for that time period 3 strikes they have to practice in prison until the patients say they may be released It s only fair I go to the doctor s as a patient not to become IM patient Doctors beware, my supreme dictatorship is just a hop, skip, a jump away so get yr shit together you pompous pampered creeps Jerry was thirty two, and he could remember when people did most of their own driving, and even the robots always left their headlights on Jane, by contrast, found the darkness soothing If there was really anything boring about the experience of driving at night, it was that grim chore of gripping a wheel with your own hands and staring stiff necked for hours into a narrow cone of glare In darkness you could see the open sky The big dark Texas sky, that great abyss p 24 Hhmm, a robot car driving w its headlights off might be a tad bit dangerous for us pedestrians Living in Pittsburgh, as I do, where robot cabs are common, I love being a mere 23 yrs in the future of the novel s copyright date being already almost there How many people wd ve believed that there d be robot taxis in 2017 I still haven t ridden one Sterling s good at descriptions of what he imagines as post industrial conditions Here and there along the highway dead windmills loomed, their tapered tin vanes shot to hell, their concrete cisterns cracked and dust empty above an aquifer leached to bare sandstone They d sucked the landscape dry, and abandoned their mechanical vampire teeth in place, like the torn off mandibles of a tick p 33 Concerns about aquifers are important Ask an Australian aboriginal forced to live in the outback by the European invaders My collaborator etta cetera I made a movie in Australia called Don t Walk Backwards we visited a camp of resisters to in situ leeching whose concern was w the destruction of the aquifer by uranium mining The link to a possible beginning to the relevant section is here Thrilling novels are designed to provide depictions of heightened situations, Heavy Weather does an excellent job of this, the reader is likely to be engrossed excited For a realistic look at such activism, that is, nonetheless, not didactically dry, one might try absorbing the whole experience of Don t Walk Backwards instead What the heck kind of drought can kill a mesquite tree Look, dude, if it doesn t rain at all, for than a year, then everything dies Mesquite, cactus, everything Everything around this place died, fifteen years ago Heavy Weather, Buzzard said somberly Martha nodded It looks pretty good right now, but that s because all this grass and stuff came back from seed, and this country has been getting a lot of rain lately But, man, that s why nobody can live out here any There s no water left underground, nothing left in the aquifer, so whenever a drought hits, it hits bad p 77 How many people read such a passage become concerned imagining the possibilities If you lived near Kati Thanda Lake Eyre you d be likely to take such a threat a bit seriously esp if the lake became increasingly smaller bodies of water without returning periodically a few times a century to its filled condition Now Alex understood why Buzzard and Martha lay half collapsed in their sling chairs beneath their sunshade, the two of them torpid as lizards while their eyes and ears flew for them Sweat was water too Civilization had been killed in West Texas, killed as dead as Arizona s Anasazi cliff dweller Indians, because there just wasn t enough water here, and no easy way to get water any p 92 Of course, Cyberpunk novels just have to have cutting edge technology in them characters who get their kicks pushing that technology to its limits On example of this, here, is the use of ornithopters An ornithopter is an aircraft that imitates birds by having wings that it flaps The storm chasers use them to get close footage of the Heavy Weather in action There s no light inside the core, either It s almost always pitch black inside a twister But Jesse has a little night light red and infrared I dunno what we ll see, dude, but we ll see something p 103 Jesse , an ornithopter, is about to flown by remote control into a tornado to get data The person controlling it will be experiencing it as virtual reality, it ll be terrifying but at least they ll be able to breathe This is what they do The Troupe had scared up an F2 a scale rating for a tornado early in the day The spike had come very suddenly, and rather unexpectedly, and out in the middle of nowhere And that was all to the good, because the Troupe had had the spike all to themselves Greg and Carol had taped the entire development sequence, from wall cloud to rope out, at close range from the ground Buzzard and Martha had nailed it with chaff, so Peter and Joanne in the Radar Bus had gotten some very good internal data That one had to be counted a success p 110 Purposeful social groups tend to organize around direction I prefer the anarchistic ones where direction is provided by the most articulate spokespeople rather than by the people who consolidate power around themselves through dirty tricks Sterling has the mastermind of this group request something of one member after she d gotten into a fight with another A vow of silence was a very weird request But she had never seen Jerry serious It was crystal clear that he was giving her a deliberate challenge, setting her an act of ritual discipline Worst of all, she could tell that Jerry really doubted that she had the necessary strength of character to go through with it p 112 I think a temporary vow of silence would be an interesting discipline for many people to go through just like I think fasting is a good thing Like fasting, it could just be for a day or a wk or 2 wks or 3 wks or a mnth A mnth seems stretching it A thoughtful person might learn something from the increased introspection I m tempted to try it Answering the phone wd be tough Does txting break the rules I think so It wd have to be a vow of no communication maybe Cyberpunk novels seem to thrive on zeitgeists of fairly large subcultures A little anti money sentiment goes a long way w me Rick grimaced She d brought up the subject of money the Troupe s ultimate taboo From the look on Rick s round, stubbled face, he seemed to be in genuine spiritual pain She knew he d be too embarrassed to complain any p 114 There will always be barter, there will always be bad deals where someone feels like they got the shitty end of the stick, so what s the solution For every transaction to have to meet a standard of absolute integrity what wd that be There will always be generous people there will always be thieves The density of information embodied in the modern technological object creates deep conceptual stress that implodes the human object interface Small wonder that a violent reactive Luddism has become the definitive vogue of the period, as primates, outsmarted by their own environment, lash out in frenzy at a postnatural world p 170 now there s a Center for PostNatural History created operated by Rich Pell in Pittsburgh Check it out Before Heavy Weather, there had been about nine hundred tornadoes every year in the United States Nowadays, there were about four thousand Before Heavy Weather, a year s worth of tornadoes killed about a hundred people and cause about 200 million constant 1975 dollars in damage Now, despite vastly better warning systems, tornadoes killed about a thousand people a year, and the damage was impossible to estimate accurately because the basic economic nature of both value and currency had gone nonlinear p 182 So where are we at in 2017 A wikipedia page informs me that there ve been 1,234 tornadoes so far this yr in the US as of October 24, 2017 so, apparently, we re not quite to Heavy Weather yet What about mass shootings in the US There re plenty of statistics on that online, a chart from Mother Jones online covering 1982 to 2017 yields 1982 1 mass shooting, 8 killed 1983 NO mass shootings 1984 2 mass shootings, 28 killed 1985 NO mass shootings 1986 1, 15 killed 1987 1, 6 killed 1988 1, 7 killed 1989 2, 15 killed 1990 1, 10 killed 1991 3, 35 killed 1992 2, 9 killed 1993 4, 23 killed 1994 1, 5 killed 1995 1, 6 killed 1996 1, 6 killed 1997 2, 9 killed 1998 3, 14 killed 1999 5, 42 killed 2000 1, 7 killed 2001 1, 5 killed 2002 NO mass shootings 2003 1, 7 killed 2004 1, 5 killed 2005 2, 17 killed 2006 3, 21 killed 2007 4, 53 killed 2008 3, 17 killed 2009 4, 39 killed 2010 1, 9 killed 2011 3, 19 killed 2012 7, 71 killed 2013 5, 35 killed 2014 4, 18 killed 2015 7, 46 killed 2016 6, 71 killed 2017 8, 83 killed I was planning to look at the statistics from various sources but I think the above will do Mass shooters in the US haven t quite become a force of nature yet but maybe if they had a convention they could pool their resources practice on each other It would be good to have all the arms dealers there too explaining why guns are such a great idea Since pro gun people seem to pull out a fair amount of statistics on how knives have been used in murders, maybe at the convention they could have a contest to see who could kill the most people the automatic weapons users or the knife wielders The arms dealers could each get a steak knife, e.
, they could prove their point by killing all the guys who have machine guns aimed at them Just a thought, y know, sometimes I m moved by an image of an arms dealer going hungry while one of those vicious knife murderers carves up a juicy steak that s rightfully the dealer s Where was I Oh, yeah, I was hoping Sterling wd throw in a little Fortean froggian stuff n at That s nothin either Once I saw a rain of meat What Meat fell out of the sky, he said simply I saw it with my own two eyes He sighed You don t believe me do ya, kid Well, go back in the anomaly records sometime and have a look at the stuff people have seen in the past, faling out of the sky Amazing stuff Black hail Black rain red rain Big rocks Frogs Rains of fishes Snails Jelly Red snow, black snow Chunks of ice have fallen out of the sky as big as fuckin elephants Dude, I saw meat fall out of the sky What kind of meat Alex asked Shaved meat No hair on it or anything Looked kinda like, I dunno, slice mushrooms or slice potatoes or something, except it was red and bloody wet and it had little veins in it pp 191 192 Next thing you know I was wackin myself off that meat was talkin to me That s nuthin , man, I saw rain once that wasn t acid rain No fuckin way I ve been lovers with many women who were prone to self destructive activities who weren t so self destructive when they were with me even if we had very volatile times together As such, I highly identify w this next passage Jerry made her do crazy things But Jerry s crazy things had always made her better and stronger, and with Jerry around, for the first time in her life she no longer felt miserably troubled about being her own worst enemy She s always been wrapped too tight, and wired too high, and with a devil inside in retrospect, she could see that clearly now Jerry was the first and only man in her life who had really appreciated her devil, who had accepted her devil and been sweet to it, and had given her devil some proper down and dirty devil things to do Her devil no longer had idle hands Her devil was working its ass off, all the time So now she and her devil were quite all right, really p 203 So, yeah, my friends I have done pretty extreme things but what would we have been doing if we hadn t learned to channel our anger as creatively as we have What if I were just a psychopath instead of a psychopathfinder Seriousness is Death every once in a while some anxious weedy looking guy would show up at camp who didn t give a hit about tornadoes and really, really wanted Jerry to forget all about it and get back to proving how many soap bubbles could fit inside a collapsing torus in hyperspace Jerry was always terribly kind to those people p 205 See the full review here This is by far my favorite Sterling book Unlike his earlier Mechist Shaper story cycle, this book still seems all too possible Plus, I want that Jumping Jeep with the Smart Wheels How awesome was THAT thing Daaaamn.
At times the clunky prose intrudes, as do some of the obvious As you know Bob moments, but overall this is solid stuff, and still feels like it could happen.
I don t know the severity of the May 2013 tornado in Oklahoma, maybe a C4 5 and 2 miles wide somewhat like the unbelievable size of hurricane Sandy.
Bruce Sterling s book was my fictional intro to the future of AGW His descriptions of coming extreme dry weather and the storms that come with it was and is unbelievably accurate even if this tornado is not or cannot be connected with any particular weather trend I hope that Sterling and others are wrong about the future of the SW.
I wonder if Republican SENATOR INHOFE is going to vote to delay and or reduce federal disaster aid to his own state like he did with aid to NY and NJ after hurricane Sandy Of course he will accept socialistic Fed money and he will and should get that money without delay Inhofe will dismiss any references to weather trends that he and Republicans deny b c he represents an oil state and he takes their money.
Is that too political No, in terms of the unbelievable destruction it isn t political enough.