Intersections of Art and Science

‘The Deluge’ is a climate nightmare — and it’s based on reality – Grist

Cover of the new novel "Deluge" by Stephen Markley (published January 10, 2023, courtesy Simon & Schuster).
Cover of the new novel "Deluge" by Stephen Markley (published January 10, 2023, courtesy Simon & Schuster).

Stephen Markley explains how he wrote a dystopia that feels a little too real.

It was the year 2028, and I was hiding with eco-terrorists in a cabin deep in the woods. We were trying to avoid detection by the surveillance state, which was tracking activists after attacks on oil and gas infrastructure. Birds were dropping dead from the sky, and a dust storm raged around us, turning the sun crimson.

I was relieved to wake up from this dream and shake my paranoia that the FBI was after me. That’s how immersive The Deluge is, an ambitious new novel by Stephen Markley. My subconscious had picked up the storyline around page 200, and after I got out of bed, I couldn’t remember exactly where the book stopped and my dream began. Was getting followed by a police cruiser while driving a van full of explosives part of the plot? What about that night walk through the forest with the conspirators?

Bridging the recent past with a climate-wrecked future, the hyper-realistic novel follows a sprawling cast of characters from 2013 until the 2040s. The Deluge stars both the people trying to save the world and the ones wrecking it: a scientist, an advertising strategist, a math genius, a drug addict, politicians, activists, and right-wing authoritarians. Over the course of nearly 900 pages, climate disasters get personal, with roaring fires and ferocious floods coming for the characters’ loved ones. And the brutal weather brings a violent reaction with it. By extrapolating from present trends, Markley conjures a future filled with even more extreme far-right zealots, savvy fossil fuel PR campaigns, and laws cracking down on protesters as terrorists


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